REVOLT TV presents ‘The Produce Section,’ a column where we put the spotlight on the men and women behind the beats we love so much and their contributions to the culture, as a whole. From profiling and interviewing the hottest producers of today to acknowledging the greatest producers of all-time and delving deep into their discographies, ‘The Produce Section’ is the hub where beats, rhymes and life connect.
Producers have long been the backbone of rap music, providing emcees and rappers alike with the sonic backdrops over which they bare their souls and share their stories. Rap artists may get much of the fanfare and are front and center. However, without the producer toiling away behind the scenes, crafting the instrumentals; the lyrics would be reduced to spoken word and hip hop would be nonexistent as we know it.
In this edition of “The Produce Section,” we cover legendary producer Marley Marl, who helped shift the paradigm of crafting beats. Coming out of the Queensbridge housing projects, Marl helped helm the production for the Juice Crew, a legendary collective of MCs who dominated the rap game during the ’80s and put Queensbridge on the map. Crafting the backdrop for some of the greatest songs in rap history, Marl is remembered as one of rap’s greatest producers of all-time with a resume that is untouched.
In the latest installment of our series, we celebrate and highlight 13 of the famed producer’s most iconic beats that define his excellence behind the boards.
1. “The Bridge”
In 1986, Marl teamed up with Juice Crew member MC Shan for “The Bridge,” an ode to their Queensbridge stomping grounds that would alter the course of rap history. Reworking drums from The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President,” Marl cooks up the backdrop for a jam that would inspire KRS-One and Boogie Down Productions to fire back with their own anthem, “South Bronx.” This back and forth culminated in the “Bridge Wars,” one of the genre’s most iconic and pivotal battles to date.
2. “Set It Off”
Marl takes a screeching electric guitar riff from James Brown’s “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” and matches it with drums from “Be Black Baby” by Grady Tate on “Set It Off,” a standout selection from Big Daddy Kane’s 1988 Cold Chillin’ debut, Long Live the Kane. The song helped popularize the Brooklyn native’s rapid-fire delivery, showcased his astute rhyme skills and added to Marl’s growing list of compositions.
3. “Ain’t No Half Stepping”
The opening riff from R&B group The Emotions’ 1972 cut “Blind Alley” is the foundation on which Marl builds the beat for Big Daddy Kane’s 1988 single ‘Ain’t No Half-Steppin.’ Littering a vocal sample from a Heatwave record of the same name, Marl beefs up the track with a ringing alarm from ESG’s 1981 release “UFO,” and horns from Monk Higgins and The Specialties’ “Big Water Bed.” This culminates in one of the definitive songs from Big Daddy Kane’s reign atop the rap game and speaks to Marl’s own wizardry as a producer.
4. “The Overweight Lover’s In The House”
Funky horns and snares from The J.B.’s 1972 single “Pass the Peas” are lifted by Marl on this single from Heavy D & the Boyz’ 1987 debut. Powering the track with drum kicks and snares, Marl provides the backdrop to one of the biggest party starters of the ’80s. This song helped put one of Mt. Vernon’s finest on the rap map.
5. “Nobody Beats The Biz”
Joining the Juice Crew after becoming a beat-boxer for Roxanne Shante, Biz Markie got his own shot at stardom during the latter half of the ’80s with this banger from the rapper’s 1987 debut album, Goin Off. Snatching drums from Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s 1973 release “Hihache,” Marl gets busy with multiple elements lifted from Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle,” including the glorious crooning, which compliments vocals from T.J. Swann.
6. “Still Jingling”
Fluttery synths from Central Line’s “Walking Into Sunshine” help comprise the backdrop of Marl’s remix of LL Cool J’s 1989 single “Jingling Baby.” This was the first song in a string of collaborations between the two Queens natives. Hooking up a drum loop from Prince’s Under the Cherry Moon soundtrack track “Garden Party,” Marl creates a soundscape that helped usher LL Cool J into the ’90s. It stacks up well alongside his most infectious jams.
7. “Make The Music With Your Mouth”
Marl draws from The Honey Drippers’ well once again, pillaging drums from “Impeach the President” for this classic composition from Biz Markie’s Goin Off album. Borrowing pianos and drums from Isaac Hayes “Ike’s Mood I,” Marl speeds and chops up the sample. This creates a soundscape that tickles the soul and it remains a park jam staple decades later.
8. “The Symphony”
At the apex of the Juice Crew’s dominant run, Marl rounded up key members of the clique to appear on this track from Cold Chillin’s In Control, Volume 1. Utilizing a riff from Otis Redding’s 1968 hit “Hard to Handle” and pairing it with drums from “Do It Your Way” by Rory-O and Chuck Colbert, the Queensbridge maestro delivered one of his most notable productions with this classic.
9. “Road To The Riches”
“Stiletto” by Billy Joel gets a face-lift for this rollicking backdrop, which Marl served to Juice Crew member Kool G. Rap, who turned in one of his defining performances. Released in 1989, this single and title-track from G. Rap and DJ Polo’s debut is a noteworthy creation in Marl’s stash of hits.
10. “Men At Work”
The producer flips “Apache” by Incredible Bongo Band for this bruising composition. Plucking a guitar riff from Boobie Knight & the Universal Lady’s 1974 cut “The Lovomaniacs,” the boardsman crafts an explosive offering where Kool G Rap unleashes his verbal fury. This results in one of the more potent deep cuts in Marl’s discography.
11. “Around The Way Girl”
Marl ushered himself into the ’90s with this vibrant ditty he produced for LL Cool J’s fourth studio album, Mama Said Knock You Out. Pillaging old school jams like “All Night Long” by Mary Jane Girls, and “Risin’ to the Top” by Keni Burke; Marl pairs those samples with drums lifted from The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President” to create the instrumental for LL’s ode to girls around the way.
12. “The Boomin System”
James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” gets the sampling treatment, as Marl hooks up the percussion and matches it with a slowed-down sample of En Vogue’s 1990 hit “Hold On.” While not as powerful as the title-track, this track has gone on to become a fan favorite from Mama Said Knock You Out and packs more than enough attitude to spare.
13. “L.A., L.A.”
On this sizzling salvo, Marl collects a riff from “The Letter” by Al Green for the foundation of Capone-N-Noreaga’s response to Tha Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York.” Released in 1996, Capone-N-Noreaga came out the gates swinging with this hard-boiled offering that preceded their debut and is one of Marl’s latter bangers.
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