[18 January 2010]
For all its gaudiness and outright ridiculousness, disco, if nothing else, at least helped pave the way for hip-hop. It wasn’t the sole genre to do so, as everything from funk to punk helped give birth to one of music’s youngest genres. However, disco has inspired so many DJs and producers that it has earned the right to be more than just an afterthought filled with coke and absurd outfits. Shedding light on a subgenre of disco is acclaimed DJ/producer DJ Spinna, who put out the slept-on Sonic Smash in 2009, among other projects over the past 15 years.
Spinna hooked up with BBE to release the aptly titled The Boogie Back: Post Disco Club Jams. He dives into his mix with 16 cuts from the “boogie music” era that fell between the more stereotypical ‘70s disco and the rave-ready electronica of the ‘90s. Other names for boogie music include post-disco and electro funk, the latter of which hip-hop is strongly rooted in. True heads will know that hip-hop began with, of course, two turntables and a microphone. A DJ obviously took control of the ones-and-twos while an MC controlled the mike. And he or she would “rap”, or shout a few bars here and there, to keep the dancefloor jam-packed. That primitive MC would, of course, later develop into the traditional, full-fledged rappers we all know today.
But a hip-hop history lesson this is not. It is important to understand, though, where the genre came from to fully appreciate a compilation like DJ Spinna’s. And for that reason, it is inherently bound to fall on deaf ears. For comparison’s sake, the same went for Kon & Amir’s Off Track, Vol. 2: Queens, which was also released on BBE. But Kon & Amir’s project went beyond disco by offering rare tracks from African artists who likely never got their deserved play in the States. As such, the second volume of Off Track delivered in an area Spinna’s album cannot by providing something fresh and different.
Older hip-hop fans will no doubt be drawn to this, if for no other reason than to re-live the disco era. The crate-diggers will want to pick this up, too, if only to grab the second disc that features 12 unmixed tracks that are otherwise nearly impossible to find on wax, CD, or even digitally. Similarly, hip-hop producers should at least give this compilation a look to check if anything on here would lend itself to sampling. A wise choice, after clearing it first, would be War’s “The World Is a Ghetto (Special U.S. Disco Mix)”, which features some fantastic horn stabs and wild solos, particularly on the keyboards, towards the end. South Bronx’s “The Bottom Line” is another fine selection, especially because it’s entirely instrumental, so you won’t have to deal with any pesky vocals. Those tracks are also instant standouts on here. They ditch the kitsch heard on others like Chemise’s sweaty “She Can’t Love You” and Masurrati and Huey Harris’s cheesy “Super Duper Lovin, Don’t Stop”.
The focal point of The Boogie Back, though, is absolutely the music compiled by Spinna. He expertly blends 16 tracks, both instrumental and vocal, and makes this into a nonstop dance mix. What that means is the cuts transition seamlessly into one another. And while he certainly deserves credit for his mixing skills, most disco beats were almost exactly the same on every song. We’re talking gently struck hi-hats, the occasional open-hi-hat, handclap snares, and a throbbing bass drum; all at the same tempo. But, hey, that’s what disco was built on, so it’s a take-it-or-leave-it element of the music. And no matter the drums or tempo, Spinna flexes his creative muscles to keep the party going from one track to the next.