LL Cool J – ‘Doin’ It’ (Instrumental)
taken from Mr. Smith (Def Jam, 1995)
Grace Jones – ‘My Jamaican Guy’
taken from Living My Life (Island, 1982)
Audio Two – ‘Top Billin” (Instrumental)
taken from What More Can I Say? (First Priority, 1988)
Everybody knows about Rashad Smith, right? Well, if it’s any consolation it’s not a name that particularly resonates with me either and yet I’ll bet my bottom dollar that you’ve been bumping your head to his music for more than a minute. Describing his back catalogue as illustrious would perhaps be forcing the point a little, but credits on Project: Funk Da World, Mr. Smith, Beats, Rhymes And Life, The Coming (‘Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check’ no less) and It Was Written ain’t nothing to sniff at by anybody’s standards and yet it was only in my research for this particular post that I even truly acknowledged his existence, having always mistakenly thought of ‘Doin’ It’ as a Trackmasters’ production. Hardly earth-shattering news I know, but sometimes even a music blogger’s ostensible omniscience is flawed.
It’s a shame that I feel the need to justify today’s selection for deconstruction but given that this is admittedly a pretty corny crossover hit, here it is in four words: the beat knocks hard. Take away the cringe-inducing bedroom talk and what you’re left with is a dark and gritty piece of production work that would rock a basement party in Hollis as viciously as it did the Billboard Top 100 in 1995. Those on the come-up take note: the power and commercial viability of the irritatingly catchy chorus hook delivered by the fairer sex should never be underestimated.
In terms of sample manipulation there’s not too much to discuss here as Smith basically loops up a couple of bars from the opening of Grace Jones’s ‘My Jamaican Guy’, the lead single from her sixth studio album that enjoyed commercial success in its own right. I kind of like this song in all of its reggae/disco/electro mashed up weirdness, but I can’t say that this particular track or indeed Living My Life in more general terms have particularly encouraged me to delve further into her work. However, I’m all ears so hit me with recommendations if you have them and school my sorry behind. It’s interesting to note that Smith imitates the drum pattern found on the Jones’s record, setting the second snare in each bar slightly before the beat and pretty much replicating the kick drum pattern as well, albeit with a few extra flourishes for increased momentum.
However, the true genius of this track lies in the bass because there are actually two separate parts at play. The most prominent doesn’t drop until a whole 53 seconds into the track and its arrival clearly adds an extra bounce to ‘Doin’ It’ that is beautifully judged and weighted. From this point onwards its dropped in and out of the mix with aplomb, creating those necessary change ups that save the beat from overt monotony. But it’s the alternate bassline run through a gate with the kick drum that really seals the deal. For those not necessarily up on production jargon, a gate allows the signal from one track to be activated by the signal on another, so when the kick hits the bassline is allowed to play as well. This subtle touch fills the beat out masterfully and explains why it feels so rich even before the main bassline drops. As always, success lies in the minutiae folks.
Chuck in Audio Two and Daddy O’s “Go Brooklyn!” shouts from the timeless classic ‘Top Billin” during the chorus sections and the joint’s a wrap. But it’s that bass… I guarantee that if you’ve never noticed that detail before you’ll hear this banger with a fresh new pair of ears, as it completely changed my perception of ‘Doin’ It’ once I’d locked into it. If it does the same for you I’ll consider this a job well done: thank me later.