Notorious B.I.G. – ‘Machine Gun Funk’
taken from Ready To Die (Bad Boy, 1994)
Black Heat – ‘Something Extra’
taken from Keep On Runnin’ (Atlantic, 1975)
Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns – ‘Up For The Down Stroke’
taken from A Blow For Me A Toot For You (Atlantic, 1978)
Lords Of The Underground – ‘Chief Rocka’
taken from Here Come The Lords (Pendulum, 1993)
I’ve tried to always keep things honest and upfront when it comes to my knowledge of breaks and sample sources here at FDB because it’s far too easy to front like you know everything when you run a music blog. Sure I’ve got a handle on some of the major sources of inspiration for the hip hop canon but it’s a constant learning process for me that often begins with an idea for a beat deconstruction. I’ve been spinning Ready To Die ad infinitum around my way at the moment and decided a few days back that I wanted to take on one of my favourite beats from the album ‘Machine Gun Funk’, so I set about my research, downloaded acquired what I needed and sat down to absorb what pieces Easy Mo Bee had thrown together in its construction.
Long story short (I’m omitting the numerous rewinds, note-taking and what’s-he-done-there?! moments that pleasantly consumed an hour of my life) Easy Mo’s production work here is nothing short of spectacular. Although I’d always realised there was a little chopping at play in the main guitar sample that forms the melodic core of the beat I really wasn’t prepared for the obvious ingenuity displayed behind the boards upon hearing Black Heat’s ‘Something Extra’, taken from their third and final studio album which I honestly haven’t had a chance to fully absorb. However, it’s a welcome discovery on the strength of this track alone, a sweeping ballad that houses that hugely important guitar lick that occupies a mere three quarters of a bar at the 0.34 mark. What Easy Mo Bee does with it I really can’t be sure, although I’d assume there was some pretty rigorous chopping in order to achieve the desired effect.
For that extra layer of flyness during the chorus Easy Mo dug out his copy of Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns’ cover of Parliament’s ‘Up For The Down Stroke’, a sizzling nine minute funk workout that gets my rear end jiggling in a hugely inapporpriate (and deeply disturbing) manner for a nice young man from North London. It took some time to work out exactly what section of this song had been incorporated into ‘Machine Gun Funk’, but pay particular attention at 2.49 when the male voices help bolster the ladies on the “I don’t care about the cold, baby/’Cause when you’re hot you’re too much” refrain which gets dropped during the chorus of the Biggie cut. The chorus’s horns are tucked away in this sample as well but as with the Black Heat chop, I can’t really get my head around exactly what Easy Mo’s done here but since it’s generally nodding violently at this stage I guess it doesn’t really matter that much.
The final addition during the chorus is of course taken from the Jersey classic ‘Chief Rocka’ and some of My Funky’s parting rhymes in the final verse. I can only congratulate him on living and dying for the funk, but regardless it makes for a great little hook during the song’s most sonically climatic moments. All in ‘Machine Gun Funk’ represents an incredibly detailed yet beautifully simplistic piece of production work that has taken my appreciation for Easy Mo Bee’s abilities up to the next level. I bet even Premier wishes he’d thrown this one together.