No Doubt – ‘Doin’ It’ Beat Deconstruction
February 10, 2009, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Beat Deconstructions, Breaks, Producers

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 WorldMr. SmithBeats, Rhymes And LifeThe 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.

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Nod Your Head – ’99 Problems’ (Prince of Ballard Remix)
February 7, 2009, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Producers

Jay-Z – ‘99 Problems’ (Prince Of Ballard Remix)
taken from (Sep, 2007)

Beat deconstructions are imminent: that’s a promise.  In the mean time, O-Dub dropped this dope remix of ‘99 Problems’. I’ve been bumping this non-stop over the last couple of days.  Get familiar.

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New Pete Rock Ish – Tearz!
January 27, 2009, 3:52 pm
Filed under: Producers

Earatik Statik – ‘Tearz!’
taken from The Good, The Bad, The Earatik (?, 2009)

Although I was willing to give Pete some leniancy in terms of my appreciation for NY’s Finest, there’s no doubt that this particular Chocolate Boy Wonder fan was ultimately a little disappointed by last year’s full length offering.  As such it’s good to hear Pete back on form with this leaked track from the upcoming Earatik Statik LP which will supposedly also feature beats from Large Pro and J-Zone as well. Tasty little line-up by anyone’s standards.

Admittedly this isn’t mind-blowing, but in slightly barren times for committed Soul Brother worshippers I’m happy to embrace it. You should too.

via The Full Clip

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K-Def Drop @ Vapors Magazine
December 9, 2008, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Producers

K-Def piece @ Vapors Magazine

A couple of months back I was enlisted to write a short bio of K-Def for Vapors Magazine (I’m avoiding the temptation to make some sort of lame Biz Markie reference here). Not one to turn down the opportunity to wax lyrical about one of my favourite producers of all time, I jumped on the task with the quickness. Shouts to JNOTA for sending it my way: much appreciated mate.

I actually found the piece more taxing than I thought it would be: it’s kinda hard to find the balance between overt geekiness and something that would appeal to a broader range of people when you’re bordering on obsessive with the subject matter. Still, the result is now up, ready and waiting for you to digest. Drop a comment and make me feel good why don’t ya?

If you’re yet to peep the unreleased Tragedy jam produced by K-Def himself then head on over to Robbie’s spot and check it out immediately. ‘Tidal Wave’ hasn’t sounded this good since 1993…

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Genuine Excitement – Q-Tip’s Still Got It
November 9, 2008, 6:33 pm
Filed under: Producers

Q-Tip – ‘Gettin’ Up’
taken from The Renaissance (Universal/Motown, TBC)

OK, so I know I’m never really on top of the ‘news’, but I guess that’s because for the most part I’m rarely excited by it. So what’s-his-face is dropping a new mixtape? The hottest thing this year?! Gimme a break.

However, the recently leaked single from Q-Tip has me seriously amped for his upcoming release entitled The Renaissance. The beat’s killer and Tip can unsurprisingly still out-rhyme pretty much any rapper on the current scene: bring on November 4th. If it all sounds like this (please, please, please say it does) then we’re talking album of the year status. Although I guess in 2008 that ain’t saying a great deal…

Don’t hold your breath though. If the album drops before 2009 has already started then I’ll happily chow down on my virtual headwear.

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Yes We Can – New Damu Material
November 6, 2008, 9:31 pm
Filed under: Producers

Damu The Fudgemunk – ‘Yes We Can (Election Mix)’ (Redefintion Records, 2008)

Also available at Wax Poetics Digital.

First off let me congratulate you America: I’m ecstatic and still recovering from the huge sigh of relief that I emitted yesterday morning. Let’s hope this really does bring about change in the future for all of us.

To celebrate, here’s a new track from FDB favourite Damu. Loads of samples thrown into a tight instrumental groove that’s had my head bopping all day. I can’t wait for a full length that my man John at Redefinition Records tells me is dropping in March. Watch out!

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Heavy Bronx Experience – The Gas Review
October 22, 2008, 7:14 pm
Filed under: Album Reviews, Producers

P Brothers – ‘Outta Control’ ft. Roc Marciano & ‘In A Zone’ ft. Milano
taken from The Gas (Heavy Bronx, 2008)

(Excerpts at artist’s request)

P Brothers @ MySpace

Rap music in 2008 just ain’t grimy enough. Any long-winded criticism and discussion of the contemporary scene seems to conveniently pass over the fact that at a base level the aesthetics of the music have now, for the most part, become so polished and glossy that the very grittiness that defined the genre in the first place seems drowned by a swelling flood of auto-tune, pseudo-electronica and abstract postlyrical rapping. Not that there’s anything wrong with that stuff: it has its place and it’s taking things in an interesting (if at times questionable) direction that is clearly pushing the boundaries in order to more firmly establish hip hop’s next creative phase. Thank you messieurs West and Wayne: I appreciate the service you’re doing us all. Kinda, sorta.

However, all this stuff seems to miss the point a little for me. I listen to rap music because I want it to transport me to heaving basements where condensation licks the inside of blacked-out windows. I want it to make me body slam a pensioner through a glass table and spit in their face for encouraging me to do so in the first place. I want to be moved into throwing Molotov cocktails into abandoned tenement buildings at midnight so I can stand back and watch them burn to the ground with bass and drums as my co-conspirators. Figuratively, that is. Nevertheless, I miss the unbridled aggression and ruggedness that was such an intrinsic part of the music in days gone by. The one crew that seems to understand this sentiment more than any other in 2008 is Nottingham’s very own DJs Ivory and Paul S, collectively known as the P Brothers. Who would have thought that Robin Hood’s stomping ground could produce something as sublimely raw as The Gas? Five boroughs pay attention: it’s the East Midlands who are stepping up to bring New York back.

Despite Robbie’s coverage of the crew over at Unkut, it seems valuable to briefly reflect on their output so far. Despite remembering Malcom McLaren’s ‘Buffalo Girls’ as “a big point early on” in this interview with from a couple of years ago, this is surprisingly the Brothers’ first full length album of their career. This isn’t to say that they haven’t been busy though, steadily dominating the well-established scene in Nottingham and pleasing more discerning UK heads with their Heavy Bronx Experience EPs and through regular collaborations with the Out Da Ville crew and protege Cappo, most notably on the overlooked 2003 release Spaz The World. They’ve dipped their toes into cross-Atlantic ventures as well, most recently working with Sadat X on Experience & Education on top of the string of 12″s that have preceded the release of this album with Boss Money, Milano, Smiley Da Ghetto Child and Ress Connected. Despite all of this you’d be forgiven for letting them slip under your radar, as it’s a position outside of the spotlight that feels entirely intentional. Showboating media-courters they ain’t and they’ve also managed to stay admirably clear of the tangible insecurities of the British scene that have been brought on by the towering shadow of its all-conquering older sibling. They just make great, universal hip hop music with no hidden agendas or chest-beating jingoism.

Onto the album. From start to finish (that’s right, the whole thing) The Gas represents a coherent cluster of cuts that are unabashedly hard and completely devoid of trend-pandering or gimmicks. ‘Cold World’ successfully sets the tone with a soulful vocal hook, melodic keys and crunchy drums that serve as the perfect platform for E.C. and Bago to get busy in style. From this point on there’s no letting up and although a discussion of every song on the album would be warranted, I’m going to stick to my personal highlights for the sake of your attention spans: ‘Outta Control’ puts forth the most mesmerising bassline I’ve heard since ‘It’s Bigger Than Hip Hop’; ‘Digital B-Boy’ marries together brutal drums and twisted digital noise in a veritable assault on your inner ear; ‘In A Zone’ is what Pete Rock should sound like in 2008 but doesn’t; ‘Don’t Question Me’ combines swirling guitar licks with downtempo drums so beautifully that I can’t even listen to it without closing my eyes. The guest MC spots are pleasingly restricted to a small handful of underground Bronxites giving the whole work a sense of continuity and in an age where most people don’t even care about albums anymore, The Gas literally demands a front to back listening experience to be fully appreciated. Ultimately, it feels like the whole package is bolstered by a sense of unwavering confidence: this is music made by aficionados, for aficionados. Don’t like it? Then screw you.

Except you will do. A lot. And it’ll be with good reason because this is hands down the most honest, genuinely slammin’ rap album I’ve heard all year. Granted it’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but when it sounds this good who cares? The P Brothers certainly don’t, and that’s exactly why The Gas is a collection of some of the very best beats and rhymes you will hear all year.

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