Sonntag, 26. April 2009

Yaz (We've got)

Yazoo were a short-lived but highly successful British electro-pop duo consisting of Depeche Mode / Erasure mastermind Vince Clarke and singer Alison Moyet. In the US they were simply known as "Yaz" and had a couple of hits in the early 80s. "Situation" was released in 1981 and also appeared on their debut album "Upstairs at Eric's".

If I were to make a top 10 list of my favorite hip hop tunes, Newcleus' "Jam on it" would be at number one, and Man Parrish's "Boogie Down Bronx" would take third position. Quite interestingly, both songs were directly based on "Situation".

Once you compare the tunes, this becomes quite obvious. In Newcleus' case it is the prominent bassline – probably THE most famous bassline in all of hip hop – that is influenced by "Situation". "Boogie Down Bronx" borrows even more heavily from it.

Here's the breakdown part in the middle of "Situation":

And here's the beginning of "Jam on it".:

And finally, here's the beginning of "Boogie Down Bronx":

Actually, that's not the whole story. Check out "Situation" again and listen to the heavy, thunderous tom-tom rolls:

Is it a coincidence that another Man Parrish tune, "Hip Hop Be Bop" also has a lot of prominent tom-tom rolls? I don't think so ...
Listen to "Hip Hop Be Bop":

Finally, I'd like to direct your attention to a little percussive detail in the background of "Situation" - a sound that always seemed to me like water drops:

And once again, there's a hip hop tune (or rather a breaks record, but a very influential one) that uses a similar sound – I am talking about the Jive Rhythm Trax 122bpm:

The whole "Upstairs at Eric's" album is great, and you should definitely try to hunt it down. My favorite Yazoo song "Don't go" is also on that debut album. And I guess you won't be suprised when I present to you a hip hop tune that is influenced by it. When I say hip hop, it is in a very broad sense: I am talking about Planet Patrol's "Don't tell me". Planet Patrol was Arthur Baker's electro soul / r&b outfit. They sound like a soulful version of Afrika Bambaataa which comes as no surprise since Arthur Baker re-used a lot of his Bambaataa material when producing Planet Patrol. One detail I am interested in is the arpeggiated melody that's playing in the background of Yazoo's "Don't go" - here's an isolated excerpt:

And here's the beginning of Planet Patrol's "Don't tell me":

I always find it interesting to reconstruct the musical paths that led to the creation of hip hop and electro. In the early 80s, hip hop hadn't crystallized into a rigid form yet and influences were drawn from all kinds of music. There was no canon, and it was a period of openness that encouraged experiment and eclecticism. At its best, the resulting music was a cross-cultural rollercoaster ride where funk rhythms collided with pop or avantgarde music. Needless to say that today's state of hip hop is a step backwards in both musical and cultural terms: Flamboyant artist like Man Parrish would be considered gay and their music would stand no chance whatsoever.

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