Happy Birthday James Brown

Happy Birthday James Brown

James brown was born on May 3, 1933 and thanks to James mom and dad, we got the foundation and the background to our music.  James Brown has been sampled by everyone in Hip Hop and because of him we have some of the most iconic and classic Hip Hop tracks of all time.  We owe everything to James Brown and to celebrate we will breakdown 5 of his greatest break-beats that created and molded what we call today, “Hip Hop Music”.

We will start with “Get Up (I Feel Like A) Sex Machine” which is the 5th most sampled James Brown song ever.  The beat is funky (as all JB songs are) and has a catchy hook with,

“Get up (Get on up)
Get up (Get on up)
Stay on the scene (Get on up) like a sex machine (Get on up)”

Kool Moe Dee sampled it for “I’m A Player”, Biz Markie sampled it on “A One Two” but more than anyone else, the Fat Boys not only took the beat but also made a cover version of the song and added rap lyrics to the track!

The fourth most sampled track in the JB Catalog is “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved”. The guitar riff on that track blows my mind every time I hear it, then when I get to the 3:30 mark we really get nasty.  The track is mostly an instrumental with James telling the bang what to do.

Big Daddy Kane used the beat perfectly for his rapid fire track “Set It Off” and BDP used it for their ode to their neighborhood “South Bronx” but this beat belongs Public Enemy.  Terminator X tears the beat apart and scratches it to make it sound different on “Bring The Noise”.  The noisy ear-piercing defined that PE sound and still makes people stop and listen!


Top 3?  “The Payback” This track is slow paced funk that does not stop for 7 minutes.  James is angry throughout the whole track and in this case, you do want to get James “mad” just to get him to say stuff like this,

“Sold me out, for chump change (yes you did!!)
Told me that they, they had it all arranged
You handed me down, and thats a fact
Now you’re pumped, You gotta get ready For the big payback!! (the big payback!!)
That’s where I am, the big payback (the big payback!!)”

Nas sampled the track for “Get Down” and Pete Rock and Cl Smooth used it on “All The Places” but EPMD and King Tee named their songs after the track with “The Big Payback” and “Payback’s A Mutha” repsectively and not only do they sample the guitar riff but Jame’s voice as well.

“Funky President” has been sampled on over 700 times and has been sampled in Hip Hop all the way back to Spoonie Gee and Busy Bee.  The beginning 9 seconds has been sampled over and over again and the woman saying “Hey Listen to the man…payback!” has also been on various track.  The track is so funky that you gotta dance as soon as the needle drops!

“Hey country, didn’t say what you meant
Just changed the brand new funky president
Stock market going up, jobs going down
There ain’t no funky job to be found
Tax keeps going up
I changed from a glass, now I drink from a paper cup
Gettin’ bad”

For this track, MC Shan used the “listen to the man” sample on “Kill That Noise” and N.W.A used the drums twice on “Quiet On Tha Set” and “F*ck Tha Police” but Salt N Pepa lifted the beat from the start for their track “Shake Your Thang”.  Somehow Hurby took the intro and made it a “Go-Go” theme track that (again) makes you get up and “shake your thang”!

The most sample JB track of all time is a no-brainer.  The track has been sampled over 1200 times and is the foundation to almost any rap song.  The song is crazy dope and a masterpiece of a track.  It has soul, rock and jazz and in one track.  The beat strats slow but at 5 minutes and 34 seconds the countdown begins and the question is asked, “Aint it Funky?”  HELLZ YES!!!

Public Enemy would not have “Fight The Power” or “Rebel Without A Pause” without this track.  LL Cool J would not have “Mama Said Knock You Out” without this track.  BDP would not have “South Bronx” without this track.  The list goes on and on.  But the 2 songs that remind me so much of this song is Sweet Tee’s “It’s My Beat” and Fresh Prince’s “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff”.  On “It’s My Beat” the beat and countdown is sampled throughout the whole track.  Once the track starts, it’s “Funky Drummer” all day long.

As for “The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff” when they get to end of the track, they just take the sample and drop it for the last 20 seconds of the song (5:06 – 5:26).  No mixing.  No scratching.  They just let it play.  As “lazy” as it may seem, it’s still funky to death.

But it doesn’t stop there.  We also put “Funky Drummer in our lyrics.

Public Enemy – Fight The Power

“1989 the number another summer (get down)
Sound of the Funky Drummer”

LL Cool J – Boomin Systems

“The girlies, they smile, they see me comin
I’m steady hummin, I got the Funky Drummer drummin”

LL Cool J (again) – Murdergram

“Im rippin MC’s from Funky Drummer to Big Beat”

Black Sheep – To Whom It May Concern

“You kick a wack style
And claim to have brains
Take the Funky Drummer and give him back to James”

On Christmas Day we will celebrate the 10 year anniversary of his passing.  He left us so much music for us to lift and use to write poetry on top of.  He’s an inspiration to all of us.  If we were a DJ, we scratched and blended his music.  If we were rappers, we would drop lyrics and his funky beats.  If we were B-Boys, we would dance to his music. He put the “Hip” in Hip Hop. For that we thank you and wish you a Happy 83rd birthday!  Gone, but never forgotten!

-Al E.




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