The Lesson

Music history often bears unlikely fruit from strange seeds. I was amazed to discover recently that some of my favorite modern music – the audio collages of DJ Shadow and others who make albums purely from other albums – are part of a line that can be traced back to the novelty albums of the 1950’s by Buchanan & Goodman[1].

This fact was pointed out to me by underground hip-hop legend Steinski, in his recent interview with The Onion’s AV Club. He says:

“…certainly we’re in a direct line from these guys, from [Bill] Buchanan and [Dickie] Goodman. That would be probably the most obviously direct thing.”

This tripped me out because Dickie Goodman’s records were some of my favorite things to listen to as a kid. He made these odd singles where he’d interview folks and everything they would say would be a cut from a song. He made these records from the 1950s all the way into the 1980s, with my favorite being “Mr. Jaws.”

Despite not having any conventionally released albums, Steinksi’s impact is widespread among DJs and turntablists. His mid-80’s mashups set the stage for producers like Prince Paul to take the art of sampling to a new level. It’s entirely likely that you haven’t heard this cut before, but you’ve heard what has come after it (warning, this thing was mixed loud and is a bit distorted, sadly):

That 1985 track launched dozens of hit records from De La Soul’s Three Feet High and Rising to “Pump Up the Volume” by MARRS to “Bust a Move” by Young MC to “Turn This Mutha Out” by MC Hammer. There’s even a line in there from Dickie Goodman, a nod to his 1956 “Flying Saucer” single.

And so, going into the 1990s and 2000s, guys like DJ Shadow take that same concept and run with it, giving us stuff like this:

1.) In fact, if you want to get deeply granular into the history of hip-hop music, it probably starts with the fast-talking DJ’s of early rock radio. They were the DJs and MCs of rap pre-history.