I was asked on Quora to give a list of my favorite hip-hop songs, because what better source is there than a forty-year-old white dad? (I am literally a mountain climber who plays the electric guitar.) I did grow up in New York City in the 80s, and I do love the music. But ultimately, I’m a tourist in this culture. For a more definitive survey, ask Questlove or someone. These are just songs that I like.
I’ve been hearing this line in a lot of hip-hop songs: “One for the treble, two for the time” or “One for the treble, two for the bass” or some variation. I wanted to find out what everybody’s quoting. After some internet detective work, here’s what I’ve got.
Why are the Beatles still so cool? By which I mean the late Beatles, Revolver onwards. I like Please Please Me as much as the next guy, but it isn’t why the Beatles are cool now. No, I mean the last few records, especially Sgt Pepper, the White Album and Abbey Road. If any of these albums were released next week, Pitchfork would go ballistic over them. Three quarters of the indie rock of the past ten years descends directly from Abbey Road. Why do we all still care so much?
Just about every music purchase I made in the past year was to get high-quality samples. I use my CD collection as a valuable hard-copy backup of a vast, well-recorded sample library. For just about any song except the major masterpieces, I’d much rather listen to the hook repeated endlessly over a hip-hop beat than the song itself. Reason and Recycle are only too happy to oblige me. Being able to effortlessly homebrew my own dance music has given me some insight into how good it must feel to make your own cheese or wine or shoes or sushi or computer programs.