The song: “Build and Destroy'”
The producer: Kenny Parker
The science: For a crew with the word “productions” right there in its name, Boogie Down Productions doesn’t get talked about too much when we get to listing the best producers or the best beats or what have you. That’s understandable when the real driving force of BDP is arguable the greatest rapper of all time, KRS-One, but still, the beats on those BDP albums don’t get talked about too much (save Criminal Minded because of the whole Ced-Gee-jacking-Marley-Marl’s-reel-of-drum-sounds business), which is kind of a shame.
While KRS isn’t afraid to dabble outside the margins a bit–witness his early embrace of reggae and even his dip into ska loops for “Edutainment”–his heart clearly lies with that good ol’ boom-bap. And when it came time for KRS to fire back at X-Clan for all of Brother J’s Blastmaster-targeting quips, he did so on top of a boom-bap monster of a track crafted by Kenny Parker. The result: The heavy-hitting “Build and Destroy” off what would turn out to be the last official BDP album, 1992’s Sex and Violence.
For that molasses-thick bassline and the shrieky organ tone, Kenny turned to Gary Byrd’s “Every Brother Ain’t a Brother.”
Of course, only Kenny and KRS can speak to whether that song was sampled just based off the title, but when engaging in this philosophical battle with a Black Nationalist rapper who called himself Brother J, KRS must have known that delivering his shots over snippets of a track called “Every Brother Ain’t a Brother” would make the song hit his target even harder than just the lyrics alone. “Sit back and take heed, brother, you must learn,” Brother J had said in X-Clan’s “Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It.” In retort, KRS reminds Brother J that every Brother ain’t a brother simply via sampling choice. Ouch.
And that’s not even getting into the lyrics, which are a pretty thorough evisceration of a rapper who also happens to be one of my all-time favorites…but that’s a topic for another time.
Back to the beat: If sampling “Every Brother Ain’t a Brother” had just been a little title trickery and cleverness in service of a weak beat, that would ultimately be a letdown. Fortunately, Gary Byrd’s track delivers a great groove; all it needed were those heavy drums that Kenny locked in, and you’ve got a punishing beat just waiting for equally punishing rhymes.
And Kenny did a great job putting it all together, starting out by slowing the record down and filtering the bassline so he could have it play without that organ tone on top. Beyond that, he chopped up the bassline so that he could just have the first note stab on the one, then leave the rest of the bar empty, except for those drums. When he does let the entire one-bar bassline loop go, it gives the track renewed energy. Plus, the filtering strategy let Kenny isolate the organ tone, which he frequently uses without the bassline underneath. Just by having various permutations of organ tone playing or not playing/full bassline loop/just bass stab/no bassline, Kenny is able to keep the beat interesting–simple but effective arrangement.
As an interesting side note, an instrumental version of “Every Brother Ain’t a Brother” was later released by Joe Thomas.
It’s the same groove, just a longer song.