Alright, now that I've got all that Raconteurs business out of my system, here's a post that's long overdue. I first caught wind of UK hip hop artist DJ Format about 5 years ago when the music video for We Know Something You Don't Know made the internet rounds. Breakdancing mascots is all you need to know. It wasn't until a couple years later when I saw the music video for 3 Feet Deep and began to take notice. After some, uh, "scrounging" I listened to a few more DJ Format tracks and liked what I heard, even though I didn't (and still don't) really listen to any hip-hop or rap. I eventually bought his debut album Music For The Mature B-Boy when I was in England a couple years ago and several tracks have become constants on the ol' iPod playlists. None moreso than The Hit Song featuring Canadian rapper Abdominal (more on him next time). The Hit Song can be summed up by its self-referential chorus:
"I use the word 'hit' in many sen-tences,
Listen how many 'hits' I manage to condense in the first verse,
In the second, I'm trying to rhyme as many words I can find that sound like 'hit',
In the last third verse, hit-related metaphors.
Example: I write more hits than Matt's got hit samples."
(Note: those are the lyrics as best as I can figure since other transcriptions available online aren't overly helpful)
DJ Format - The Hit Song (feat. Abdominal)
It's catchy, it's funny, and it's perhaps too clever by half, but then again, part of the fun lies in deciphering its lyrics.
Similar to digging up cover originals, I find it fascinating to uncover the sources of sampled music whether it's learning the sources of Fatboy Slim's big hits (check out A Break from the Norm for an earful) or breaking down Deee-Lite's Groove is in the Heart into its constituent parts. Naturally, after numerous listens to The Hit Song I began to wonder about the James Brown-like coda that ends the song. What I found out was that it's a sample of the song Hit Record performed by soul singer Mickey Murray, who indeed sounds remarkably like the Godfather of Soul. And as it turns out, Hit Record itself is a cover song, originally performed by Brooks Benton.
Mickey Murray - Hit Record [originally by Brook Benton]
Brook Benton - Hit Record
The song is a cheeky step-by-step guide on how to make a hit record. Ironically, I don't think any of these songs were really hits.
Razzy Bailey - I Hate Hate
Another ingredient that finds its way into The Hit Song is a sample from this anti-hate anthem by Razzy Bailey. If you're well-familiar with The Hit Song you'll find a nice surprise in the middle of this track.
DJ Format - Here Comes the Fuzz
Also from Music For The Mature B-Boy is the instrumental track Here Comes the Fuzz, which is built entirely around a repeated bass riff that's heavy on the fuzz.
The Quartertones - Here Comes the Fuzz (Remix) [originally by DJ Format]
Though labeled as a remix, this b-side to The Hit Song single is a cover of Here Comes the Fuzz performed by Toronto-based jazz/funk/fusion group The Quartertones.
Now that you've given Here Comes the Fuzz a spin, you've got to be asking yourself where that funky riff originates... and would you believe, it's from The King himself, Elvis Presley. Change of Habit is from the 1969 Elvis film of the same name, in which The King stars as an inner city doctor that falls for one of his nurses, who unbeknownst to him is secretly a nun. So many things seem wrong with that synopsis, but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time! Mary Tyler Moore stars as the undercover nun and for Elvis, this would be his final acting role. Now you know where the Fuzz came from.
Elvis Presley - Change of Habit
A couple bonus tracks:
DJ Format - Stealin' James, pt. 1
DJ Format - Stealin' James, pt. 2
DJ Format cuts and pastes together James Brown samples on these tracks, two sides of a 12" vinyl tribute released by TD Records. In this interview, he says he doesn't mind if people download it for free since he made it for fun and the record itself is "a totally dodgy release and breaks all copyright laws". That said, both DJ Format albums Music For The Mature B-Boy and If You Can't Join 'Em... Beat 'Em are definitely worth owning if you dig these tracks.
Hey, if you have any more insight into DJ Format samples, give me a shout or drop a comment. I'd love to know the origins of Last Bongo in Brighton.