TEK 9 / “We’re Gettin’ Down”
If there was one thing I wish people who don’t listen to hip-hop knew about it, it’s that the music is vast. As in, oceanic. The music has so many styles, subgenres and regional specificities that I don’t think one person could keep up with it all even if they did nothing but listen 24/7. For example, did you know there’s an entire subgenre of hip-hop dedicated to blissed-out instrumentals? Critics are calling for congressional hearings over the drugs, guns and bitches thing, meanwhile these cats are posted up in their bedroom studios making beats so resolutely mellow that I have to wonder who the intended audience (other than me) could possibly be. It’s certainly not whoever is buying all those Yung Joc records.
This isn’t anything new either. My man Tek 9 (bka Dego of the UK superproducer duo 4Hero) was slowing pulse rates to a crawl as far back as ’96. “We’re Gettin’ Down” is as good an example of the style as any. Every time I hear it, I wish I was in my car doing about 35 in a 50, cooling. Listening to it, I’m reminded of George Carlin’s explanation of what cocaine makes you feel like. It makes you feel like having more cocaine, Carlin said. Likewise, “We’re Gettin’ Down” makes me feel like having more of “We’re Gettin’ Down,” and guess what, this being hip-hop, there’s more. A lot more.
From “We’re Gettin’ Down,” try drifting straight into a little taste of “Lizard Stick,” a Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry instrumental/dub/remake of a record originally called “Babylon Dem Pon Fire.” For “Lizard Stick,” Perry lightened (in tone) yet emphasized (in volume) the bassline and added some jazzy keyboard lines, thereby turning a minor classic of Seventies reggae into a dead-ringer for a Weldon Irvine track named, not coincidentally, “We Gettin’ Down.”
Weldon’s is the near-original of this batch of tunes and he brings it, layering wah-wah guitar, (synth?) strings, sharp horn arrangements and even bells and whistles (literally) to create a melodious mélange of soul-jazz fusion that somehow manages to excite and relax at the same time. Don’t miss the bad-ass drum break.
From there, we ease back into hip-hop with the record that all true believers should already be thinking of, A Tribe Called Quest’s “Award Tour.” Even though it’s a little more hype than the rest of these tunes, I have to drop “Award Tour” in here because it sounds to me like Dego might’ve had the Tribe track in mind as much as (if not more than) the Wesley Irvine track he named his song after. (Especially considering that Dego sampled not just the Irvine track, but also the vibes and horns from Milt Jackson’s “Olinga,” the latter being the other record that Tribe used for “Award Tour.”)
To close out, how’s about the record that probably started all of this squiggly bassline madness, Herbie Hancock’s fusion classic “Chameleon.” Now, look. The timeline goes like this: 1974 – Herbie, 1975 – Irvine, 1976 – Perry. So according to my cutting-edge interstellar calculations, Herbie was first. I’ll leave it to someone who knows more than I do about both music and the Seventies to explain how and/or why three records that have nothing to do with each other ended up with the same bassline.
Get your tracks here:
- “We’re Gettin’ Down” – Tek 9, from It’s Not What You Think It Is!?!! (SSR, 1996)
- “Lizard Stick” – The Upsetters, from Baffling Smoke Signal (Heartbeat, 2002); Originally recorded in 1976
- “We Gettin’ Down” – Weldon Irvine, from Spirit Man (RCA, 1975)
- “Award Tour” – A Tribe Called Quest, from Midnight Marauders (Jive, 1993)
- “Chameleon” – Herbie Hancock, from Head Hunters, Columbia, 1974)
—Mtume ya Salaam
Déjà Vu #2
Mtume and I talk music all the time. But we don’t talk about all of the music we individually like with each other all the time. I had no idea he was into Tek 9. I have that album (and more). We’ve never mentioned it to each other.
I’m not surprised though. We both dig 4Hero and that’s undoubtedly how we both got to Tek 9. It’s really a beautiful thing when our tastes overlap like this. One of the things it says is that we both be searching. Tek 9 is relatively obscure on this side of the Atlantic, so if both Mtume and I arrive at the same obscure destination then it means not only is there something there worth getting to, it affirms that we both remain curious and open to new ideas, indeed, we both remain committed to searching out new stuff. We’ve got to keep meeting like this ;->)
That said, I’m not particularly bowled over by these selections—not even the Herbie Hancock. I like the little tour of bass lines that Mtume runs down and it’s ok for a quick listen but I won’t be putting these selections on repeat any time soon.
—Kalamu ya Salaam
This entry was posted on Sunday, May 13th, 2007 at 1:12 am and is filed under Cover. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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