Song Of The Day 8/19/2015: The Honey Drippers – “Impeach the President”

Ultimate Breaks & Beats – Vinyl manipulations of breakbeats were doing great in the late ’70s and early ’80s. Oh, how we danced. Sampled breakbeats were a bit of a ways off, even with Octopus Breaks being widely available. When the Sugarhill Gang cut “Rapper’s Delight” they used a combination of a re-edited copy of Chic’s “Good Times” and a live bass and drum act in the studio. Then Run-DMC put out “Sucker MCs” which utilized a drum machine, an invention which was extremely easy to use in the wrong way, though Run-DMC obviously used it correctly. The drum machine possessed everybody’s soul for a few years, from synth acts whose constitutions were too fragile to engage human drummers, to pop acts who really needed nothing more than a metronome with the occasional rattle and didn’t see the need to pay a whole human person for that.

A scant three years later one of the greatest beat architects of all time made an accidental discovery that wound up changing the whole ballgame. Cuepoint:
A producer from Queensbridge named Marley Marl changed the game once again when he accidentally sampled a snare drum while working on a remix and realized he could abandon the rigid format of drum machines. Marley began borrowing from rhythms such as the Honey Drippers’ “Impeach The President,” making songs with the same classic drum breaks he grew up hearing at the park jams. A majority of the rap world was quick to follow in Marley’s footsteps, as newly-affordable sampling equipment proliferated. While James Brown songs provided a rich source of tight, hard grooves to loop and rhyme over, the rapidly developing sound of hip-hop demanded innovation on an almost weekly basis, creating a huge demand for fresh breaks and catchy drums producers could manipulate.
I don’t know how one “accidentally” samples a snare drum but I sure would love to have seen the screw-up. Now that sampling entire one- and two-bar drum figures gave rap its second big shot in the arm in ’86, this encouraged a re-release and expansion of the Octopus Breaks series, which we now know as Ultimate Breaks & Beats. Which is what we’re focusing on this week, in case you’re just joining the conversation.

By the way, despite the overt political implications and frequent repetitions of the title within the song, the Honey Drippers don't outright call for the impeachment of the president so much as they try to start a discussion about the situation. Although, if I were a wagering man, I'd say they were probably in favor of impeaching the president, otherwise they would have called the song "A Discussion on Whether or Not to Impeach the President," or "A Simple Desultory Philippic On Impeaching the President,"or "Car Wash." The year was 1973, the president in question was Richard Nixon, and he was indeed almost a lock to be impeached because of some really poor mixtapes he commissioned. Nixon resigned before they could push him out, though, and was replaced by a Chevy Chase lookalike. Just mail me my teaching credentials now.

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