Saturday, October 08, 2005

from the t$ vaults . . .

Six Degrees of Sampling

Traversing the sonic globe with one piece of music

This month: Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love” (Sire, 1981)

Nearly 20 years since its release, the ebullient singing, rhythms and basslines of the Tom Tom Club’s most pivotal piece of music has become firmly rooted in the American hip-hop lexicon. To date, over 35 songs from rappers ranging from the politically conscious XClan to gangster clique South Central Cartel have legally cleared usage of samples. And they’re still pouring in, with newer-school artists like Black Eyed Peas and Cam’ron using the song in cuts. At the time of its release, “Genius of Love” was so popular largely as a result of massive crossover radio airplay. A favorite of both mainstream pop and urban R&B stations, the single sold 110,000 copies on import before Sire/Warner Brothers realized that it might be a good idea to put it out domestically.

Tom Tom Club have recently emerged with their first album in eight years, The Good The Bad And The Funky (Rykodisc). “Who Feelin’ It,” the first single, was completed with the assistance of 15-year-old DJ Kid Ginseng and revisits the tributary spirit of “Genius of Love” with a club-styled tune that pays respect to some of the masters of soul, hip-hop and DJ culture. On the use of sampling as a valid production technique in songwriting, band member Tina Weymouth says, “It’s just paint — it’s just that the colors are already mixed.”

The First:

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five — “It’s Nasty”
Jekyll and Hyde — “Genius Rap”

Chris Frantz: It wasn’t really called sampling [at the time] because they didn’t use samplers, they just replayed the song . . . They would get a studio band or some drum machines and recreate the song and do their rap thing over the top. Samplers didn’t really exist back then the way they do now . . . We were putting together a live album called The Name of This Band is Talking Heads and Grandmaster Flash came by [the studio]. We introduced ourselves and I remember that he had probably never been in a real recording studio before because he was really impressed with the reels and stuff. He liked the beat and the melody, the voices and the way the harmonies were real sweet — sort of schoolgirl harmonies.

The Favorite:

Mariah Carey — “Fantasy”

Tina Weymouth: She must have been quite a little girl when the song came out, like eight or 10-years-old. I think it reminds her of a happy time in her life, and what she’s done with it is very sweet.

CF: Her version, “Fantasy,” is very true to the spirit of the original. I especially like the Ol' Dirty Bastard version, which is the remix.

Best Use of the Song in a G Funk Track:

Ant Banks — “Roll ‘Em Phat”

CF: I’d be going out on a limb, but I kinda like the most, shall we say, minimalist [uses of the song]. Maybe some of the least creative, like “Roll ‘Em Phat” by Ant Banks. I wouldn’t really give him a lot of credit for his creativity — I just liked the minimalist nature of it.

TW: Yeah, we liked “Roll ‘Em Phat.”

The Outlaw:

Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” and countless illegal bootleg records

CF: It’s not like we’re going to go after people. But it would be nice to be contacted at least.

The Reject:

CF: There’s only one gangster-style version that we didn’t allow, and it was just because it was so overtly horrible and violent. It was stuff like, “it’s all about the bitches” and “throw the niggas in the trunk.” It was just too far beyond — I think that’s the only time we denied approval. I think that we’re pretty open-minded about it . . . in most cases we’re delighted with the results.

Further Recommended “Genius of Love” Listening:

2Pac — “High Speed”
Black Eyed Peas — “Who Needs”
Busta Rhymes feat. Erykah Badu — “One”
Dream Warriors — “And Now the Legacy Begins”
Ziggy Marley — “Tomorrow People (Remix)”
Wild Pony — “Poppin’ in the Club”
Zimbabwe Legit — “Doing Damage in My Native Language”

[originally appeared in CMJ New Music Monthly, 2000]


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