Saturday, 21 June 2014
3 The Hardway - Smooth Operator (Dope Dragon, 1995)
Last week I looked at the 'Microphone Fiend' sampling 'Step Off' by Danny Breaks so today I thought I'd continue the Eric B & Rakim theme with an examination of this hip-hop infused tune from the Dope Dragon camp. 3 The Hardway was a collaborative name used by the Full Cycle nucleus of Roni Size, Krust and Die, no doubt inspired by the 70s Blaxploitation film which featured the three biggest black action stars of the era, Fred Williamson, Jim Brown and Jim Kelly. For subsequent releases the alias was shortened to 3 Way and after initially being reserved for Dope Dragon tunes it was later used for the Appreciation / Price Of Fame 12" on Full Cycle.
The tune opens with the familiar blaring horns from 'Cramp Your Style' by All The People, although they're probably sampled from 'I'm Still #1', the Boogie Down Production cut from which they are better known (head to DnB Blog for my breakdown of Goldie's 'Digital' which also samples this track). The horns alternate with the guitar loop from Eric B & Rakim's 'Microphone Fiend', originally from Average White Band's 'School Boy Crush', making for a cool, funky intro appropriate for Size, Krust and Die's chosen alias. A crashing Amen break is then deployed before Rakim's "A smooth operator operating correctly' line from 'Microphone Fiend' introduces a bassline that jabs and pounces like a heavyweight boxer. As well as the ubiquitous Amen the trio also make use of the Do The Do and Sesame Street breaks, while the bassline goes through a few mutations. Along with a foreboding keys loop straight from some 70s jazz funk, this variation helps keep the tune's intensity levels high throughout. Although the track is as rough and rugged as they come, the 'Smooth Operator' title is apt because this would be the perfect soundtrack to the exploits of a cool Shaft-like character in a modern update of the Blaxploitation genre. Top quality jump-up from Bristol's best.
Check out 'Smooth Operator' in this Bryan Gee set at Quest 'We Are The Law' from 1995:
Wednesday, 11 June 2014
Danny Breaks - Step Off (Droppin' Science, 1995)
"It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you
Without a strong rhyme to step to"
These immortal words opened Eric B & Rakim's 'I Know You Got Soul', referencing the gap between the single and the duo's previous release. The sentiment could also apply to this blog, which has only been sporadically attended to in 2014; in fact it has been over two months since the previous post. Unfortunately life, work and if I'm honest, the Game Of Thrones boxset has got in the way of more frequent updates. However I'm going to try to dedicate a bit more time to this project over the next few months and I'm going to kick things off with this classic from Danny Breaks - I'm sorry I kept you.
Danny Breaks has also recently returned from a lengthy hiatus by putting out the superb Vaultron compilation, a double disc collection of classics previously only available on vinyl alongside some unreleased gems from the Droppin' Science archives - you can check out my break down of 'Volume 1 b (Dubplate Version)' over at DnB Blog. Additionally he has reissued some of his back catalogue on CD and digital, with The Outer Dimension and Another Dimension LPs just released on Monday and available from his Bandcamp page. You can also find the 2001 compilation Volumes there, which includes 'Step Off' along with nine other tunes from Droppin' Science's first ten volumes.
'Step Off' is a great example of Danny Breaks' sound as it incorporates elements from reggae, hip-hop and vintage sci-fi, all of which regularly crop up in his productions. The track features a sample of Rakim from 'Microphone Fiend' stating "Step Off" which appears in the intro over a fluttering bassline, reverbed drums, bleeps and a sound effect from The Official Adventures of Flash Gordon (also sampled in hip-hop tracks such as Schoolly D's 'P.S.K. - What Does It Mean?') before the Think break enters to up the energy levels. The drop brings in a wicked reggae style bassline while the introduction of some steppy Amen sees the track firing on all cylinders as the bass mows you down like a machine gun. There's even room in the middle for a bit of trippy flute. A powerful tour de force from one of the genre's finest breakbeat scientists.
Vaultron includes the Splash Remix of 'Step Off' which adds some 'Babylon'-esque dread vibes to the track while the original mix as previously mentioned is available on the Volumes compilation. Check it out in this excellent set from Kemistry & Storm at Dreamscape 19 on 27th May 1995:
Friday, 4 April 2014
D'Cruze - Lonely (Suburban Base, 1994)
Here's the second part of our feature on Suburban Base classics: part one is here if you missed it. You can also read my break down of DJ Hype's 'Dreams' over at DnB Blog.
Although D'Cruze's 'Lonely' came out the same year as The Dream Team's 'Stamina' it couldn't be further away from that track's exuberance. It was also quite a departure for D'Cruze who'd previously produced energy packed hardcore and dark jungle tunes such as 'Bass Go Boom' and 'Watch Out'. 'Lonely' is based around a vocal sample from Regina Belle's 'Good Lovin', a track that was also sampled on DJ Taktix's 'The Way VIP':
"I could never never be lonely."
While the Regina Belle tune is heartfelt and tender, here by isolating one line and slowing it down D'Cruze imbues the vocal with a feeling of heartache and loss. The sombre mood is enhanced by forlorn strings and keys along with 808 kick drum hits that rise and fall from deep bass to ear piercing treble. The track is completed by the introduction of a subtle, moody bassline and sublime rolling breakbeats, while the vocals and strings come and go throughout. During an interview with Martin Clark back in 2006 none other than Burial named the track as one of his favourites, commenting:
"I'm not a big r&b fan but I love the way my favourite jungle and UK garage records use samples. Instead of having a girl sing all the way through, they just used one line and kept on circling it around. I love the way whatever it said in the vocal – that’s the name of the tune. Chuck them on some drums: that’s the sound I love, the sound I hear on pirate radio."
The mournful sound, rolling breaks and treatment of vocals on 'Lonely' are a clear influence on Burial's haunting productions. Tracks such as 'Distant Lights' and 'Archangel' connect the present with an era that although passed still resonates with many people, lending them an increased emotional impact and providing further evidence, if it was ever needed, for the theory of the hardcore continuum.
'Lonely' is available to download from iTunes and Juno. It also appears on the superb Suburban Base: A History Of Hardcore, Jungle, Drum & Bass 1991-1997 compilation which has just been awarded 9/10 by DJ Mag.
Tuesday, 18 March 2014
The Dream Team - Stamina (Suburban Base, 1994)
The legendary Suburban Base imprint has been making waves recently with the digital reissue of their remastered back catalogue alongside a new three CD set tracing their history from hardcore and jungle through to drum and bass. Founded by Dan Donnelly out of his Boogie Times record shop in Romford in 1991, the label released classic after classic during the nineties with anthems such as Sonz Of A Loop Da Loop Era's 'Far Out', Boogie Times Tribe's 'The Dark Stranger' and Remarc's 'RIP' tearing up dancefloors.
To celebrate Suburban Base's revival DnB 365 are taking a two part look at a couple of tracks which both feature on the new collection and whose impact continues to reverberate around today's music scene. First up we have The Dream Team's 'Stamina', an inescapable tune back in '94 thanks to its catchy reggae loop from Ricky Tuffy's 'Stamina': "Jump around because you have the stamina". This is combined with a tough reversed bassline and roughneck Amen/Think drums that get timestretched all over the place. The track also features the well used "Hey Hey Hey" from Capleton's 'Everybody' alongside machine gun sound effects but the vocal sample that I'm focusing on today is the female "Ooh yeah... justify my love". The first half of the vocal cropped up again last year on 'Lockjaw' by Paul Woolford under his Special Request guise. The track is one of the most junglistic on his superb Soul Music album, a record that is based around the idea of constructing "false memories". Not the most prominent component of 'Stamina', the sample is familiar but difficult to place, creating a sense of deja vu and giving you the impression of having heard 'Lockjaw' before.
The digital of 'Stamina' is available to purchase from iTunes while the Suburban Base: A History of Hardcore, Jungle, Drum & Bass 1991-1997 compilation should be available from all good retailers in both CD and digital editions. The second part of our Suburban Base feature is coming soon with a look at a tune that has hugely influenced one of today's most lauded producers...
Friday, 7 March 2014
Bill Riley - Wake Up (Protocol, 1996)
Although posts have been rather sporadic here at DnB 365 in 2014, I have been regularly writing my Monday Retrospect column for DnB Blog. The first track I looked at this year was 'In At The Deep End' by the underrated Bill Riley, a Bristol producer who ran the Protocol label while also releasing material on Full Cycle and V Recordings. With spring on its way in the UK I thought I'd take a look at the flipside to that tune, the equally good 'Wake Up'.
Like 'In At The Deep End' the track features an extended intro that features shimmering Lonnie Liston Smith-esque rhodes and melancholy trumpet over skittering drums that use the Think break. The partly obscured vocal, "Y'all better free your minds and wake up", is taken from Erick Sermon's 'Focus' off his 1995 Double Or Nothing LP and the sample introduces a gritty, distorted double bass riff along with the Apache break. 'Wake Up' shows Riley's ability to combine smooth jazz funk samples with tough drum and bass and ranks among the best from Bristol's mid-nineties golden era.
Check the track out in this recent Fanu & Docius show for Bassoradio from November 16th 2013:
Friday, 14 February 2014
Total Science - Hot Spot / Love 2 U (Timeless Recordings, 2002)
Yesterday I had a stroke of luck while crate digging at a local charity shop: 10 Drum & Bass 12"s from the late 90s/early 00s for a fiver including releases on Liftin' Spirit, Metro and Hospital. As it's Valentines Day I thought I'd write up this nifty 12" from Total Science given the appropriate vocal sample on 'Love 2 U'. The two tracks are fairly typical Total Science material from that time with obvious old skool influences, but each takes a rather different approach.
Somehow this 12" totally passed me by at the time and on my initial impressions, 'Love 2 U' on the AA side is probably my favourite of the two. It's a loved up tune featuring bright synths and two-step drums that use the Apache and Tighten Up breaks along with a "I'm in love with you / Want you to love me too" vocal taken from Gwen Guthrie's 'Peanut Butter', a much sampled track with the most well known example being N-Joi's 'Anthem' from 1990. While also sporting an early nineties sound 'Hot Spot' on the other side is a down and dirty number based around a particularly fat and flatulent synth riff over multi-layered drums that include some energetic bongos. An excellent release from the ever consistent Total Science boys.
Check out 'Love 2 U' in this love themed drum and bass mix from Tendai:
Saturday, 1 February 2014
Ed Rush & Optical feat. Ryme Tyme - Resurrection (Virus Recordings, 2000)
Although the weather may still be cold and torrential here in the UK, with January out of the way I thought it was about time that DnB 365 came out from its winter hibernation. And what better way could there be than with 'Resurrection', the opening cut from Ed Rush & Optical's second LP The Creeps released back in 2000.
If features the vocal talents of Ryme Tyme and although I'm not normally a fan of MC-led drum and bass tunes, his lyrics really complement the production and read as a manifesto of sorts for the sci-fi/horrow movie vibe Ed Rush & Optical were going for on the album: "The mind creepers, the soul seekers... Raw, explicity the nature with the twisted figure, the contorted features". Around the vocals the duo craft a particularly sick track with a nasty acidic riff that really gets under your skin alongside muscular drums that incorporate the Tighten Up break underneath. The perfect synthesis of vocals and music.
'Resurrection' is available to purchase from all good digital retailers including Beatport, Juno Download and Drum&BassArena. You can hear it below leading off Optical's quick 15 Years of Virus mix from last year: