Game’s Song Takes Old Turn; Cool & Dre Make Effective Composition with Return to and Highlight of the Break
|By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)|
If you’ve ever played Madden ’09, then chances are, you’re familiar with the Gym Class Heroes’ song, “Home,” one of a small group of hip hop/rap songs that made EA Sports’ soundtrack cut for the ’09 Madden release. “Home,” which was production by beatmaking duo Cool & Dre is a mostly non-sampled affair, complete with heavy syncopation and a dope bass line. Hardly anything like their breakout beat, the instrumental for “Hate or Love It” (the hit song by 50 Cent and Game), “Home” is nonetheless effective. It’s not great, and it’s not bad…it’s good; perfect for one’s listening pleasure while driving and, of course, while making Madden ’09 selections.
But isn’t that one of the ultimate goals? That music provided to a lyricist be effective? In the end, that’s mostly what it comes down to: Is the music effective? No matter which music tradition it is, the goal of the musician is to make music that is effective—and by “effective” I mean music that a songwriter draws inspiration from, something that prompts a lyrical response. So it should follow that, in the quest for effective music, a musician should employ those styles, methods, and techniques that allow for the most effectiveness. This brings me to Game’s song, “Shake,” produced by Cool & Dre.
In the tradition of hip hop/rap’s first architects and pioneers, Cool & Dre sampled two breaks from a soul song, and fashioned them into a composition that both motivated and allowed room for Game to deliberately experiment with his rhyme style. The result of the collaboration was, well, effective.
What stands out the most about Cool & Dre’s beat is not what they did, but what they didn’t do. Rather than suffocate the soul and essence of the sample with loud drums that did not fit; rather than force in an awkward melody line; rather than jam in a useless change or switch-up; they let the sample lead the way, much in the same tradition that hip hop/rap’s earliest architects and sampling pioneers did. And Less we forget, sometimes a great beat comes down to the beatmaker having a great ear. So any talk of, “it’s just a loop,” is off-base and misguided. Plus, in a time where one end of the beatmaking spectrum is an over-produced, bland and boring, gutless, “emo-beat” style; and the other end of the spectrum is a watered-down, poor knock-off of the Southern Rap sound’s best offerings, a beat like “Shake,” which is straight forward and unassuming, is very much appreciated.
With “Shake,” Cool & Dre, who have proven equally capable of crafting sample-based and non-sample-based beatworks, opted out of the “mirror-watching” style of beatmaking; you know, the style where beatmakers (“producers”) get so absorbed in themselves that they must put their fingerprint on every morsel of the beat. Instead, here, they cooked up a banger, by following the move and feel of the sample, getting out of its way, and, like a responsible doctor, remembering to “not do any harm.” Thus, in keeping with the natural cues of the source material they sampled, they rounded off the ends of the energy that the sample supplied and trusted the architecture of the rhythm and groove. The result being a hard-hitting rhythmic and sonic impression that repeats hypnotically. Surely, something irresistible to hip hop/rap lyricists who aim to push their personal envelope.
The music below is presented here for the purpose of scholarship.
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