Hip Hop has a long tradition of diss tracks. It’s good for the artists because it gives them exposure and generates hype. It’s good for the listener because it’s funny and brings out the most acerbic side to MCs.
Acknowledge is a great diss track. The background to it is that a rapper named Boogieman had accused Masta Ace of ripping of one of his tracks. The Boogieman track was called “Ghetto Love”, and the Masta Ace one was called Ghetto Like. So Boogieman released a track entitled “Just You Wait” dissing Masta Ace.
Masta Ace’s reply is “Acknowledge”, a scathing reminder to other MCs about Masta Ace’s talent and long standing in the rap game.
The word play is on point, and the message is a straightforward one: who’s Boogieman?
Such a takedown deserves a decent arena, and the instrumental provides a fantastic backdrop to the lyrics, with a deep, smooth bassline and some catchy strings sampled from “Home” by Cafe Del Mar.
The song was released in 2001, and also appeared on the album Disposable Arts.
“Politician” is a song by Cream, released in 1968 on their Wheels Of Fire album. It’s a fair sleazy sounding song anyway, as a indictment of sexually deviant male politicians throughout the ages. It’s about a politician trying to entice some girl walking along into his car, basically.
Betty Davis takes that ball and runs with it, upping the sleaze levels until the whole thing reeks of non-disclosure agreements and powerful men trying to get their way. Coming from a female singer as well seems to make it that extra bit more biting.
The start of the song is particularly loose, with the various parts of the song careering into each other in a way which sounds a bit unpractised (which it was) but belies a talented studio group.
The song is from a studio session run by Miles Davis, Betty Davis’ husband and Jazz-Fusion legend.
These sessions were released in 2016 on Columbia Years: 1968-1969.
Billy Ocean is one of the most successful British R’n’B acts, with a decades long career.
This song is the one which enabled him to quit his job at the Ford factory, and focus on music.
It’s very much a pop song, with a bright and cheerful vibe offset by a slight tinge of regretfulness. The lyrics tell a story of unrequited love, spurned by some girl who gives her affection to myriad other guys…
The instrumental sounds more like a 60s track to me, with jingly drums, bouncy piano, sultry backing singers, lowkey brass and lush strings. The strings in particular are very tastefully done in the verses.
The song is damningly similar to “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops, released a year earlier, but in fairness that song lacks something in comparison to this.
“Love Really Hurts Without You” was released in 1976, and reached number 2 in the U.K. singles chart.
This song is more relevant now then ever, and considering it was made in the 70s, is almost prophetic.
It’s dread roots of the most vital kind. His voice rings out loud and clear, with a direct message to stop polluting the planet. Unfortunately, many people still don’t see a problem with stuff like greenhouse gases, deforestation, overfishing, intensive farming etc etc…
The song is gilded by some melancholy piano/guitar skanks, which provide most of the melody of the backing track.
Of course, there’s a pretty fat bass part rumbling away, increasing the dreadness!
“Hurt Not The Earth” was released in 1999 on the compilation album Packin House, under Little Roy & Friends.
Orchestra Baobab are one of the most successful bands to come out of Senegal. Combining Senegalese sounds with Afro-Cuban music, they achieved a lot of fame within West Africa more generally.
The name of the band is because they were the house band of the Baobab Club in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, which was in turn named after the baobab tree.
“Pape Ndiaye” makes the Cuban influence very strongly felt. The rhythms come across as being Latin in flavour rather than African, and the guitar is similarly quite Cuban in tone.
What definitely feels more African is the singing. Not only the language, but also the style, that classic call and response chorus.
It’s hard to place the horn section in either Latin America or Africa, because both countries make heavy use of brass. There’s some great sax playing in this song, creating a joyous vibe.
“Pape Ndiaye” was released in 2007. That accounts for the crisp sound so often lacking in 70s African music. As far as I can tell the song hasn’t been released before, which shows the continuing creativity of this band!
Two massive names in drum and bass for the price of one!
Shy FX’s remix of this is a huge banger, ripping apart dancefloors from the moment of its release in 1996.
Ray Keith’s original, released under the moniker The Terrorist in the same year, is a more straightforwardly jungle tune. This means that it has deep 808 bass, big breakbeats, and just a general dark vibe.
The Shy FX remix has a distinctive buzzy bassline that rises at the end of every few bars, and a much tighter drum pattern. It’s a big anthem because of its catchiness, blended with a strong dose of heaviness!
If anything the song is a bit too relentless, but it has enough of a bounce to stop it becoming to breathless.
The intro is a very cool one, with that time-stretched “we’re now ready for takeoff, so please fasten your seatbelts”.
“Valdez In The Country” has a relatively complicated lineage. One thing is crystal clear though: Donny Hathaway is the genius behind it.
The first iteration of the song is called “Patty Cake”, and was released in 1969 by King Curtis. Then, Hathaway did a version for the band Cold Blood in 1972. Finally, he recorded his own iconic version in 1973, which is a fantastic tune.
The Nite-Liters’ version is not necessarily the most accomplished. Much of the nuance of Hathaway’s version is lost, and the song doesn’t go nearly as far in terms of technical musicality.
What it does do however, is emphasise the song’s best bits. The horns are bold and bright, the bassline is fluid and funky, the guitar riff is much more apparent than other versions. It’s a much more high energy version than Hathaway’s chilled out rendition.
The Nite-Liters were an iteration of New Birth, the long running funk ensemble. Their cover of “Valdez In The Country” was released in 1973 on A-Nal-Y-Sis.
Tame Impala are one of the biggest things to happen to the world of trippy indie rock recently. They’re the new flavour drifting through the hazy airwaves. They’re psychedelic and popular at the same time.
You only need to watch the video for this to realise what it mean. They’ve paired a pop track with some opaque lyrics to a completely insane video!
The song itself is just undeniably a crowdpleaser. Catchy basslines have been a theme with my posts recently, but this one really is a doozy. The world is a considerably better place because of the invention of this bassline!
Lyrically, the song deals with a love triangle between a girl, boy, and sports team mascot. However, you can extrapolate the feeling to normal situations. It’s a song of yearning.
The vocals are washed out and dreamlike, mingling with the various rhodes hits and synth swells, creating an airy soundscape full of regret.
“The Less I Know The Better” was released in 2015 on Currents, and is now certified Gold in the U.S., Silver in the U.K., and Gold in the band’s native Australia.
John Lydon didn’t fade away when the Sex Pistols broke up. In fact, by many markers, he had his most creative period; or at least, a period he seems a lot more proud of than his youthful Johnny Rotten days.
Public Image Ltd is the most long lived and successful of his post-Pistols ventures. Fittingly for one of Punk’s biggest stars, Public Image Ltd is an archetypal post-punk outfit, mixing raucous, discordant guitar with dub influenced mixing and simple basslines.
“Public Image” is a song written by Johnny Rotten while he was still in the Sex Pistols, when he felt Malcolm McClaren was using him to make money and that the press were uncaring and unfair. He was essentially just viewed as a loud figurehead there for the band’s “public image”.
Jah Wobble’s bassline is a great one, a gyrating pulse of energy driving the song along.
The guitar parts are melodic in a dissonant sort of way. It’s that cacophonous sound which characterises much of the music labelled as Post-Punk.
The song was released in 1978, as a single and on the band’s debut album Public Image: First Issue. It got to number 9 on the U.K. Singles Chart.
The S.O.S. Band are not short on iconic basslines. But this is probably one of their most iconic, and the most funky to boot!
It’s a brilliant piece of boogie, revelling in its easygoing twang. From the start, that bassline reels you in, repeating itself but adding that perfect finish the second time. Simple, and very effective.
The actual song itself isn’t one of their biggest hits. It reached number 25 on the U.S. Billboard Hot Black Singles chart (a combined R’n’B/Funk/Soul chart, the successor to the old R’n’B one).
The drums vibe along effortlessly too, relaxed and groovy by any measure.
The vocals are pure soulful 70s, aided and abetted by a criminally smooth set of floaty keys, a cheeky guitar riff, and an infrequent organ arpeggio run. The devil is in the detail!