You Must Look Backwards to Go Forwards (The Importance of Recognizing History of Music)

What’s up with the love for Bruno Mars?!?!?!?!?!?!

Currently, Bruno Mars is all the rage in pop and club music. I constantly get requests for his songs when I’m DJing. His current hot song is the remix of “Finesse” ft. Cardi B (who is also killin’ it at the moment).
The “Finesse” remix, which is not much different than the original, be it a more pronounced drum beat with extra snares and the additional rap verse, is firmly nestled in the top 10 pop music charts. The attraction of the song could be credited to it’s video, which pays homage to the In Living Color comedy show that was widely popular in the late 80’s into early 90’s as it helped give notice to the rising hip hop scene. Hip Hop needs to thank and give In Living Color much props because it was one of the only shows that portrayed and made Hip Hop culture appealing and widely popular. The show had a (acting, not real, sorry Shawn Wayans) DJ and dance troupe called The Fly girls. In between skits the DJ would play the hottest Hip Hop jams for the Fly Girls to showcase the latest dances moves to emulate on the dance floor.

Watching the Fly Girls helped me numerous times to perfect my running man on the dance floor at my high dances.

Also, on occasion, the show would end with a live Hip Hop performance of the hottest groups which was so dope to see. I remember seeing performances from legendary hip hop crews such as the likes of Brand Nubian, A Tribe Called Quest, LONS (Leaders of the New School), Gang Starr with Nice & Smooth, Public Enemy Joined w/ Ice Cube, 3rd Bass, and Queen Latifa, who, ironically, was the very first Hip Hop artist to perform on the show. Talk about ladies first!!!

Bruno knew exactly what he was doing with that video, bringing back memories of an iconic time in music. But, the nostalgia in his music is not only shown in that particular song. His other hit songs represent a BLAST FROMT THE PAST sound that covers late 70’s and early 80’s funk. Take the song “24K” for example. The drums on this song is very similar to the Funk/R&B hit “Cutie Pie” by One Way, released in 1982, and mixed with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” (also released in 1982) there is definitely some nostalgia going on, be it on purpose or not. Was this a coincidence that Bruno and his producers (Shampoo Press & Curl, Stereotypes) created a song so similar or was it done deliberately to prove a point?

On the wikipedia website, Bruno Mars was quoted in an interview stating his songs have an influence of 90’s hip hop/R&B and “24K” represented the sound of West Coast Hip Hop. He is definitely correct on that aspect. “Cutie Pie” would be considered a staple in the West Coast “gansta” Funk genre, with the likes of Parliament/Funkadelic and Zapp & Roger. These songs were heavily sampled by popular West Coast producers like Dr. Dre and DJ Quick. Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s Hip Hop producers would crate dig to sample music from earlier genres to create new music, but, for most dedicated listeners (like myself), it would be like an (re)introduction to the past. That is what makes Hip Hop music, especially in the late 80’s and early 90’s, so interesting because it reintroduced us to past genres we might have missed. There is no way I would have discovered Average White Band’s “School Boy Crush” if it wasn’t for Eric B. & Rakim’s “Microphone Fiend”, and, as a DJ, when you mix both songs together you help connect the rediscoveries.

And that is what makes Bruno Mars so interesting because he is doing something very similar to what Hip Hop producers (use to) do. He is bringing back a sound that was once very popular and fun to dance to. He is reminding us on how dope music was several decades ago (I still can’t believe it has been that long) and it still is dope! It’s like Bruno Mars is raiding his parents record collection and playing jams for his friends in his bedroom. Hell, I used to do the same, but I was playing disco and Jazz Fusion and me and my friends are still listening and discovering more of that music today.

As a DJ you have a major responsibility to not only be relevant with your music choices, but to also remind listeners of past jams because good music will always be good music, no matter what time period. A good DJ should relish the opportunity to play a song that has been forgotten in time and the challenge would be to mix the song with something recent. As I stated before, music can bring out memories and feeling, being like a soundtrack to our lives. DJ’s need to recognize this influential power and give it respect because it can separate you from those who are whack!

Bruno Mars is making it easy for us real DJs. He is throwing us a bone and crediting himself with the assist when the DJ scores!!! But, Bruno Mars made it easy on himself, already knowing his songs would be hits because he’s borrowing songs that were hits in the past. The proof is in the pudding. Not only is he presenting a sound that attracts the young generation, he is also bringing back the older generation as well, helping to bridge the gap and cover the full spectrum of listeners. It’s like the current movie industry and their obsession of producing remakes of past films. The older viewers would watch the movie(s) for nostalgia and the new generation is fooled to thinking they are seeing something new. This is done because there has been a proven track record of success for the film. Overall it means tickets are being sold to both groups and that makes profits, regardless. Thanks, Capitalism!

Why should the music industry not do the same? And trust me, they do it, they been doing it!
Just look at P Diddy’s career!

That is why it is important for the DJ to connect original content with the remakes because everyone, at the end of the day, want the truth! So, I implore all of you young and aspiring DJs to take it upon yourself to listen and research the past, like a musical archaeologist, to make these discoveries and connections. The listener will thank you for it because knowledge is power.

So, if you play “Finesse Remix” you better mix it with some late 80’s to early 90’s Hip Hop/R&B song because you will not only reach the older generation, but you will school the young ones as well and they will be appreciative for that. Below are a few suggestions of songs to mix with:

Al B. Sure – “If I’m not your Lover” Remix Ft. Slick Rick

Bell Biv Devoe – “Poison”; “Do Me; “Wurd to da Mutha” Remix

Keith Sweat – “I Wanna”; “Make You Sweat”

Guy – “Do me Right”

Got it? Now runalong and go outside and PLAY!!!

Rock, rock on…ya’ll!

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