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: