A look at DJ Muggs' best beats in honor of his Wednesday night Low End Theory appearance
The roots of Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer and the rest of the Low End Theory crew are often glossed over in the rush to annoint them as vanguards of an avant-garde beat generation. Admittedly, the artists that frequent the weekly club at the Airliner in Lincoln Heights incorporate a vast array of influences, but their DNA reveals a hip-hop influence in spirit if not sound.
Accordingly, when Gaslamp, Nobody and Daddy Kev recently took over DJ Muggs' "Soul Assassins" radio show on Shade 45 (download link available here), Muggs and his co-host, the venerable local DJ Mr. Choc, spent much of the two-hour session praising their contemporaries for the way they've expanded the genre's aesthetic. So, consider Muggs' appearance Wednesday night at the Low End Theory both a co-sign from the legendary producer and a tacit nod at how much of an influence he's had on the last 20 years of production.
Muggs' influence and impact can't be overstated. His beats for Cypress Hill not only had an early impact on the RZA's production aesthetic, but he also made classic hits for Cypress Hill, Ice Cube and Funkdoobiest. He's worked with Tricky, Zack de la Rocha and Pearl Jam. He's even remixed U2 and Van Halen.
Calculating the bangers in his catalog is a fool's errand. There are too many and too little time to give them proper due. So, at the risk of eliding dozens of worthy nominees, here are a few of his finest moments.
House of Pain -- "Jump Around"
Laugh all you want about the absurdity of a bunch of ersatz Boston white rappers, Muggs probably made more money off this one song than most producers make in their lifetime. Admittedly, Everlast's rapping is largely forgettable, but Muggs' blend of Bob & Earl's "Harlem Shuffle" with Johnny Cash's "Daddy Sung Bass" and a sax squeal courtesy of Jr. Walker and the All Stars, is brilliant. This song will be played in Boston until leprechauns take over the Earth. Not to mention, it's tough to imagine an NBA jump ball without this track.
Funkdoobiest -- "Bow Bow Wow"
Circa 1993, few songs owned Los Angeles radio like Funkdoobiest's "Bow Wow Wow." Flipping George Clinton's "Atomic Dog" into something wholly new, Muggs' beat represents his early style at its zenith: stripped down and gritty, with head-nodding drums and funk and soul samples. While many of his Left Coast peers were aping Dr. Dre's every move, Muggs took his sonics into an entirely different direction, exchanging syrupy fluidity for gutter funk.
RZA/GZA -- "Third World"
It's inconceivable today that something so merciless and haunting could ever get airplay on MTV and BET, but in early 1997, Muggs and the masterminds of the Wu-Tang Clan scored a minor hit with "Third World," a paranoid sci-fi fantasia that remains as re-playable as the day it was released. Throughout the years, Muggs has collaborated with the Clan, who loom as kindred spirits to the Queens-bred producer who came west at 14. Also highly recommended is 2005's "Grandmasters," a stellar full-length with the GZA.
Cypress Hill -- "Insane in the Brain"
Before sampling laws became Draconian, sample pastiche was highly in vogue among hip-hop producers. Taking the bricolage approach of predecessors Prince Paul and the Bomb Squad, Muggs raided his crates to produce one of the biggest hits of Cypress Hill's career. Listing the sample credits of "Insane in the Brain" is an education unto itself: a horse whinny lifted from Mel and Tim's "Only Win in the Movies," drums from George Semper's cover of Lee Dorsey's "Get Out My Life, Woman," a James Brown grunt, a keyboard riff by Sly & the Family Stone, and an outro swiped from the Youngbloods. In the offhand chance that you don't have this song memorized, you need to remedy that immediately.
Cypress Hill, featuring the Fugees -- "Boom Biddy Bye Bye"
The most underrated (and my personal favorite) album of Cypress Hill's career is "Temples of Boom." Showcasing his aural evolution, Muggs shifted from the face-slapping adrenaline beats of his early years to more complex and moody sonics. Indeed, "Temples of Boom" bears a sinister trip-hop vibe as Muggs manifests the in-fighting that plagued the group during the period. And the combination of the Fugees circa 1995 made for an instant classic.
Photo: DJ Muggs; Credit: DJ Muggs Myspace
-- Jeff Weiss