Recently my man King George and I have been discussing one of our favorite topics, Brooklyn's Da Beatminerz
. Sports is a close second for me, but strangely, George only responds, "Yeah, that was a good ass game" anytime I mention to him last night's score.
Da Beatminerz are a DJ production crew comprised of two Bushwick brothers, energetic Evil Dee and the bespectacled Mr. Walt. In the mid 1990s they rose to prominence crafting some of the most gorgeous haunting basslines that have ever gurgled out of a speaker for Black Moon
, Smif n' Wessun
. The Dewgarde brothers' beats have a knack for making murderous lyricism as cleverly
entertaining as a Kubrick steadicam shot
While George and I need to have an offline discussion on the Beatminerz' back catalog, I thought I would break out this dissection of Walt and Evil Dee's LP version of "I Gotcha Opin," one of the duo's most illmatic productions. This post is bumped to you from The Audio Goldrush
My good friend Fearless Jones and I have been clowning friends of ours who are intent on mastering video games such as Guitar Hero
and Rock Band
. Our feeling is if you spent that much time strumming a guitar as you did playing a video game you would be a regular Bobby Dylan by now. Or in these guys case, Eddie Van Halen:
This phenomenon reminded me that as a Hip Hop DJ/Producer I am in no means immune to this idolatry. I have always favored “covering” songs or making versions or remixes. In my early days at the school of Bard Knocks one mentor of mine (*cough*couch*CHASE*ahem) became exasperated that I was constantly looping beats that had already been broken. He threw up his hands as day after day I would tinker with King George's boxy Gemini samplers re-looping Diamond D bass lines or X Clan drums (no small irony that versions were X Clan's Paradise's production hallmark in the early 90s).
In my defense, finding the originals of a Hip Hop beat, picking it apart, cutting 'em up and mixing them back together gives me a greater knowledge of how exactly beats are made. In this instance, I chose to break up and piece together Black Moon's “I Gotcha Opin.” Attempting to push the same buttons as producer Mr. Walt revealed a couple of things to me:
Walt and his brother Evil Dee's eclectic record tastes are crazy. We babble on and on about Tip and Ali, Pete Rock, Large Pro but often forget the lo-fi jazzy boom bap crate diggin' sound of the Beatminerz. At a time when most producers were all about finding cool like dat be bop funky horns that matched the vibes and stuff of their MCs, the Beatminerz took a different direction. Walt especially was unafraid to match the rugged intensity of Franklin Ave Posse's finest to the sounds of a female fronted jazz rock fusion band from New Jerz of all places.
Getting disparate samples to work in unison together both spatially and harmonically is incredibly difficult. Walt's choice of ingredients for this song hail from different genres and different decades yet all the snippets sound as if they hopped the train to Bucktown for one terrific menacing recording session. “Gotcha Opin” sports drums from Iron Butterfly
, basslines from Ten Wheel Drive
and horns from Art Ensemble of Chicago
. Oh, a snippet of “Jimbrowski”
for good measure. There are dub like samples that ride the beat that I couldn't figure out so I approximated.
I couldn't help thinking that what undermines many contemporary Hip Hop productions is the unwillingness to chances or make mistakes. So many beats these days have promise but they are too clean, too rigid in their professionalism. Hank Shocklee has said countless times that real time recording mistakes informed the apocalyptic sound of Nation of Millions as much as any planned production. I imagine this approach may have made Walt's unorthodox choice of samples work together.
I had considered playing this straight ahead like the original Black Moon version but I decided to actually be creative and re-imagine this beat with drops and variations. Don't front.
gOTCHA oPIN (A18 Mix):