15 posts categorized "Soul and Funk's Influence on Hip Hop/Rap"

March 31, 2012

BeatTips MusicStudy: Johnny Pate's "Bucktown" and the Drum Lessons of Soul, Funk, and Disco

To Understand Key Elements of the Drums in Soul, Funk, and Disco, It's Important to Be Familiar with those Music Forms

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

While many beatmakers might be aware of the connection between soul, funk, and disco to hip hop/rap music, it's not always so clear to see, or better yet to hear, exactly how soul/funk set the foundation for hip hop/rap music and beatmaking. Well, within the overall rhythmic influences of these musics, lies the most glaring connection: the drums.

Below I've included Johnny Pate's "Bucktown (Main Theme)," a song from the 1975 action ("blaxpoitation") flick Bucktown. I chose this song because it straddles soul, funk, and disco all at once; a sound that, in 1975, sat as a unique mix of the three forms right before the complete onslaught of disco. For our purposes here, with this song what you want to focus your attention on is the drum framework; you can hear the drums best between the 0:17 - 0:49 marks. Notice what it sounds like? If it were just the drums, wouldn't most describe it as a hip hop/rap drum beat? And therein lies the point...

Which brings me to this: I receive a number of emails and private messages in The BeatTips Community (TBC) from people concerned about making their drums "funky", "funkier", or "more soulful". Invariably, I always ask, "Well, are you listening to any funk or soul?" In every case that I've replied back with this question, the answer reply has always been the same..."No." Further, in every case, the answer have also included this, "I want my drums to sound like..." DJ Premier, Pete Rock, J Dilla...and so on.

Imagine wanting to talk (sound) like a supreme court justice or a successful corporate lawyer without ever studying jurisprudence (law theory, philosophy, etc.). Although the art of beatmaking and making music in general is altogether a different practice and culture, I find it just as ludicrous to want to make "funky" or "soulful" drums without ever studying or listening to funk or soul music.

When someone says that they want to make drums that sound like some of beatmaking's most notable pioneers, I get it. For many, it's just a reference point for the style and sound that they like; it's the zone in which they'd like to work from. Understandable. But what's usually lost in this oft-repeated statement is the fact that all of beatmaking's notable pioneers studied and listened to funk, soul, and disco. Though each pioneer ultimately emerged with their own unique style and sound (of course, they are all collectively representative of the same fundamental understanding), they did not arrive without clear guides from funk, soul, and disco drum arrangements.

But beatmaking pioneers notwithstanding, it's misleading to believe that one can understand how to inject soul music's influence into their beats, or make something funkier, or add a disco backbeat, while being completely unfamiliar with soul, funk, or disco. (How can one know to include key elements and stylings of musics that they've never listened to before?) Such a prospect is so fundamentally flawed that it can produce a false sense of musical understanding— something that can certainly disrupt the development of any beatmaker.

And while some beatmakers can perhaps clone a DJ Premier or Pete Rock drum pattern, this type of mimicry does not serve as a substitute for the original thing! For one, obviously mimicked styles stand as clear and unabashed cheap knock-offs of someone else, just mere shells of ideas without the essence or subtle nuances of the original creators. But worse, this form of mimicry mostly exists devoid of the caliber of knowledge, understanding, and general music appreciation that produced the original benchmarks.

This is why I believe that it's important that beatmakers not lose a sense of the fundamental connection that hip hop/rap music and the art of beatmaking has with the soul, funk, and disco music forms, especially when it comes to the drums in hip hop/rap music. With a strong sense of this connection, your production repertoire—no matter how varied, whether you're sample-based or not—will always retain its link to hip hop/rap's foundational elements. But without a sense of this connection, your production repertoire runs the risk of losing this crucial link.

The music below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

July 16, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Syl Johnson, the Soulful Belter

Behind Al Green at Hi Records, But Syl Johnson Just as Valuable to Hip hop/Rap Music

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Blues-Soulman, songwriter, and producer Syl Johnson is an ironic example of how being second on the depth chart can sometimes work out for the best. In front of him at Hi Records was a more well-known legend: Al Green. Even still, Johnson carved out his own name and niche.

Like Green, Syl Johnson had an arresting, soulful sound. But if Al Green was the crooner, Syl Johnson was the belter. Syl Johnson distinguished himself through a vocal delivery that was piercing, and way, way out front, a style no doubt owed to his blues roots. His seminal hit, "Different Strokes," (which he recorded at the age of 41), offers a glimpse at the powerful phrasing that could have made him as big--if not bigger than--Al Green, had either been on a different label.

Still, for my deep diggin', I prefer the virtual obscurity of Syl Johnson over the popularity (and most often sampled) Al Green...

And if you didn't know Syl Johnson, check out a couple of these cuts. Listen, and see if anything sounds familiar.

For educational purposes...

Syl Johnson - "Wind Blow Her Back My Way"

Syl Johnson - "I Hate I Walked Away"


Syl Johnson - "Could I Be Falling Love"

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

June 02, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Gladys Knight & The Pips - "No One Could Love You More"

Steady Swing-Beat Anchors this Little-Known Gladys Knight & The Pips Gem

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

One of the greatest benefits of being a beatmaker (particularly one that scours through scores of old records) is discovering "new" musical gems by some of the titans of recorded music. Such is the case with the wonderfully arranged "No One Could Love You More" by Gladys Knight & The Pips.

Driven by a swinging backbeat that places emphasis on the traditional "2" rather than the "1," (a beat emphasis pioneered by James Brown and his funk sound, first introduced in 1965), "No One Could Love You More" features a groove that churns and turns over as the song progresses in all of its repetitive glory. Look inside the hood of the groove, and you will find that it's flanked by several engaging musical components. First of course, there's the classic Motown tambourine dropping in on the "1;" then there's a light, pitter-patting, syncopated snare pattern that oozes with old rent-party celebratory charm; and finally, there's a silky 4-note bass line that rumbles, glides and "walks," as it ascends every two bars, before returning to the bass line's core pitch.

Recorded ca. 1971 and released by Motown the following year in 1972, one might say that "No One Could Love You More" was overlooked. Buried deep in the album as song number 10, the last track on the entire album, perhaps it was thrown on to the LP as a bonus—considering the fact that plenty of albums during the same era routinely carried just 7 or 8 tracks. "No One Could Love You More" was never released as a single, and this proved to be one blunder that foreshadowed Motown's inability to retain Gladys Knight & The Pips.

But whether "No One Could Love You More" was intended for obscurity or not, no doubt a casualty of Motown's—and the music industry's—hit-first ethos, its drawing power is absolutely undeniable. Here, before their explosively popular albums Neither One of Us and the Curtis Mayfield produced Claudine, Gladys Knight & The Pips are in top form. The naturalness of family harmony is here; The Pips' incredibly nuanced vocal stylings are here; and of course, Gladys Knight's piercing, beautifully raspy voice is here, breathing a heart-torn life into every lyric as only she can. Having discovered "No One Could Love You More" much later than some of their other music, I can't help but wonder how much of my musical understanding could have (would have) benefited, had I "found" Gladys Knight & The Pips' "No One Could Love You More" much sooner.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Gladys Knight & The Pips - "No One Could Love You More" (1971)

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

April 17, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Royal Flush - "Ice Downed Medallion" Prod. by EZ Elpee

Hungry Beatwork and Rhyme; Appreciated More in Middle of a Storm

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

"Motion picture/analyze your world Flush'll hit ya..." That's the emphatic declaration that Royal Flush makes to open the New York hood classic, "Iced Downed Medallion" from his debut album, Ghetto Millionaire (1997). Speaking from the rapper/lyricist part of me, I've always considered Royal Flush to be one of the illest lyricists in rap. Cut from the same Queens lyricst bloodline that bled inside of areas like Corona, Queensbridge, Lefrack City, and Astoria Projects, Flush was a street-respected M.C., circa 1996-98. Unfortunately, however, Flush never rose to the level of notoriety that I felt he deserved.

Thing is, Royal Flush came on the scene—with the right skills—at the wrong time. It was 1997/98, right in the eye of Diddy's (formerly known as Puff) storm. This was when Puff was throwin' shit in the New York rap game with the shiny-suit, bubble gum-rap mystique. (Note. Puff's reign would eventually help lead to the undermining of New York's hip hop/rap structure—a near fatal blow that New York has yet to recover from.) The years in rap 1997/98 would also serve to mark the beginning of Jay-Z and Hot 97s (New York's #1 hip hop/rap radio station) meteoric connection to the top. Had Royal Flush come on the scene just two or three years earlier, he would have missed what I like to call the New York Kill Zone of '97/98, and in all likelihood, he would have gained as much (perhaps more) shine as Mobb Deep, AC, or O.C.

Speaking from the beatmaker (producer) part of me, "Iced Down Medallion" was one of the most aggressively programmed beats I've heard. Produced by EZ Elpee, the beat utilized a straight-forward, two-bar loop of a 70s music phrase (I don't name sample sources that I'm not sure about their cleared status) with the bass frequency of the phrase filtered milk-smooth, and the high (mid/treble) levels left just as warm and even when let out. For the drum framework, Elpee went with a standard double-kick snare pattern. Wisely, he tucks the kick while exploding the snare with a handful of reverb. And the hat, which is truncated (no prolonged sustain), is a shaker that he politely sprinkles over all measures. It is further worth noting that because of how the bass frequency of the sample is filtered so fat and warmly, the kick—which is actually truncated short—sounds so much more rounder and booming every time it lands on the one, and as it sets up the two.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Royal Flush - "Iced Down Medallion"

Royal Flush - "Iced Down Medallion" (Official music video)

March 25, 2011

BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds, Vol. 2

Record Gems with Open Drum Sounds

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

I'm a strong advocate for using custom drum sounds. And although I have no issue with stock drum sounds (I've used stock drums in the past, and I have no problem with using them in the future) I believe that one of the most effective ways of creating your own style and sound is through the use of your own customized drum sounds.

That being said, I will be compiling an ongoing list—the BeatTips List of Great Records for Drum Sounds—of ALL of the records that I (and many others) have found to be great for drum sounds. For each installment or volume of the list, I will try to post at least five songs. Furthermore, this list will also include those songs that I have studied as a guide for drum pattern arrangements. And it is my hope that the songs on this list well help serve as a guide for those who want to tune the drum sounds that they already have to the sounds showcased on this list.

Finally, although some readers will note that there are some obvious choices that should be on this list, please bear with me, as I will be rolling out this list periodically without, necessarily, any preference to the most well-known "break-beats" (this is not a list of break-beat records). In fact, I suspect some songs on this ongoing list will surprise some of you. But after a "full-listen" of the record, you'll see just why it earned a spot. Still as always, I invite discussion. So any and all suggestions, whether well-known or obscure, are certainly welcome.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

ZZ Hill- "I Think I'd Do It" (1971)

Beatmakers are sure to be immediately pleased with this joint, as the drum break opens up the song. In the intro, the kick, snare, and hi-hat are all open and free from other sounds.



The Soul Searchers - "Ashley's Roachclip" (1974)

The sly brass section and the furious wah wah guitar-lead rhythm keeps me returning back to this classic by The Soul Searchers. Throw in the tambourine and the bass, and you've got one of the finest songs for MusicStudy. And as far as drum sounds to sample go, catch the break at the 3:31 mark.



Monk Higgins - "One Man Band (Plays All Alone)" (1974)

For the most part, this song is laid back jazz/rhythm and blues fusion. But don't let that fool you, as a mean 21-second drum break comes in at the 2:17 mark.



Duke Williams - "Chinese Chicken" (1973)

A serious early funk number that had countless b-boys destroying the dance floor. Short, but dope, drum break appears at the 1:40 mark.



Dennis Coffey - "Son of Scorpio" (1972)

This is the one Dennis Coffey song that I studied the most. The "marching", half-open hi-hat sound on this song is something that I incorporated in to my own style of drum programming. Then there's the bongos and the rumbling bass line: Classic... As for the drum break, catch the 1:30 mark.



Funk Inc. - "Kool Is Back" (1971)

One tough, but short, break. Catch the 1:48 mark.

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted name in beatmaking."

February 20, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Gladys Knight & The Pips, "To Be Invisible"

Curtis Mayfield-Produced Masterpiece Embodies Soul

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

From the soundtrack to the movie, Claudine, one of my top 3 favorite movies of ALL time, "To Be Invisible"—score written and produced by Curtis Mayfield—is an incredibly moving piece of soul music. Curtis Mayfield's arrangement showcases Gladys Knight & The Pips best qualities, specifically, The Pips' tonal harmony, and Gladys Knight's arresting lounge-style vocalization.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Gladys Knight & The Pips - "To Be Invisible," (written and produced by Curtis Mayfield)

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

February 19, 2011

BeatTips Community Question: Chopping the Ends of Samples?

When Chopping a Sample do you fade out the end of it to make it sound smooth?

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

This BeatTips Community question comes from member BrandonF4208:

"Yo when you chop a sample do you usually fade out the end of the sample to make it smooth instead of abruptly stopping making a click sound? Obviously you don't want that click shit but I am just wondering what other people out there do. maybe you use a different technique?"

Here's my response:

I never "fade out" the end of a sample! If there is an unwanted sound at the end, whether it be a click or pop, I just chop the end a little more. And in the case where I don't want do that, I decrease the amount of "sustain" and "release" on the sample. These sustain and release functions are inside of my Akai S950.

Note. Another way that I sometimes handle this situation is that I just sample a really short sound-stab—something close in sound to the sample—and layer it (overlap) the very end of the sample; this masks any audio defects at the end of the main sample. Also, the sound-stab that I use in this case usually sustains (lingers) for at least 1/8th note longer than the main sample. So not only does it work to mask a glitch or abrupt ending, it also serves as an effective sample blend.

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

February 15, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Jimmy Ruffin - "This Guy's In Love With You"

Silky Smooth Delivered Soul

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

Probably not as notable to most as his younger brother, David, still, Jimmy Ruffin left an impressively musical legacy as well. "This Guy's In Love With You" is one fine example.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Jimmy Ruffin - "This Guy's In Love With You"

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

February 03, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: James Brown & The JBs - "I Don't Want Nobody"

Rolling, Rumbling, Muddy Bass; Brassy Brass; Home Cooked Drums; and of Course, the Vocal Styles of Soul Brother #1

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

*In the discussion of music, numerous names are tossed around. Sure, their are many recording artists who are worthy of some level of research. But then there are those names that are worthy of intense MusicStudy. These are the Marquee Names...*

In 1969, America was trampling fast into a new era. Just one year after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy; and one year after the 1968 Summer Olympics "Black Power Salute" of black American track stars, Tommie Smith and John Carlos. 1969: the social turbulence of the 1960s was coming to a close.

Such broad-based social turbulence triggered a new awakening in the African American (Black) music tradition, when in 1965, James Brown introduced a new form of soul music he dubbed "funk." By 1969, James Brown had perfected his funk sound, which included tightly wound rhythms, percussive and "brassy" horn arrangements, and unmistakable grooves that rocked steady on the down beat. And seemingly always key to James Brown's funk sound was his straight-forward social commentary.

The music and video below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

James Brown & The JBs get down with "I Don't Want Nobody."

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

January 31, 2011

BeatTips MusicStudy: Mos Def ft. Talib Kweli - "History" Produded by J Dilla

Repetition, Rupture, and Groove

By AMIR SAID (SA'ID)

What's dope about any J Dilla interest is the fact that he's increasingly being recognized for: samples, chops, ruptures, loops, and soul—hip hop. Just as with DJ Premier, Pete Rock, and Large Professor, a study of J Dilla brings you back, fundamentally, to the study of soul music. That being said, listen to this joint "History" by Mos Def and Talib Kweli—one of the best beatworks I've ever heard by J Dilla. It's subtle yet direct and defiant at the same time... And yo, as you listen to this, ask yourself: Would this song have gotten any real strong reaction five years ago and why?

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

Mos Def - "History" Feat. Talib Kweli (Prod. By J Dilla)


Here's the music video for "History"


Finally, if anyone really believes that "live" renditions of hip hop/rap originals are co-equal, check this out. It "seems" to be comparable, but notice how much the "feeling" and essence of J Dilla's beat is missing.

---
The BeatTips Manual by Sa'id.
"The most trusted source for information on beatmaking and hip hop/rap music education."

Dedicated to exploring the art of beatmaking in all of its glory.

Your email address:
  

  • Donate Sidebar

  • BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers

  • Build Your Skills

  • Top 5 Myths About Sampling and Copyright Law


    "Sampling is piracy."
    WRONG! Piracy describes the wholesale, verbatim copying and distribution of copyrighted works. That is not sampling; that's something entirely different.
    Read more

    "You can legally sample and use any recording up to 1, 2, 3, or 4 seconds."
    WRONG! Under existing copyright law, there is no clear, predetermined length (amount in seconds) that is “legally” permissible to sample.
    Read more

    "If you use samples on a free mixtape, it’s perfectly O.K."
    WRONG! A free mixtape does NOT permit you to use samples from copyrighted recordings without the permission of the copyright holders.
    Read more

    "Sampling is easy; there’s nothing to it. Anyone can do it well."
    WRONG! Sampling is an art form that requires technical skill, imagination, and artistic understanding.
    Read more

    "Sampling involves the use of pre-recorded songs only."
    WRONG! While the art of sampling is most commonly understood to include the use of pre-recorded songs (traditionally from vinyl records), source material for sampling includes any recorded sound or sound that can be recorded.
    Read more



  • BeatTips
    Essential Listening

  • RIGHTS DISCLAIMER:
    BeatTips.com is a website dedicated to music education, research, and scholarship. All the music (or music videos) provided on this site is (are) for the purposes of teaching, scholarship, research, and criticism only! NOTE: Under U.S. Code, Section 107 “Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use” of the Copyright Act of1976: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching… scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright." (U.S. Code)

Categories