A Jewish Hip Hop Lesson

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The foundation of Hip Hop culture is comprised of elements. These elements, DJing, B-boying or breaking, rapping, and graffiti writing, were not created at the same time. However, they comprise the core of hip hop, which unfortunately veered into the rapping element  leaving the others behind. Some of my favorite types of hip hop tracks are nice and long collages of samples. Sampling is the core of hip hop music, spanning the past four decades. From the genesis of recorded hip hop records, the sound consisted of a mixed, cut and paste version of a sound that was previously heard. Whether the catchy bass lines from “Good Times” or the jingling from Bob James’s seminal recording of “Take Me to the Mardi Gras,” hip hop has used an array of snippets from all types and genres of recorded music.

Many DJ’s have made solid recordings using samples to veer the mood into a collage of soundscapes. DJ Shadow’s seminal first album, Entroducing, is a perfect example of a genius at work and play. The tracks are all comprised of samples, but the flow is so beautifully solid that the crackles of the vinyl sends chills of authenticity down your spine. Other groups have experimented with these feats such as Coldcut, check out their version of Eric B. and Rakim’s “Paid in Full,” The Avalanches, and the most recent Girl Talk. However, the original group to experiment with collage making were the old school outfit consisting of two guys known as Double Dee & Steinski. Doug “Double Dee” DiFranco (an Italian) and Steven “Steinski” Stein (A Jew) were older when they began recording, but Stein had hung out in the hip hop clubs for years. Like Rick Rubin and Bill Adler, Stein turned his friend onto the music and the bombastic sounds coming from the great DJ routines and live action rap battles.

The story of their initial creations begins in 1983 when Tommy Boy Records held a contest, in which they asked for the best remix of the song “Play That Beat, Mr. D.J.” by two of Afrika Bambaata’s MC’s, G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz Kid. Their entry, “Lesson 1 – The Payoff Mix” was chock full of different types of samples ranging from Little Richard to the Supremes, along with lines by James Brown, instructional tap-dancing records and Humphrey Bogart films.

Their entry ended up wining the contest and getting the payoff.

Double Dee and Steinski followed this up with the “Lesson 2 – The James Brown Mix” in 1984.

The main samples used were by James Brown, which was not being overused just yet, and other famous break beat records used at the local parties. Hip Hop artists, or more appropriately the producers, were not using James Brown samples in the early 1980’s. This came into full swing and use by the middle of the decade.

In 1985 they released the last of the Lessons with “Lesson 3 – The HIstory of Hip Hop Mix.” This was a chance to show on record the types of breaks that the break dancers or B-boys and B-girls proffered to dance to.

Solid, hard breaks that will swing you to the drummer’s beat and right back into your lover’s arms.

There are other great DJ’s who have continued the lesson plan, but that’s for another time or place.

Enjoy the Sabbath peace and Shabbat Shalom.

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