I recently got reminded of Public Enemy and went down a rabbit hole revisiting the records and reading what I could about how those records were produced. This article was a fantastic read with Hank Shocklee of The Bomb Squad:
One of the things that has stuck with me is how Hank Shocklee viewed PE productions as being a band. When they were producing it was an all hands on deck situation where everyone was riding faders, Flavor Flav was finger drumming, etc. This struck me as a cool approach and sort of the antithesis of how records are produced today (typically one guy automating everything on a grid).
Another thing he mentions is that each beat was produced as a reaction to the lyrics and vocal performance. This was kind of a revelation. I went back and re-listened to Apocalypse 91 (my first PE album and still my favorite) with this in mind and it was plain as day the way the samples and scratching really dance around and react to what the vocals are doing. I think it also probably helps to have Terminator X doing his thing as well.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about this in contrast to how things have been done since. I love music from Wu Tang Clan, Madlib, J DIlla which were essentially one individual creating a beat but there have also been a whole bunch of copycats out there with varying degrees of success. I’m curious if it is just because the PE working methods are so much more difficult to imitate that there haven’t been many trying anything near as ambitious or if it is just that that style is out of favor right now. It could be argued that both classic boom bap and more modern trap fall into this category of relatively static beats that mostly utilize mutes and adding a well placed 808 to create a sense of movement but I can’t think of much that has resembled PE’s wall of noise style. It could also just be that they’re sound was too singular to be imitated. Anyway, just wanted to write this idea down and hear if anyone else had any thoughts on the subject. Or this thread can just die it’s quick death.