Filed under: Features,Great Moments In Rap,Marley Marl Special,Not Your Average,Rap Veterans,The Unkut Opinion
Written by: Robbie Ettelson
Once upon a time, around 1985 at Unique recording studio in New York city, Marley Marl accidentally sampled a snare drum. It was a mistake, initially, as he’d instructed the engineer to grab a vocal snippet for the Captain Rock song he was remixing at the time. When he played the sound on the keyboard and heard that snare come through, it dawned on him – no more shitty DMX and Linn Drum sounds! Once he realized that he could program drums using real drum sounds, he loaded up the kick, snare and hat from ‘Impeach The President’ and started making history. ‘Eric B. For President’, ‘The Bridge’, ‘Make The Music With Your Mouth, and ‘Stunt of The Block’ were all produced using that drum kit.
It’s impossible to imagine how hip-hop would have sounded without that break-through, although it’s a fair bet that after a few more years of drum machines over replayed TV show themes somebody would have figured out that sampling drums was a good idea. But beyond this innovation, the other major contribution to the hip-hop cannon was the collection of great albums that Marley was involved in (regardless of whether or not he had co-producers). Long Live The Kane, Road To The Riches, Goin’ Off, Take A Look Around, Down By Law, Mama Said Knock You Out…the list goes on. The only other producer who can approach that kind of track record at the time is The 45 King. Many will make a case for Dr. Dre since he’s made so many careers happen, but he’s been more about making hits and artists than great albums. Pretty much every great Dre album has a fair amount of bullshit on there, with the exception of The Chronic. Even Efil4zggin had a fair amount of filler in terms of skits.
As great as DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Ced-Gee and the D.I.T.C. collective are, they are all in the shadow of Marley Marl’s legacy, because the most significant quality that Marlon Williams brought to hip-hop was bigger than the sampling techniques or the albums – it was bringing that grit to the studio. The perfect antidote for the clean, sterile Sugarhill disco sound and the drum machine/keyboard sound that came after it was the ‘Project Sound’ that ‘The Bridge’ gave us. Marley was able to capture that raw feeling that you get from listening to old Cold Crush tapes recorded from parties on the records he made, and that will forever be more powerful than making careers or selling millions of CD’s.
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