Posts Tagged ‘Def Jam’

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

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Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

This track is ground zero in all of hip hop and perhaps the most in your face rap single of all time! While Public Enemy are no doubt the most influential rap group of all time, they were also the most innovative with their sampling and dynamic backing tracks provided by brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee, also known as The Bomb Squad.

The Shocklee brothers had their own mobile DJ business called Spectrum City DJs who also counted Professor Griff amongst its employees. Carlton Ridenhour, also known as Chuck D, was an aspiring graphic designer who offered to design some posters for the Spectrum City crew while he was a radio DJ at WBAU, the Adelphi College radio station. At one point, he also told them he could emcee, and along with another WBAU regular, Flavor Flav (William Drayton Jr.), and local DJ, Terminator X (Norman Rogers), Public Enemy was born.

Right from the start, PE’s sound was a mix of the serious brought out by Chuck D’s politically charged topical messages cooled off by the somewhat slacker presence of D’s amiable sidekick Flavor Flav, all supported by the hyper-charged backing tracks of The Bomb Squad.

It was through WBAU program director Bill Stephney that they came to the attention of producer Rick Rubin who signed them to his Def Jam record label and released their first album Yo! Bum Rush The Show in 1987. The group followed that record with the earth shattering It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, which was the first rap album to top the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop Poll in 1988.

This song comes from their no less essential third release Fear Of A Black Planet from 1990 and it later turned up as the centerpiece of the “Spike Lee joint” Do The Right Thing. Other singles on this album included “Welcome To The Terrordome” and “911 Is A Joke” in which, Flavor Flav and company take on the response times of 911 in black neighborhoods.

Edited: June 26th, 2014

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 2/4/13

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “The Mercy Seat” by Johnny Cash

By the year 2000 and the third album in the American series, Johnny Cash had reestablished himself as one of the greatest singers, not just in country music, but in all music. Producer, Rick Rubin, began working with him several years before and allowed Johnny Cash do what he did best in the studio…be JOHNNY CASH!

Cash began working with Rick Rubin in 1994. Rubin was the founder  of Def Jam Records, and was responsible for producing seminal recordings by Public Enemy and The Beastie Boys. It must have taken quite a leap of faith for Johnny Cash to, not only work with Rick Rubin who was much younger than him, but to put his career in hia hands.

When they first began working together, Cash’s career was pretty much over. He had recorded several ho-hum records for Mercury Records during the mid-to-late 1980s that were nothing special, and even resorted to re-recording some of his older hits for the label. I caught Cash in concert in a small New York City bar back in 1986 when he was touring behind the album Water From The Wells Of Home. His career was so far off the mark, that the place was not even half full, although I must say that he was terrific. The performance was marred by his proclivity to allow his son and wife to take precious concert time away from the main attraction, in order for them to perform their own second-rate material.

Rubin’s whole modus operandi  with Cash was to make bare guitar and voice recordings that would highlight what a great interpreter of material he was. In doing so, Rubin sent Cash tapes of songs he liked, exposing him to material he had never heard by the likes of Tom Petty, Beck, Soundgarden, U2 and Nick Cave, who wrote today’s Song Of The Day.

For American III: Solitary Man,  Rubin assembled an all-star list of backing musicians including Norman Blake, Mike Campbell, Randy Scruggs and Marty Stuart on guitar, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard and Shreyl Crow on backing vocals and Bentmont Tench on organ. “The Mercy Seat”  is probably Cash’s most harrowing recording, even more so than Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ original from their 1988 album Tender Prey.

Of the five American Recordings albums, not to mention the five CD Cash Unearthed box set with more Rubin/Cash collaborations, the American III: Solitary Man album is one of the most enjoyable on every level mainly because of its superb choice of cover songs by Tom Petty (“I Won’t Back Down”), Neil Diamond (“Solitary Man”) and U2 (“One”).  Together, Cash and Rubin formulated a record that kept Johnny Cash not only relevant with the hip cognoscenti,  but also true to himself as a recording artist.

And as for what Nick Cave thought about Cash’s cover, his pride oozes out of every word in the following quote… “It doesn’t matter what anyone says, Johnny Cash recorded my song.”

Edited: February 3rd, 2013

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – 8/1/12

Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy

This track is ground zero in all of hip hop and perhaps the most in your face rap single of all time! While Public Enemy are no doubt the most influential rap group of all time, they were also the most innovative with their sampling and dynamic backing tracks provided by brothers Hank and Keith Shocklee, also known as The Bomb Squad. The Shocklee brothers had their own mobile DJ business called Spectrum City DJs who also counted Professor Griff amongst its employees. Carlton Ridenhour, also known as Chuck D, was an aspiring graphic designer who offered to design some posters for the Spectrum City crew while he was a radio DJ at WBAU, the Adelphi College radio station. At one point, he also told them he could emcee, and along with another WBAU regular, Flavor Flav (William Drayton Jr.), and local DJ, Terminator X (Norman Rogers), Public Enemy was born. Right from the start, PE’s sound was a mix of the serious brought out by Chuck D’s politically charged topical messages cooled off by the somewhat slacker presence of D’s amiable sidekick Flavor Flav, all supported by the hyper-charged backing tracks of The Bomb Squad. It was through WBAU program director Bill Stephney that they came to the attention of producer Rick Rubin who signed them to his Def Jam record label and released their first album “Yo! Bum Rush The Show” in 1987. The group followed that record with the earth shattering “It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back,” which was the first rap album to top the Village Voice’s Pazz and Jop Poll in 1988. This song comes from their no less essential third release “Fear Of A Black Planet” from 1990 and it later turned up as the centerpiece of Spike Lee’s film “Do The Right Thing.” Other singles on this album included “Welcome To The Terrordome” and “911 Is A Joke” in which, Flavor Flav and company take on the response times of 911 in black neighborhoods.

Edited: July 31st, 2012