Phill Most, Our Cartoonist, has been making beats for acts like Baritone
Tip Love. And we welcome the addition of this new column each month.
One of the least covered aspects of Hip Hop is an intriguing subculture in which obscure old records are dug up, dusted off, and put to use to create the backdrop for one of the most powerful forms of musical and social expression of the 20th century. Known as beat-finding or "diggin' in the crates" (a term popularized by producers Showbiz, Diamond D and their crews), this is an important part of Hip Hop that even some of the most diehard rap fans don't know about. Sure, you've heard about sampling and a certain handful of music makers from the '70s that everybody has jacked for beats coutless times (James Brown, George Clinton, Sly & Family Stone and maybe a few others) but did you know that the dope beats on some of your best-loved jams might have come from records by The Monkees, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Three Dog Night, nightclub crooner Joe Williams, or even Jello pudding salesman Bill Cosby? Or movies and Broadway shows like "Hair", "The Lost Man", and "Death Wish"? Even cornball 1960s bubblegum pop hits like Tommy Roe's "Dizzy" have been utilized to create hardcore tracks that leave the listener with no choice but to bounce to them.
A brief overview: hunting down hard-to-find records with funky breaks began back in the earliest days of Hip Hop, with pioneers like Kool Herc and Africa Bambaataa coming up with unknown records that would rock crowds in the parks and keep the competition befuddled. Anyone could pull a funk joint like The Commodores' "Brickhouse" out of a crate, but you had to be a true digger to stumble upon a jam like "Hihache" by The Lafayette Afro Rock Band (an African recording) or "Sing A Simple Song" by Please (a Bambaataa discovery from the Phillipines).
With the advent of sampling in the late '80s, the art of beat-finding encountered a big resurgence. With lots of the classic old joints now long out of print and damn near impossible to find, used record stores in many areas began jacking up their prices astronomically (nowadays I only shop for beats in the most out of the way places, where the merchants don't know the worth of these records). Regardless, a new generation of kids began to get their fingers dusty, sifting thruogh Mom and Pop's collection of assorted 45s, looking for the perfect beat. And even with an increasing number of rap producers using live music tracks for their artists, the crate digging era is far from over. (There's a sense of history involved here, so don't be so quick to throw away your sampler and hop on this live band trend that's going on now - you can build on the house but don't discard the foundation or the whole thing might collapse!)
Some will continue to dis those who put tracks together using only samples, claiming that it isn't even music. But who cares about those boneheads? As long as there's Hip Hop, beat-finding will be a part of it. If it's not, then call it something else.
But enough ranting from Mr.Hip Hop purist. Thanks to response from the readers, there will be live reports from the World of Beats every month now. We'll talk with some deejays, producers, and others who are experts at beat-finding; peek into some of their collections; take you with us on beat missions; and, of course, we'll drop some fat beats for you to run out and dig up. Some real in-depth shit you won't see in any other major Hip Hop magazine - only Rap Sheet, baby!
Until next time, I'm out like Jordan.
Stay real, y'all.