Sunday, November 4, 2012

I Got (the) Power!

It's been a long time... sorry I left you. But I'm back! Hurricane Sandy decided to shut me, and the rest of the East coast, down for a bit. So I apologize for the lack fo updates for a minute there. But let's not waste anymore time on that - I'm back online now; my power's been restored.

If you're into hip-hop enough to be reading this blog, you probably know some of the story of "The Power:" Chill Rob G did it first, then a cheesy, pop group called Snap! copied it and released it as their own, with a much bigger marketing budget, nearly erasing the original from popular consciousness. But it's even more complicated than that; and it doesn't help that nearly every source, online and off, seems to get at least one major detail wrong. For instance, did you know that the original recorded is actually by Power Jam featuring Chill Rob G, or that the whole song's really just a remix of an earlier Chill Rob record?

Reading the original 12" label turns out to be both enlightening and additionally confusing. "A Wild Pitch reconstruction of a Logic reconstruction of a Wild Pitch production by DJ Mark, The 45 King," it says. One one pressing. On another pressing it says, "A Wild Pitch reconstruction mixed by Nephie Centeno Original production by DJ Mark, The 45 King," So that's what that song is. But what the Hell did that actually mean?

Okay, let's go back a year. "The Power" was released in 1990, but we want to start with Chill's last single from 1989, "The Court Is Now In Session," specifically the B-side, "Let the Words Flow." If you've got it in your crates (or if you just have Chill's '89 album, Ride the Rhythm - it's on there, too), give it a listen. I'll wait. Okay, got those lyrics in your head? Now listen to "The Power." Oh yeah! "The Power" is just a glorified remix; it's the same vocal track.

"Let the Words Flow," was produced, like everything Chill Rob G had put out by that time, by DJ Mark the 45 King. That's the "Wild Pitch production by DJ Mark" they're referring to on the label. Neither Mark nor Chill had anything to do with the creation of "The Power" besides recording their original song, "Let the Words Flow." Turning that underrated track into "The Power" was all Power Jam, who just used the Acappella off that 1989 12".

Now, Power Jam's not exactly a "real" group. There are no other Power Jam records out there. I assume the name is just a reference to the title of the song they created. So let's go back to the messages on the label, starting with the first pressing. Wild Pitch is obviously the Chill's label who put this record out, but who or what is Logic?

Logic was an underground German label that specialized in dance music. There, two DJs/producers named Michael Münzing and Luca Anzilotti created their new track. They used some elements of the original instrumental, like the wailing sax riff that opens up "Let the Words Flow" (it's actually not a sample, but played by Jack Bashkow, who winds up getting credit on both the "Court" and "Power" 12" labels), and the recurring refrain where Rob's vocals stutter, "it's getting, it's getting, it's getting kinda hectic" is just a line from the original acappella being played with. The rest of the instrumental, though still largely sample based, sounds nothing like The 45 King's work. And since the original Chill Rob G song only had two verses and an extended instrumental break-down for the final third, so to make it a more traditional 3-verse song, Michael and Luca just repeat Chill's first verse a second time to be the thirds verse.

And the hook is sung by Kim Davis. ...At least, on my 12" it is. Yeah; now it's going to get even more complicated. See, the hook everybody associates with this song is actually a sample from Jocelyn Brown's "Love's Gonna Get You." If you watch the video, you hear Jocelyn's sample. But not on this record; it's another singer, whose voice... frankly isn't nearly as arresting. Sorry, Kim. It's the same basic line being sung, but it's not the sample. The difference is pretty obvious to me, but if you're not sure, stick around 'till the ending, where she starts changing the line to "you've got the power" and even, "you and me and Chill Rob G." That's obviously not sampled from Jocelyn Brown.  It's also not Penny Ford. Who's that? Well, stick with me.

In an interview with Unkut, Chill Rob talks about how Wild Pitch came to put this out, "I think Stu Fine [head of Wild Pitch] probably had a deal under the table with Arista records out in Germany, and he actually licensed the record to them – but they didn’t have a deal for the US. So since the record was doing so big out there, Stu came to me as if he had no idea what was going on and he said 'Yo Rob, let’s put the song out. I mean it’s doing really well in Germany, we might as well make some money out this.' I mean it was me, it was my stuff, so I said 'Cool, let’s do it.'" I believe it was at this point that Wild Pitch commissioned the second version, which replaced the sampled hook with Kim Davis.

So to be clear, since nobody who writes about the dueling versions of "The Power" ever seem to acknowledge it - there are two versions of Chill Rob G's "The Power," not even including Snap!'s.

Wild Pitch put out both of Chill's versions on separate 12"s in 1990, and also included the song as a cassette and CD bonus track on Chill's album (it's not on the original LP). And like the second 12" pressing, the liner notes of the tape and CD credit production to this Nephie Centeno guy. I don't know too much about him; but he's a hip-hop writer and producer who also did the remix of Chill's "Make It" on his next single. So, I believe he's the guy who actually went in and replaced the Brown sample with Kim Davis for the second Chill Rob G version.

Because then, of course, you've got the whole remake version to talk about. The original German producers, Power Jam if you will, hooked up with Arista Records to put this single out as well. As you could probably imagine, now the song was caught up in an intricate web of uncleared samples, and different artists and labels claiming the rights to it. So Michael and Luca formed Snap!, under the aliases Benito Benites and John Virgo Garrett III. They didn't have Kim Davis in their camp, so they got a new singer, Penny Ford, to sing on their version.

They also got a new rapper. See, for Snap! to release this without Wild Pitch, they not only couldn't use Kim Davis, they couldn't use Chill Rob G, whose acappella started the whole thing. So they got this new guy, Turbo B, to record all new rap vocals. I mean, in a way, I actually kinda like his vocals. Certainly the way he keeps ending his verse with "or I will attack, and you don't want that" is charming in a very camp way. And even the rest of his rhymes aren't actually bad. But despite the fact that he's got a similarly deep voice, he's no Chill Rob G (and the way he emulated the stuttering "it's getting kinda hectic" parts just with his natural voice instead of a stuttering sample is pretty goofy  Correction 11/10/12: My bad; as pointed out to me in the comments, while Turbo lip-syncs that part in the video, interestingly, Snap! is still using Chill Rob G's voice even in there version for that clip). So the distinction was forever drawn: Chill Rob's version is the one preferred by hip-hop heads, while Snap!'s version is the hokier one for the pop music masses.

But Chill's version of the "The Power" gets the short end of that deal, too; since really discerning heads don't truck with any version of "The Power," favoring instead 45 King's not-remotely-euro-dance-themed production, "Let the Words Flow." I'd probably have to go with that, too; but "The Power" is still a dope alternative. and worth having as well. And for my money, the version to own is the original Wild Pitch single with both Chill's vocals and the Jocelyn sample.

Time to get technical. As I've said, Wild Pitch put out two 12" versions of this in 1990, with the two differently convoluted production credit explanations. The first one has three tracks: Vocal, Instrumental and Acappella versions. That's the one that credits Logic. The second one[pictured], which credits Nephie, has four tracks: Vocal, Radio Edit, Instrumental and Acappella. The Logic one uses the sample; and the Nephie one uses Kim Davis. There's also a 2006 repress (you know, Wild Pitch's "When MCs Had Skills" series), and that's a repress of the original with just three tracks and the sampled hook. And the bonus track version on the Ride the Rhythm CDs and tapes is the Kim Davis version. So now you know. And Knowledge is power. Derp.

It's good to be back!

7 comments:

  1. Snap "The Power" was released in Germany in 1989. the original Logic white label they were sending out to the DJs is the one with the Chill Rob G acapella. and the beat is - stange that you did not know that - is ripped from Mantronix "King of the Beats". Then they rerecorded the Chill Rob vocals for the official release with Turbo B and it became the big hit. They thought they don´t have to ask Wild Pitch for permission and it was a kind of cover version (plus remember it was 1989, it was still the sampling daisy age). Wild Pitch obviously was pissed since it became a worldwide hit and they kind of bootleged it with the original Chill Rob vocal to cash in a before Arista released the Snap version. Jocelyn Browns "The Power" vocal-part was re-sung on the US-Versions to avoid the sample clearence. Thats the version of the story that I know and read in multiple interviews back then.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're basically saying the same thing that I wrote, though I didn't realize they used "King of the Beats."

      Delete
  2. My cassette version of "Ride the Rhythm" doesn't include "The Power." I remember seeing the Chill Rob video in the summer of 1990 (?), well after the initial LP release. The CD version that I picked up a few years back does have "The Power" on it, though. It must have been an after-thought.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi, I'm from germany and I got some questions and comments.

    1.
    In all versions I know you hear the "I've got the power" sample from Jocelyn Brown. Except for that Kim Davis Wild Pitch Version.

    Penny Ford did all female vocals and harmonys on the Snap version except for the Jocelyn Brown vocal. They originaly tried to get Chaka Khan to sing on that tune, but she sended Penny Ford which she shared a flat in London at that time. Penny Ford just sang what she wanted to sang, thats why she even incorporated some Chaka Khan lines from a song called "Some Love".

    Check this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l27jG70kc0&feature=youtu.be&t=4m42s

    2.
    The "Its gettin kinda hectic" part on Snaps version that was released worldwide with the classic video we all know is not Turbo B, its the triggered Chill Rob vocal.

    If you got a version with Turbo B rapping that part it would be another alternative version, but I doubt that.

    3.
    In all versions I know you hear the "I've got the power" sample from Jocelyn Brown. Except for that Kim Davis Wild Pitch Version.

    Penny Ford did all female vocals and harmonys on the Snap version except for the Jocelyn Brown vocal. They originaly tried to get Chaka Khan to sing on that tune, but she sended her background singer Penny Ford. She just sang what she wanted to sang, thats why she even incorporated some Chaka Khan lines from a song called "Some Love".

    Check this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8l27jG70kc0&feature=youtu.be&t=4m42s

    4.
    If I get it right there are the following versions:


    1. Version - Logic DJ Whitelabel
    Chill Rob G vocal
    Jocelyn Brown "Power" vocal

    2. Version - Power Jam feat. Chill Rob G - Wild Pitch
    Chill Rob G vocal
    Jocelyn Brown "Power" vocal

    3. Version - Chill Rob G - The Power - Wild Pitch - Ride The Rhythm Album Version
    Chill Rob G vocal
    Kim Davis "Power" Vocal
    Some new Synths

    4. Version - Snap - The Power - Logic/Arista
    Turbo B Vocal
    Jocelyn Brown "Power" vocal
    Penny Ford harmonys and Chaka Khan vocals.

    Could it be that Version 1 and 2 are identical ?

    Does anyone have a audio of the first Logic version that was send out to german DJs with Chill Rob on it ?

    I'm curious what this version sounds like.

    5.
    Yes, the drums are snatched from "King of beats. But Mantronix snatched the sounds from Bob James "Mardi Gras" and combined it with one snare from The Meters "Same Old Thing".

    6.
    The big question here is why Wild Pitch never sued Snap or Arista ? They re-recorded the vocals with Turbo B but they still had the saxophone in their Version which rights belong to Wild Pitch and like I said, the "hectic" vocal is still Chill Rob G.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, good call on the "hectic" still being a sample. I just went back and listened to it. Turbo used to mouth that part in the video, which had me thinking he re-did that vocal. I'll put a correction in my post. :)

      I believe Version 1 and 2 as you list them are identical. There are, strictly speaking, other Snap! versions, because some of those 12" have different mixes, and they even put out a remix 12". But I don't think any have different sets of vocals or anything.

      I think a big part of why they didn't sue is because this was back in 1990, before the famous Biz lawsuit, and sampling was a big legal gray area. Nobody was clearing back then, really... at least not little vocal snippets.

      Delete
  4. OK, but they could still sue them. Or just sell the rights to Aaron Fuchs and he will do it ;-)

    By the way, great work you do. I really appreciate what you are doing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Funny, I read this article yesterday and found this 12" for a fair price in some market stall crate. Great tune, I always liked this "hardcore club" beat.

    ReplyDelete