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BeatTips Top 30 Beatmakers of All Time: The Bomb Squad

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#8 – The Bomb Squad

By AMIR SAID (SA’ID)

The Bomb Squad. Sampling and sonic boom pioneers.

When getting to the top 10 of a list of this magnitude, often the tendency is to overlook the priors, the originators, in favor of the more recent icons. Sometimes this is actually warranted. There are many cases in art where someone invents a style or method and someone else comes along later and adds to it, making the latter artist more of a giant than the prior. But there are other times where the inventions and developments of a prior artist is so huge that it still underscores and shapes existing trends. This is the case with The Bomb Squad, the production collective that included Hank Shocklee, Chuck D, Eric “Vietnam” Sadler, Keith Shocklee, and Gary G-Wiz.

While there are a handful of beatmakers who have come after The Bomb Squad that regularly receive much praise, it must be recognized just how much The Bomb Squad contributed to the beatmaking tradition, especially in the area of sampling. Lead by Hank Shocklee and Chuck D, The Bomb Squad were the first beatmakers to approach sampling not merely as a “collage” of sound, but instead, an all most indiscriminate “wall of sound.” There was no such thing as too many samples for The Bomb Squad. And by this, I’m not saying that they overproduced. On the contrary, The Bomb Squad were masters at taken the smallest snippets or musical fragments and turning them into larger musical masterpieces. But collage wasn’t the limit of their horizon. The Bomb Squad were also pioneers in the area of looped complete phrases and pounding, out-front drums. In this regard, they proceeded many beatmakers who would go on to become icons in the beatmaking tradition. Listen to the Dr. Dre produced “Deep Cover” (1992), then listen to Public Enemy’s “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos” (1988). Notice the similarities.

The Bomb Squad also helped solidify the “booming” sonic impression that had been brewing in New York production, but had yet to completely materialize, prior to 1987. Indeed, The Bomb Squad made distortion and boom a good thing in music. It wasn’t loudness for the sake of loudness, The Bomb Squad (early on) wanted their music to bang! In this space, I consider them to be the originators of the “aggressive” style and sound of beats.

And The Bomb Squad’s production was aggressive for good reason: They’d cultivated the sound for hip hop/rap’s most militant group in history, Public Enemy.

The music and videos below are presented here for the purpose of scholarship.

The Bomb Squad Beats (Songs) Recommended for Study:

SPECIAL NOTE: Listen to Public Enemy’s first two albums Yo! Bum Rush the Show, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, and Fear of a Black Planet

“Public Enemy No. 1” – Public Enemy beat by The Bomb Squad

“Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos

“You’re Gonna Get Yours” – Public Enemy beat by The Bomb Squad

“Rebel Without a Pause” – Public Enemy beat by The Bomb Squad

“Fight the Power” – Public Enemy beat by The Bomb Squad (Hank Shocklee, Chuck D)

“Timebomb” – Public Enemy beat by The Bomb Squad

“Night of the Living Baseheads” – Public Enemy beat by The Bomb Squad

“Don’t Believe the Hype” – Public Enemy

“911 Is a Joke” – Public Enemy beat by The Bomb Squad (Hank Shocklee, Chuck D)

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About Author

Amir Said (aka Sa’id) is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BeatTips. A writer, publisher, and beatmaker/rapper from New York, Said is the author of a number of books, including ‘The BeatTips Manual,’ ‘The Art of Sampling,’ ‘Ghetto Brother,’ and ‘The Truth About New York.’ He is also a recording artist with a number of music projects, including his latest album 'The Best of Times.' Follow him on Twitter at: @amirsaid and @BeatTipsManual

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