As 2018 comes to a close, so does our 30th anniversary retrospective on golden age sampling. It would be irresponsible to close out this series without exploring the sounds underpinning Stetsasonic’s sophomore album, In Full Gear.
Though it fell in a particularly crowded year, the record signified the high-water mark of the hip hop band’s five year career. Unlike their debut record, 1986’s On Fire, credits were assigned to the individual members instead of the outfit as a whole. This helped further stress the group’s two key members: emcee and producer Daddy-O, a nigh omnipresent force throughout the LP, and producer Prince Paul, who contributed seven of the most intricate instrumentals. Other members included emcees Delite and Frukwan, beatboxer Wise and keyboardist DBC, all of whom made their indelible mark on the essential LP. In fact, Daddy-O’s first non-Stetsa production credit - Audio Two’s 1987 hit, “Top Billin’” - has since become one of hip hop’s most sampled tracks.
The group used the record to mount a notable defence of sampling in hip hop, an oft-criticised facet of the yet-young artform. It was precipitated by a single instant: hip hop historian and writer Nelson George remembers being in-studio on the Sunday morning in question. Mtume, incensed by the recent upswing in sampling, slammed the practice as having produced “the first generation of African Americans not to be extending the range of the music,” arguing that the otherwise musically illiterate artists were substituting theoretical knowledge for sonic recontextulisation. It just so happened that Daddy-O was listening. He took exception to such remarks - as a member of Stetsasonic, who billed themselves as a ‘hip hop band,’ he felt sampling and musicianship could easily coexist. He couldn’t sit idly by as the previous generation slandered his craft, so he wrote a song. “Talkin’ All That Jazz” would become one of the band’s biggest hits.
Though the members’ greatest achievements were largely ahead of them, In Full Gear remains a critical darling and important milestone, both for hip hop’s first band and the genre as a whole. It offered a curious vision of the future, one which reimagined hip hop outfits as more structurally analogous to traditional bands whilst retaining the technical expertise of the old school.
In honour of the thirty years that have since passed, we’re breaking down the samples that comprise the essential album!
“In Full Gear”
Stetsasonic kickstart their sophomore album with the assertive title track, one which declares their triumphant return. It’s helmed by Stetsasonic’s most famous member, legendary producer Prince Paul.
The guitar riff that kickstarts “In Full Gear” - both the album and the track - is courtesy of Kool & The Gang. “Who’s Gonna Take The Weight” is taken from their 1971 sophomore release, Live at the Sex Machine.
The vocal ad-libs that enter following the drum fill at 0:05 come by way of The Commodores’ “The Assembly Line,” included on their debut album, 1974’s Machine Gun.
The popular track has been sampled more than 300 times, though mostly for the drum break within. It’s best known for gracing cuts by Eric B. & Rakim, Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, Public Enemy, Scarface, Ice-T, Ice Cube and Ultramagnetic MC’s.
The prominent bass that enters at 0:25 is taken from Johnny Hammond’s “Shifting Gears,” a cut from his 1975 LP, Gears. Born John Smith, the organist adopted the name of his favoured instrument - the Hammond B-3 - to avoid confusion with jazz guitarist Johnny Smith.
“DBC Let The Music Play”
Buoyed by a shrieking horn sample and some virtuosic scratching, “DBC Let The Music Play” showcases “a musical flow with an added twist.” It’s the first of just three tracks helmed by DBC, and the most prominent of his contributions: the cut was included on the b-side of In Full Gear’s first 12” single, “Sally.”
The wailing sample that forms the crux of the instrumental is the work of Maceo and The Macks, a James Brown-associated, Maceo Parker-led outfit. That band released just one LP - 1974’s Us - which was largely written, arranged and produced by Brown himself.
Though only released as a non-album single, “Cross The Track (We Better Go Back)” has been sampled more than 40 times.
If you listen carefully, you’ll recognise the drums that enter at 0:22 as reminiscent of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” perhaps the most recognised breakbeat of all time. That’s because DBC interpolates the familiar cadence.
What more can be said about this archetypal beat? Played by Clyde Stubblefield, Brown’s onetime drummer, it’s been sampled on almost 1500 seperate songs since it was released in 1970.
There’s a sly vocal sample that appears at 0:26, and it’s sourced from Stetsasonic’s own “Just Say Stet,” a track included on their debut, On Fire. As Daddy-O says “Stet” on “DBC,” there’s a brief sample of the group chanting the same word from the “Just Say Stet” refrain.
This marks the first of two times that the track would be sampled on In Full Gear: it later makes an appearance on “Rollin’ Wit Rush.”
Likewise, another sample punctuates Daddy-O’s urge to “get down.” It’s courtesy of Stestasonic member Delite, who spit the very same line on On Fire album opener “4 Eva My Beat.”
This marks the only time that Stetsasonic sampled “4 Ever My Beat,” though it was later flipped by Dan The Automator on 1996’s “Sleep.” Automator and Paul founded Handsome Boys Modelling School in 1999, releasing So… How’s Your Girl.
The titular phrase was most famously sampled on Coldcut’s “Paid In Full (Seven Minutes of Madness - The Coldcut Remix),” with elements of the track also appearing on cuts by Public Enemy, Kris Kross, Joeski Love and Eazy-E.
“Freedom Or Death”
One of the more incendiary album tracks, “Freedom Or Death” finds Daddy-O reflecting on the grim state of race relations in the late ‘80s.
“'88, and everything ain't well
Prepare for a war and war is hell
And if you think about coppin’ a plea
Don't even waste your breath
Cause this time it's freedom or death…”
A unique cut, “Float On” is a slow-burning love song. It’s a reimagining of a 1977 cut by The Floaters, who feature on the track alongside Stetsasonic. At seven-and-a-half minutes, it’s the longest cut on In Full Gear by more than two whole minutes. Despite the length, “Float On” was released as the third and final single from the record. It peaked at #56 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in March 1989.
Though these kinds of earnestly retro-R&B ballads are less common in contemporary hip hop, they’re not without precedent: Stetsa peer Big Daddy Kane was especially partial to the romantic, and usually included at least one such cut on each of his albums.
“Float On” employs just a single sample: the smooth, romantic instrumental from “Float On” by late ‘70s Detroit vocal group, The Floaters. That 1977 song was their biggest hit, and has since been sampled more than 60 times.
“Stet Trooper ‘88!”
A barebones bar-fest, “Stet Trooper ‘88!” earns the exclamation point with its unbridled energy. Adorned with some simple scratching and a sole sample, much of the track’s allure comes down to the vocal performances within. Daddy-O and Frukwan bring their best whilst Wise, in his only production credit, cobbles together the compelling base on which they build.
Another single sample song, “Stet Trooper ‘88!” makes use of Hugo Montenegro’s “Moog Power,” an early cut from the synthesizer pioneer. It was included on his 1969 synth-centric LP, also fittingly titled Moog Power.
It was sampled on Stetsasonic’s own “Bust That Groove” and “Just Say Stet,” both included on their debut record, as well as songs by Peanut Butter Wolf and Fonky Family.
“Pen & Paper”
It’s back to the eclectic and intense as Prince Paul returns to the decks. Though it’s early days for the lauded producer, who would soon become one of hip hop’s all-time greatest sonic architects, it’s easy to see how his compositions stand out. Daddy-O, Frukwan and Delite attack their verses in that order.
Prince Paul opens the track with a vocal sample of Instant Funk’s little-known 1980 cut, “The Funk Is On.” The titular phrase is scratched into the introduction, chanting “on… funk is on!”
The original song appeared as the title track on the Philly-based disco band’s fourth album. It’s since been sampled just three times: once by Ultramagnetic MC’s in ‘92, and again by Grandmaster Flash in ‘02.
Next up, Paul lifts the opening bassline and drums from Brooklyn Dreams’ “Music, Harmony and Rhythm,” a cut included on their 1977 self-titled debut. The group, though shortlived, found moderate success alongside frequent collaborator Donna Summer.
The cowbell-heavy percussion that enters at 0:44 is courtesy of Brother Soul’s 1974 release, “Cookies.” It’s one of just four singles released by the band between ‘72 and ‘75, and - to date - the only one sampled.
“Music For The Stetfully Insane”
Prince Paul continues his hot streak with a brief instrumental joint. “Music For The Stetfully Insane” melds Funkadelic and Spider-Man to make a cheesy but undeniably funky organ-heavy jam.
“Music For The Stetfully Insane” opens with a cartoonish soundbite: “I'll prove I'm the greatest soundman of all time, and I'm starting right now!”
Those vocals are lifted form the 1974 Power Records-released “Bells of Doom,” a spoken-word Amazing Spider-Man adventure. Another soundbite, lifted from 4:37, closes out the Stetsa’s track: “Well, what do you know: Sonic Man! I should have known!”
The organ lick that enters following the Spider-Man is the handiwork of funky psych-rock outfit Funkadelic. “Atmosphere” was the closing track on 1975’s Let’s Take It To The Stage, an album that contained hip hop favourite “Get Off Your Ass and Jam.”
“We’re The Band”
A track that celebrates Stetsa’s unique identifier, “We’re The Band” contains just a single sample. Produced by group members Prince Paul and Daddy-O, it features vocal performances from Wise, Frukwan and Daddy-O himself.
This one should be easy for the sample-savvy amongst you: the distinctive Brown ad-lib sampled throughout “We’re The Band” is taken from “Funky Drummer,” a track famed for the popular breakbeat within. It first appears at 0:34.
“Rollin’ Wit Rush”
Another instrumental of sorts, “Rollin’ Wit Rush” makes extensive use of a looped Rakim sample. Also scratched into the mix are quips and phrases from the hip hop band themselves, though they never quite manage to get in a full verse.
The titular phrase is sourced from Eric B. & Rakim’s seminal “Paid In Full,” the title track from their revolutionary debut LP. The “Rush” with whom they’re rolling is Russell Simmons’ Rush Artist Management, an artist management company founded alongside Def Jam in 1983.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before! Prince Paul and Daddy-O make use of the very same Brown ad-lib as in “We’re The Band,” the track immediately preceding “Rollin’ Wit Rush.”
Prince Paul later sampled the “Funky Drummer” ad-libs on two tracks he produced for De La Soul: 1989’s “The Magic Number” and 1991’s “Oodles of O’s.” The group sampled the track again on their self-produced 1996 cut, “Betta Listen.”
The Godfather of Soul is followed up by Stetsasonic themselves, who sample vocals - “we came here to rock!” - from On Fire cut “Just Say Stet.” That track served as their debut single, and paints the band as “a name you will never forget.”
Production on that album was credited to Stetsasonic as a whole, whilst production on In Full Gear was assigned to the specific individuals responsible for the beats.
Next up, Prince Paul and Daddy-O take two vocal samples from ‘86’s “Go Stetsa I.” The first - “it ain’t nothing like—” - appears at 1:03, whilst the second - “we’re the hip hop band!” - is scratched into the track from 1:14 onward.
The track’s third and final self-sample makes use of the titular phrase from On Fire track “Bust That Groove.”
“This Is It, Y’all (Go Stetsa II)”
A sequel to 1986’s “Go Stetsa,” this cut makes use of six seperate samples. It opens with an explanation of the nature of Stetsasonic, which it elaborates on throughout the ensuing jam:
“@e have a human percussionist, that’s the human mix machine, Wise, and DBC on the keys and the drum machines live themselves, and we have… two turntables, you know, with the devastating Prince Paul, and we… we sort of like, just meshed together, and ever since we’ve come together, we have real good working thing going on…”
The fleeting hook sampled at 0:30 is entirely lifted from Billy Preston’s 1972 solo cut, “Will It Go Round In Circles.”
Originally a session keyboardist for acts such as Ray Charles and Sam Cooke, Preston has the honour of being just one of two artists to feature on a Beatles song: he was credited on their hit single “Get Back.” He would go on to be an on-again, off-again member of the Plastic Ono Band.
The titular phrase - “this is it, y’all!” - is pulled from an early hip hop record. Jimmy Spicer released “This Is It” in 1985: it was produced by Rick Rubin and released through a then-young Def Jam Records.
Though less popular than “It’s Yours,” another early Def Jam release, “This Is It” has been sampled 9 times, appearing on cuts by N.W.A and The D.O.C., making it a clear favourite of producer Dr. Dre.
The breakbeat that underpins the Jimmy Spicer sample is courtesy of Funk, Inc.’s “Kool Is Back,” a cut from their 1971 self-titled debut.
“Kool Is Back” has since become one of hip hop’s most frequently sampled breakbeats, having appeared on almost 500 tracks. You might recognise it from songs by JAY-Z, Jeru the Damaja, Beastie Boys, Slick Rick, Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, Ice-T and MC Lyte.
Despite being a reliable breakbeat, Funk, Inc. can’t handle the break alone: Daddy-O pulls some rattling hi-hats from Full Force’s “Alice, I Want You Just For Me,” a 1985 R&B outfit who, like Stetsa themselves, also hail from Brooklyn.
Spicer’s “this is it, y’all” is quickly followed by another vocal sample, “for you!” This one’s sourced from yet another early hip hop cut: Run-DMC’s “Rock Box,” included on their 1984 debut album.
Though the group were signed to Profile, Run - born Joseph Simmons - was the brother of Russell Simmons, the co-founder of Def Jam, who produced the cut alongside Larry Smith.
Finally, Stetsa sample the titular phrase from “Let The Good Times Roll” by Shirley and Lee, a classic rock n' roll track released in 1956. It was the biggest hit for the duo, though Shirley herself would have an unlikely disco resurgence in the mid-’70s.
This marks one of just two times that “Let The Good Times Roll” has been sampled: you can hear the vocals at both 1:49 and 2:52.
At just nine seconds long, “Extensions” has no underlying beat, hook or even verse. Despite this, production is credited to Daddy-O, who presumably performs the bizarre, fleeting interlude:
“Here's something that we should mention
Bald headed girls with extensions
Here's something we think you should know
Listen up it might make your hair grow”
The first single from In Full Gear, “Sally” is a narrative hip hop jam about a wealthy woman. Daddy-O, Delite and Frukwan reminisce about meeting her and, though she’s clearly bad news, they fall for her all the same. One of the final lyrics - “she's opened my nose” - suggests that the titular woman may be emblematic of cocaine addiction, which would explain the trio’s ill-advised infatuation. The track, their highest-charting single, peaked at #25 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Whilst Daddy-O opens the track with “I got a—,” he’s immediately flanked by two seperate samples of The B-Boys’ 1985 electronic hip hop cut, “Girls.”
The ensuing phrase, “girl named Sally,” is actually two distinct elements of the cut juxtaposed against each other. “Girl named” is lifted from the open, whilst “Sally” appears at 2:16 on The B-Boys’ original. Whilst “Girls” is an obscure sample, The B-Boys’ “Two, Three, Break” has proved popular.
The B-Boys’ role is all to brief, as Dyke & the Blazers enter with a more substantial contribution. Daddy-O lifts a passage from the latter half of 1969’s “Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man.” The passage in question bursts forth at 0:06: “some people don’t like the way, the way Sally walk.”
“Let a Woman Be a Woman, Let a Man Be a Man” has been sampled 170 times over the last 50 years.
If you’ve made it this far, you should have been able to pick this one yourself. Daddy-O closes the hook with James Brown’s distinctive four-count from the omnipresent “Funky Drummer,” a true cornerstone of hip hop sampling.
Though Daddy-O opts not to use the breakbeat throughout “Sally,” he does punctuate his verses with the solitary guitar hit that closes out the bars on Brown’s original track.
Next up is Run-DMC’s “My Adidas.” That single, included on 1986’s Raising Hell, was a watershed moment for fashion in hip hop: manager Lyor Cohen invited Adidas executive Angelo Anastasio to a show at MSG, where the group performed the song. It got them an endorsement.
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vocal sample has nothing to do with the titular footwear: the phrase “chill in Cali” is spliced in at 2:41.
The final sample appears in the outro, where Daddy-O flips the break from Funk, Inc.’s “Kool Is Back.” You might recognise that sample from “This Is It, Y’all (Go Stetsa II),” which fell just two songs prior.
Though “Kool Is Back” appears twice in just three tracks, it was never again sampled by Stetsasonic. Even Prince Paul, who produced for De La Soul and joined Gravediggaz, didn’t revisit it.
“Talkin’ All That Jazz”
A diss track aimed squarely at Mtume, an ‘80s dance artist and prolific songwriter, “Talkin’ All That Jazz” paints sampling as a practice wholly compatible with antiquated ideas of artistry. The song would become Stetsa’s most recognisable hit, as well as perhaps their most essential statement piece. It peaked at #34 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
The bass that opens the track is an interpolation of Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions,” the title track from his 1975 record. That effort featured his longtime band, The Cosmic Echoes, and extolled messages of peace and balance over suitably spacey sounds.
“Expansions” appeared on UBB, though it’s only been sampled 16 times, most notably by DJ Q-Bert in 1994.
Producer MC Delite intricately assembles the hard-hitting percussion, sampling from three different sources. One of the two sampled breaks that open the track is taken from Banbarra’s “Shack Up (Part 2),” a pervasive but ultimately mysterious tune that represents their only release. Red Bull Music finally identified the mystery musos in 2015.
“Shack Up,” the a-side to the cut, has been sampled more than 60 times.
The more predominant break is lifted from The Turtles’ “I’m Chief Kamanawanalea (We're The Royal Macadamia Nuts),” originally included on their 1968 concept album, Battle of the Bands. That record found the outfit playing as a variety of fictional bands, leading to a disparate sound.
There’s a sly and ultimately extraneous sample that enters at 0:32, though it serves an important purpose. MC Delite quietly lifts the drums from Mtume’s “Juicy Fruit,” a 1983 dance record, in order to slight the singer following his criticisms of sampling in hip hop. Though the entire song is a diss, this is the salt in the wound.
This very song has been sampled nearly 100 times, suggesting the artist later recanted his position.
You’ll notice that the drums change again at the 1:11 mark, as the second verse begins: this particular break is sourced from Sly & The Family Stone’s “You Can Make It If You Try,” a cut from their classic 1969 LP, Stand!.
Sly & The Family Stone have become staples of the sampling scene: “You Can Make It If You Try” has tallied more than 130 samples, whilst “Sing a Simple Song” sits at more than 430.
“It’s In My Song”
Bolstered by an assist from Sly & The Family Stone, “It’s In My Song” features Stetsa members Daddy-O, Frukwan and Delite rhyming atop DBC’s second beat.
There’s just one sample on “It’s In My Song,” a flip of Sly and the Family Stone’s 1968 hit, “Sing A Simple Song.” It’s the distinctive vocal at 0:03.
The classic funk staple has been sampled more than 430 times, likely a consequence of its widespread availability during the infancy of sampling culture. The drum break alone has featured on cuts by Dr. Dre, Tupac, KRS-One, De La Soul and Public Enemy.
After mounting a spirited defence of sampling just two songs earlier, Daddy-O takes to the wax with a sample-free solo cut. “The Odad” is a celebratory reflection on the emcees own heritage, imbued with unabashed patois slang and the usual pro-Stetsa gas. At the close, Daddy-O dedicates the track to Don Baron, Just-Ice and KRS-One, three influential hip hop artists who incorporate their Jamaican heritage into their art. Whilst Just-Ice achieved his biggest successes as a solo act, Don Baron and KRS-One are best known for their work with Masters of Ceremony and Boogie Down Productions, respectively.
On the penultimate jam, Daddy-O, Frukwan and Delite unite atop a Prince Paul/Daddy-O helmed instrumental to describe their experiences with the titular musical movement. Though it doesn’t actually sample any Miami bass tracks, the track incorporates the dance-ready percussion of the subgenre by way of keyboardist Dexter Wansel. Daddy-O shouts out 2 Live Crew, perhaps the most immediately recognisable proponents of the niche, whose sexually provocative lyrics proved a focal point of anti-rap scrutiny and a kay test of hip hop’s lyrical freedoms.
“Miami Bass” marks the second appearance of this very specific sample, taken from Original Concept’s “Pump That Bass.” You might remember the titular phrase previously appearing on “DBC Let The Music Play,” though it makes even more sense that it’d feature on a song with “bass” in the title.
Original Concept released just one album, Straight from the Basement of Kooley High!, which also dropped in 1988.
The blistering drums that enter at 0:44 are lifted from the opening of keyboardist Dexter Wansel’s “Theme From the Planets.” It’s taken from his solo debut, 1976’s Life On Mars: that same year, he produced two songs for The Jacksons.
The hook that appears at 0:45 is taken from The Mohawks’ 1968 single, “The Champ.” It’s since become a staple of hip hop sampling, having appeared on over 660 different songs.
Vocals from the track have graced songs by Frank Ocean, Onyx, Ice Cube, DJ Shadow, Anderson .Paak and Janelle Monaé, whilst instrumental elements have appeared on joints from Main Source, Redman, Original Concept and Jaylib.
The horn hits that enter at 0:58 are lifted from the heart of The J.B.’s “Gimme Some More.” The track was written and produced by James Brown, for whom the band was named: their primary function was backing Brown throughout the ’70s.
Like many Brown satellites, The J.B.’s have become a much-sampled act. “Gimme Some More” has been sampled 60 times, perhaps most notably gracing five seperate A Tribe Called Quest cuts.
Though it’s the last track, “Showtime” is built about a scratched hook that announces it’s time to “start the show.” The finale features an impressive eight verses from Stetsa emcees Wise, Frukwan, Daddy-O and Delite, whilst DBC closes out the record with his third and final production credit. Prince Paul, who’s accumulated eight credits across In Full Gear, is nowhere to be seen.
“Showtime” is built atop Hank Ballard and the Midnighters’ “From the Love Side.” The 1969 track was produced by James Brown, who also contributed vocals: DBC kickstarts Stetsa’s track with a distinctive Brown exclamation, “showtime!” The instrumental elements that underpin the rest of the track are also sourced from within the song.
… Just Say Stet!
In Full Gear represented the peak of Stetsasonic’s fame, reaching #20 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart whilst failing to enter the Billboard 200. The three years between their sophomore effort and their final LP, 1991’s Blood, Sweat & No Tears, killed their momentum and dealt a blow to their relevance. In the interim, they appeared on all-star posse cut “Self Destruction,” a peace-promoting hit helmed by gangsta rapper-turned-peace advocate KRS-One. Nonetheless, Blood, Sweat & No Tears only peaked at #75, presumably undercut by the early-'90s pivot to the West Coast, and the group disbanded soon after the album dropped.
The end of Stetsasonic was just the beginning of their substantial legacy. On their disbandment, Prince Paul had already produced two of hip hop’s most lauded records: 1989’s 3 Feet High and Rising and 1991’s De La Soul is Dead, both works of the eponymous trio. Alongside records by A Tribe Called Quest and Jungle Brothers, these efforts helped pioneer the alternative hip hop scene and created one of the East Coast’s most vibrant and respected subgenres. It was on 3 Feet High that the hip-hop skit, a staple of ‘90s and early 2000s rap, was introduced.
Indeed, Prince Paul would become the most prolific post-breakup Stetsa member. He produced the third De La Soul album, 1993’s critically acclaimed Buhloone Mindstate, before parting ways with the group, though the break brought him little respite. He was already working alongside a new outfit, and in 1994, Gravediggaz - a supergroup comprised of Paul, Stetsa alumni Frukwan, Wu mastermind RZA and newcomer Poetic - released 6 Feet Deep, also known as Niggamortis, an acclaimed and influential effort that helped popularise the horrorcore subgenre.
After years of well-received collaboration, Paul finally released his solo debut - Psychoanalysis: What Is It? - in ‘96. It was followed by his 35-track magnum opus, A Prince Amongst Thieves, a heady concept album that featured appearances from artists such as Kool Keith, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, De La Soul, Sadat X, Kid Creole and Xzibit. 1999 also saw the release of So… How’s Your Girl?, the debut effort from Handsome Boy Modeling School, a collaborative project with Dan the Automator.
Prince Paul aside, Daddy-O experienced the most post-Stetsa success. His first major move was producing the entirety of Nubian M.O.B.’s self-titled debut, released through Cold Chillin’ in 1992. He followed it with a solo album, You Can Be a Daddy, But Never Daddy-O, in 1993. It makes sense that Daddy-O would have the most solo prospects, seeing as the emcee and occasional producer appeared on every track on In Full Gear and all but two on Blood, Sweat & No Tears. He also appeared on Freestyle Fellowship’s “Inner City Boundaries,” a cut from their acclaimed-yet-obscure sophomore album, Innercity Griots.
Daddy-O soon moved into a role as a music executive, chasing a four-year tenure at MCA with a gig at Motown. He put his production skills to use identifying and assisting new talent, an occupation in keeping with his substantial career: to date, Daddy-O has produced for acts such as Queen Latifah, Third World and Junior M.A.F.I.A..
In 2002, Stetsasonic beatboxer Wise appeared in Breath Control: The History of the Human Beat Box, a documentary about the relatively young art of vocal percussion. He was joined by other pioneers of the sound such as Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie and the late Darren Robertson, the Fat Boys member who died in 1995.
The idea of a hip hop band is as novel now as it was thirty years ago. That’s not to say it’s an entirely foreign idea: the path carved by Stetsasonic would inspire legendary hip hop band The Roots, who’ve reigned as rap’s premier proponents of live instrumentation for almost three decades. Now, in an age of unbridled accessibility, hip hop artists are often little more than aspiring poets, disillusioned youths or rowdy firestarters. It’s not an indictment on the modern hip hop scene that so much of the traditional musicality has become irrelevant: it’s testament to the overarching vision of a grassroots artform, one borne from financial limitations and technical innovations. An ear for melody and mind for bars is all that’s required to drop a rudimentary hit, the kind of calling card which can elevate even the most unlikely SoundCloud rapper to the b-list.
Nonetheless, it’s prudent to remember the artistic vibrance of Stetsasonic, an outfit which defended sampling as the craft hit an unprecedented (and now inimitable) stride. When you’re watching Jimmy Fallon, or listening to The Roots, or spinning any of Prince Paul’s many alt hip-hop masterpieces, spare a thought for the OG hip hop band, whose five-year, three-album tenure brought a new structure to the burgeoning scene.