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On January 28th, 1941, seminal island music producer, songwriter, composer, arranger, and audio engineer-King Tubby (Osbourne Ruddock) was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He’s one of the forefathers of Dub Music: the instrumental tracks and b-sides of vocal releases that have been been 'remixed' and 'overDUBbed.' The use of reverb, echo, and sparse vocals-if any-added instrumentation, delay and a lot of overdubbing serve as the ingredients of dub. It’s an incredible invention being that it was the first type of music that used the sounds of existing tracks to make a new track. This is where the roots of sampling come from. Likewise, the Dub Plate was used by Sound System DJs to Toast or spit sporadic witty rhymes over largely instrumental music. The whole concept of Hip Hop as a music genre, came directly from the The Jamaican Sound System DJ Culture, which would not have come about if not for Dub & King Tubby.
He got into music as a Sound System repairman in the late 1950s. His ability to manipulate electronic devices provided the foundation for his dub making. In the early to mid 1960s, he ran a pirate radio station. In 1968, he created his own Sound System-Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi. His sound was better than everyone else’s, making him an instant hit. He did exclusive releases-which were really remixes in dub, made his own effects processors, and engineered at Treasure Isle Studios. In the 70s, he became a household name-working with Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff, Peter Tosh, Augustus Pablo, The Rockers, Yaba You, The Aggrovators, Sly & Dunbar, Lee Scratch Perry, and Bunny Lee to name a few. He got the nickname The Scientist because he was so scientific in his approach to creating and remixing music. Vocalist Mikey Dread puts it best when he says "King Tubby truly understood sound in a scientific sense. He knew how the circuits worked and what the electrons did. That's why he could do what he did..." He was shot at home in Kingston on February 6th, 1989. He was 48 when he died.
On January 28th, 1968, Hip Hop Icon, pioneer, and the man some considered to be One Of The Greatest Emcees Of All-Time: Rakim Allah (William Michael Griffin Jr) was born in Wyandanch, Long Island, NY. Rakim had been schooled on sax and drums before he got in the game, and his older brother taught him how to play keys. The song Microphone Fiend is a quasi-autobiography of how the older DJs and MCs wouldn’t let him on, because they thought he was too young. His father was an avid jazz fan, and his aunt was Ruth Brown-a a highly influential recording artist for Atlantic Records back in the day. He met DJ Eric B. in high school; and around 1985, Eric took Rakim to Marley Marl’s house to record their first track Eric B Is President. Eric & Marley were roommates, and Rakim had recently joined The Nation Of Gods & Earths (aka The 5% Nation, Five Percenters, or Allah's Five Percent). Prior to his joining The 5% Nation, he was in The Nation Of Islam and went by the emcee name Kid Wizard. The duo called themselves Eric B & Rakim, and released their first single on Zakia Records in 1986.
It did well locally, and caught the attention of Russell Simmons, who got them signed to Island Records later that same year. In 1987 they released their debut LP Paid In Full on 4th & B’way Records, which was a subsidiary of Island. It made The Top 200, and had five singles that charted (though the whole LP is dope) including: I Ain’t No Joke, Move the Crowd, Paid In Full, Eric B Is President, & I Know You Got Soul. Personally, my favorite track on the LP is My Melody. In 1988, they released a dope follow-up: Follow The Leader. It did better than their first LP in sales and chart position; but it was not musically better than their first LP (in my opinion). I think the public had gotten wind of the duo by then, and those that didn’t have the first LP, quickly scooped up the second. They followed that up with Let The Rhythm Hit ‘Em in 1990, and Don’t Sweat The Technique in ’92. The group split after that, with Rakim staying away from the limelight for years. He released a few tracks between 1993 and 1998, before releasing his first solo LP The Master in 1999. Personally, I think Rakim’s music was best with Eric B & Marley Marl. He’s 51 today.
On January 28th, 1968, producer, DJ, and co-founding member of Cypress Hill & Soul Assassins-DJ Muggs (Lawrence Muggerud) was born in Queens, NY. Muggs was adopted when he was very young, and moved from Queens to Los Angeles during his early teens (1986). Sidebar: a lot of heads wondered where or how Muggs got his ‘ear’ for music, and his style as a producer. A lot of that comes from his time in NYC, while Hip Hop was just gaining popularity-add to that his Cuban heritage. His music is a mixture of gritty East Coast samples, drum loops with Latin Flavor, and West Coast Funk added in. He started spinning for 7A3 around 1988, and is featured on their debut LP Coolin’ In Cali. That album did moderately well, but in 1989, Muggs hooked up with neighborhood friends B-Real and Sen Dog to form the Hip Hop trio Cypress Hill.
They mainly performed locally, building up their reputation throughout the late 1980s. Muggs kept the band in the limelight by doing side production work for others like Ice Cube, House Of Pain, and Funkdoobiest. In 1991, they signed to Columbia Records and released their self-titled debut album. The album did extremely well, and catapulted Muggs into Hip Hop stardom. Many rappers and emcees wanted him for tracks on their LPs. He also bestowed his knowledge of beat making on upcoming producers like Babu (Dilated Peoples) and The Alchemist. Muggs also was one of the few open marijuana users in Hip Hop, who supported and actively worked towards its legalization. In 1997, after several (bong) hits, he co-founded Soul Assassins-a Hip Hop collective of artists including: The GZA, Mobb Deep, Goodie Mobb, KRS-ONE, & LA The Darkman. In 2005, he hooked back up with Cypress Hill. He’s 51 today.
On January 28th, 1951, session musician, bassist, guitarist, original member of (and the person that came up with the name) Funkadelic-Billy Bass Nelson (William Nelson-r) was born in Plainfield, New Jersey. Billy Bass, as he’s commonly called by fellow P-Funkateers, used to work in George Clinton’s barbershop as a teen in the mid 1960s. He would sing, dance, and sweep during business hours. Clinton had a Doo Wop group called The Parliaments. They needed a backing band to tour during the late 60s, following the success of their 1967 single I Wanna Testify b/w I Can Feel The Ice Melting (Revilot Records). At first Clinton hired Billy Bass (below-standing r) as a guitarist for his backing band, but when Eddie Hazel joined around 1968, Billy moved to bass.
Tiki Fulwood (drums, standing 2nd r), Mickey Atkins-replaced by Bernie Worrell (keys, 2nd l), Tawl Ross (guitar, l), and Eddie Hazel (guitar seated) were the unnamed funk quintet that backed The Parliaments during the late 60s. The hippie and psychedelic counterculture were at their peak, thus, Nelson came up with a name for the band-that mixed their style of Funk Music with the current Psychedelic youth culture. Hence, Funkadelic. In 1971, he left Funkadelic and started playing for other musicians like The Temptations. He wound up returning to the P-Funk Camp in 1975, and was featured on the LP Let’s Take It To The Stage (Westbound, 1975). After that, he left again and played bass for The Chairmen Of The Board, Jermaine Jackson, The Commodores, Parlet, Smokey Robinson, and Lionel Richie. He released an LP in 1994 under the name O.G. Funk-Out Of The Dark. This Rock ‘N’ Roll Hall Of Fame musician is 68 today.
On January 28th, 1945, prog rock innovator, co-founding member of The Wilde Flowers, multi-instrumentalist, and early member of Soft Machine-Robert Wyatt (Ellidge, l) was born in Bristol, England. He was a gifted musician, that could play several instruments. He started on the drums in his teens though. He got his initial lessons from George Neidorf, who was a jazz drummer living in England. He also met Daevid Allen during this time, who rented a room from his parents in the early 1960s. In 1962, Allen hired Wyatt as the drummer and co-vocalist for his Daevid Allen Trio (with bassist Hugh Hopper). Wyatt & Hopper left and formed The Wilde Flowers in 1964. They eventually morphed into Soft Machine in 1966. Their sound was fusion jazz, rock, and blues-with psychedelic elements thrown in.
He composed, drummed, sang, played piano, bass, trumpet, guitar, cornet and percussion for the band. They were riddled with internal conflict, from a hefty touring schedule and the drawbacks of fame; so in 1969 they called it quits-and Wyatt released a solo debut The End Of An Ear in 1971. He constructed the LP by overdubbing his instrumental and vocal parts in separate takes like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Sly Stone, Marvin Gaye, and Junie Morrison have commonly done. In 1971, he formed Machine Mole (French annunciation-machine molle, molle means soft). They recorded two LPs between 1971 and 1973. Tragedy would strike the band when Wyatt fell from a 4th floor window at a party, that paralyzed him from the waist down. He’s been in a wheelchair ever since. He’s 74 today.
HONORABLE MENTION: On January 28th, in 1978, The Doobie Brothers were checkin' Re-Run on the TV sitcom What’s Happening. They were part of a two-part episode, that explained to Re-Run, Roger, and the rest of the gang that bootlegging was bad. It takes money out of the artist’s pocket, infringes on their rights, is illegal, etc, etc. This was the first episode. Re-Run wouldn’t have the tape recorder fall out at the concert while he was pop-locking until part 2, which aired on the 29th. It was a cool episode, if you’ve never seen it. It definitely spoke poorly about bootlegging, which was looked down upon in Hip Hop.
On January 28th, 1984, classically trained pianist, activist, composer, singer, songwriter, arranger, producer, and the original writer for The Civil Rights Movement-Nina Simone was being interviewed by the British publication New Music Express (NME). She told the reporter that she was forced to record her 1978 album Baltimore in the basement of a house at gunpoint. She stated that five men kidnapped her, and didn't give her food or water for three days. She later retracted the statement…
On January 28th, 1985, Michael Jackson & Lionel Richie were writing We Are The World. As the story goes, Harry Belafonte suggested to Quincy Jones that they should produce a song that raised money to aid those affected by famine in Africa. Jones agreed, and they invited 47 celebrities and singers-from all genres to join in (most notably: Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Ray Charles, Hall & Oates, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Dionne Warwick, and Gladys Knight). USA For Africa raised more than $60 million dollars towards the cause, and won four Grammy Awards.
On January 28th, 2000, saxophonist, composer, producer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and founder of The Swinging Dashikis-Thomas Beans Bowles passed away in Detroit, MI. The South Bend Native acted as 'the mind behind Berry Gordy.' He was the bandleader of The Funk Brothers, and he suggested the strict rehearsals and stage presence from the artist. He also told Gordy that his artists needed to be more serious; and came up with the idea for The Motown Revue Bus Tour. He also co-wrote and arranged a lot of songs-playing baritone sax on songs like Fingertips Part II, What’s Going On, Heat Wave, and Baby Love. He was 83 when he died.
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