I used to wake up to “Fight the Power.”
That was my motivation and inspiration. Other folks got motivation from a speaker like Tony Robbins, if you could afford to go to his seminar. But my seminar was popping in that Public Enemy CD. When we were going through stress, we didn’t have the money to go to a psychologist; we didn’t have the money to go to a therapist. We found our therapy in watching someone use this genre to define what we were going through.
I think people underestimate just how much that music motivated us. It was the movement of that day, a force that inspired us, just as during the ’70s, you would hear Marvin Gaye singing “What’s Going On.”
Of course, we cannot ignore the racial component. Any new form of music was always criticized when it came out of the African American community. Remember, they called jazz “devil music,” and it was banned in certain places; you couldn’t play it. I think that’s the same thing with hip-hop. You look at some of the stuff that Ice Cube did and N.W.A. did — they were speaking to the things we were facing. Hip-hop let us know that things were possible.
But now I want to see hip-hop do more around gun violence, do more around mental health, do more around education, because there is a message in the music. The music is powerful, and we can shape how people respond to things.
A sampling of samples
It may not look like much, but that device above, part of the Fairlight Computer Music Instrument, changed music as the first commercial sampler widely found in top recording studios. It could store and play bits of other songs, and sampling became a foundation of early hip-hop. The CMI’s price tag in 1979: $25,000.
Some famous songs famously sampled
- Rick James’ “Super Freak” > MC Hammer’s “U Can’t Touch This”
- The Police’s “Every Breath You Take” > Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You” (featuring Faith Evans)
- Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” > Public Enemy’s “He Got Game”
- Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” > A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It?”