Saturday, 21 June 2014

3 The Hardway - Smooth Operator

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:

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