Radio Show #7: Pioneers of Sound

Posted on April 18, 2010 by

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The theme of the show this week was the firsts of the firsts. It took a whole lot of work to compile the playlist, and even more work to judge whether or not something truly was the first of it’s kind, but in the end T and I were pretty happy with the result. If you want to listen to the streaming version of the show you can find it here, otherwise sit back and enjoy the unedited playlist.

Keith Sweat, I Want Her (First New Jack Swing song)

You might not think you know New Jack Swing, but trust me, you do. Remember that song Poison by Bell Biv DeVoe (“That girl is Poison”), that’s a shining example of the late 80s style of music that combined the sound of R&B with the “swing beats”, samples, and production techniques of golden-age hip-hop. One of the most amazing things about this revolutionary sound was the fact that it pretty much came out of nowhere. In 1986 Club Nuveau released their debut album, Life, Love & Pain, which contained a cover of Bill Wither’s popular 1972 track Lean On Me that utilized a swing beat. Some might argue this was the first New Jack Swing song (or perhaps something by Timex Social Club, which were pioneers in combining R&B with rap, but lacked the distinct New Jack swing sound at this point), however I argue that it is a cover and thus doesn’t count. Fast forward one year to November 25, 1987, Keith Sweat released his debut solo album, Make It Last Forever, whose hit single I Want Her combined the danceability of pop, the vocals of R&B, and the beats of rap and would inspire numerous artists. Here is a link to the origional version, which is not to be missed (however it automatically starts and begins with a commercial, which is annoying and not something I want on our homepage).

Fatback Band, King Tim III (Personality Jock) (1st rap record)

There isn’t much to say here, Fatback Band released King Tim III weeks before Sugarhill Gang’s Rappers Delight. While some Hip-hop heads argue that Fatback’s being a funk band precludes them from releasing the first rap record (which would have to be done by a rap group), I’ll let you be the judge of what you do and don’t consider rap. On that note, a caller during the show brought up that Blowfly’s Rap Dirty (1965) can also be considered the first rap record (as well as the first rap song) since he speaks in rhyme and of course rap is in the title. I’m still on the lookout for the origional 1965 version of the song since he re-recorded it in 1980 after the success of Rappers Delight and I can only assume he reworked it to emulate this new idea of rap.

NWA, Straight Outta Compton (First West Coast Rap record)

Run-DMC ft. Aerosmith, Walk This Way (First Rap-Rock Crossover)

Dr. Dre, Deep Cover (First G-Funk record)

Gang Starr, Words I Manifest (First Jazz-Rap record)

Grand Master Flash, The Message (First Conscious rap record)

Bruce Haack & Russel Simmons, Party Machine (First Shout out)

Name dropping and shout outs had to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is right here. If it isn’t clear, Party Machine gives props to Kurtis Blow and James Brown. I’m not really sure when it became standard operating procedure for DJs to give themselves shout outs, but I consider it like the air horn, an unfortunately popular evil of the art.

DJ Lady B, To The Beat Y’All (1st Female Solo Artist & 1st to record a studio album)

Ice-T, Reckless off of the Breakin’ Soundtrack (1st Jean Claude Van Damme Movie, 1st Ice-T tv/movie appearance)

What, you don’t think this is important? Have you ever seen Bloodsport? KUMITE!

Eric B. & Rakim, Follow The Leader (1st video on Yo! MTV Raps)

Herbie Hancock and Grandmaster D.S.T, Rockit (1st hip-hop/ jazz crossover, 1st use of Turntable as an instrument)

I’m not too sure where you, the reader, fall on the debate of whether or not the turntable is an instrument. Personally, I believe that as soon as scratching came into existence that the turntable became an instrument—like a clarinet or viola, only you wouldn’t get beat up on the way home for playing it. I liken the turntable to the keyboard or synthesizer, while the sound of a piano comes from a hammer hitting a string, the keyboard/synthesizer produces a predetermined—therefore arguably a prerecorded/preset—waveform by pressing a button. Similarly, the turntable’s unit of music is part of a record. Both the turntable and the keyboard use their respective prerecorded units of music to create something entire new, which I believe qualifies both of them as instruments. I will agree that Herbie Hancock’s Rockit was the first popular single to include scratching and true hip-hop DJing, which was provided by GrandMixer D.ST. Is it weird that whenever I hear Grandmaster or GrandMixer or anything else with “Grand-” I can’t help but think Grand Wizard?

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