This week, we go low, as in around 150hz low! 808 toned kicks for you South side and club banger producers, and a WHOLE BUNCH of random bass samples. To top it off, we have hip-hop kit #4 for you drum seekers. There are almost 240 samples in here for you to mess around with!
So Speaks [Harmony] sent me back to the drawing board, telling me that my first attempt at Gaga sounded too circus like [a la Britney Spears]. She wanted something more like Paparazzi and less like Bad Romance [though she likes both songs].
I have to admit, I like the song Paparazzi a lot. It’s mostly the melody though of the chorus.
I’ve heard the song played many times, and I always had deemed the song to be in C minor (relative major being Eb Major). Usually I have a decent ear when it comes to chords, and I dismissed the whole song to be in C minor, and the chorus probably followed suit. When the chorus comes in:
“I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me, Pappa, Papparazzi”
The sound of it seems to obviously be a very pop typical I-V-vi, or possibly a I-V(with the 3rd in the bass position)-6, in it’s relative major.
But I was wrong, and maybe next time I should actually learn a song first before judging it! Being primarily a rap producer, you don’t go further than 2 or maybe 4 chords. I play instruments for other genres though, and for the most part there aren’t that many key changes in the songs I play, but I usually call them when I play. Having never played the song before, I found out, as always, assumption is the mother of all… you know the rest.
Ready for a little music theory?
Now before we proceed, I think we need a small review of major and minor chords. If you’re good with basic major and minor scales, then you can move past this section.
The roman numerals above denote the chords in a particular scale, starting from the root upward. Major chords are in capital letters and minor chords are in lowercase. For example, assuming that the entire song was in C minor, the i chord would be C minor, the ii-o chord would be a D diminished, the v chord would be a G minor, and the VI chord would be an Ab Major. The relative major of C minor is Eb Major [To find the relative major of a minor, it’s the iii chord in the minor scale; to find the relative minor in a major, it’s the vi chord in the major scale]. So the I chord would be an Eb major, the V chord would be a Bb major (1st inversion, with the D in the bass instead of the Bb), and then the vi chord would be the C minor.
C minor scale: C(i), D(ii-0), Eb(III), F(iv), G(v), Ab(VI), Bb(VII), C(i)
If you play the Eb Major scale, it will sound like a nice do-re-mi progression. The C Minor, not so much, though that’s a conversation for another post. As is, the C Minor scale looks exactly like the Eb Major scale if you started on C instead of Eb. All Major and Minor (natural) scales work the same way, with their relatives. To mix it up, composers will go between both relative scales (with some little added things) to make things sound extra good to the ear.
A lot of pop songs have a progression of I-V-vi. Let It Be by the Beatles is a good example. It’s in C Major, and the chord progression is C Major, G Major, Am (I,V,vi) in the first half of the progression of the verses.
Going back to Gaga, I assumed that the chords for the chorus would be Eb Major, Bb Major, then C Minor.
When I analyzed it, I found out it isn’t. It’s still a I-V-vi, but not in that scale. It’s actually in Ab Major.
But how does that work?
I’m glad you asked! I owe it to my Music Theory I teacher who gave me this insight a few semesters back.
Here’s a clip of the song, second half of the first verse, into the chorus:
Let’s go over the chords of the song.
The intro is a C minor chord repeating.
The verses go: Cm, Ab, Cm, then Cm, Ab, Fm, leading into chorus. It’s in C Minor Scale. (i, VI, i, i VI, iv)
The chorus goes: Ab, Eb, Fm, Db and repeats. It’s in Ab Major. (I, V, vi, IV)
Let’s take a look at the two major scales involved here, the Eb Major (relative of C minor) and Ab Major:
Ab Major Scale: Ab(I), Bb(ii), C(iii), Db(IV) | Eb(V), F(vi), G(vii-o), Ab(I)
If you’ve noticed, I’ve split each scale in half, four notes on each side. Each set of four notes is what music theorists call a tetrachord. Notice how the first half of the Eb Major scale closely resembles the Ab Major scale’s second half.
So how does this work? Basically, if you play around in the first half of the Eb major scale, you can move to an Ab major scale progression and it will sound nice and peachy; especially if you use a G to lead into the Ab.
The composers of Paparazzi did so by using the F minor in the end, pausing the music while Gaga sings the last note, and Gaga’s last note is a hanging G note.
Why are these three things important?
The use of the F minor, is almost foreshadowing. If you take a look at the Ab Major scale, what’s the relative minor? (remember the notes above, look for the 6th, which is an F, and a minor at that). It makes the move even more comfortable since both the Eb Major and Ab Major scales have that chord in common.
The G serves as a leading tone to the Ab Major. It gives your ear the tension to want to move to the Ab Major chord because it sounds incomplete. Try playing C,D,E,F,G,A,B in succession (a C Major scale, without going back to C). Your ear will want to play that C because things don’t sound right without doing so.
Then the pause. Why the pause? To make the G sound even better when it leads into the Ab Major.
Play the clip above, and listen for these key things, and you’ll hear how it was done. Pretty nifty, if you ask me. I’m sure that this isn’t the first time the technique was used, as I’m sure it was used many times. However, this is something current that uses it, and for composers who want to know how to move in scales, well here’s one good way to do it. =]
That does it for today’s music theory lesson. More music coming your way, very soon!
Another fine Wednesday, and another fine update to the MsP Production Vault!
This week, we go back from our deviation into the ethnic percussion side back to your textbook hip-hop/rap production. I have three different kits, all together totaling over 100 different drum samples, for you producers out there, free for download as always!
We lost another one. We lost Guru of Gangstarr, to cancer.
To be honest, I was never the biggest fan (and I don’t mean that in the negative sense where you’re trashing someone, just literally as typed) of Guru, but his importance in hip-hop’s history is without question. He was a good emcee, and the ideal yang to DJ Premier’s yin. He was a natural fit to Premo’s production. Premo, on my producer influence list, especially in my earlier work, was trading #1 or #2 with Dr. Dre, depending on the project, with RZA, Just Blaze and Timbaland rounding out my top five.
Solar, Guru’s producer in the last half of his career, submitted this letter that Guru wished to release upon his death (credit: AllHipHop.com):
I, Guru, am writing this letter to my fans, friends and loved ones around the world. I have had a long battle with cancer and have succumbed to the disease. I have suffered with this illness for over a year. I have exhausted all medical options.
I have a non-profit organization called Each One Counts dedicated to carrying on my charitable work on behalf of abused and disadvantaged children from around the world and also to educate and research a cure for this terrible disease that took my life. I write this with tears in my eyes, not of sorrow but of joy for what a wonderful life I have enjoyed and how many great people I have had the pleasure of meeting.
My loyal best friend, partner and brother, Solar, has been at my side through it all and has been made my health proxy by myself on all matters relating to myself. He has been with me by my side on my many hospital stays, operations, doctors visits and stayed with me at my home and cared for me when I could not care for myself. Solar and his family is my family and I love them dearly and I expect my family, friends, and fans to respect that, regardless to anybody’s feelings on the matter. It is my wish that counts. This being said I am survived by the love of my life, my sun KC, who I trust will be looked after by Solar and his family as their own. Any awards or tributes should be accepted, organized approved by Solar on behalf myself and my son until he is of age to except on his own.
I do not wish my ex-DJ to have anything to do with my name likeness, events tributes etc. connected in anyway to my situation including any use of my name or circumstance for any reason and I have instructed my lawyers to enforce this. I had nothing to do with him in life for over 7 years and want nothing to do with him in death. Solar has my life story and is well informed on my family situation, as well as the real reason for separating from my ex-DJ. As the sole founder of GangStarr, I am very proud of what GangStarr has meant to the music world and fans. I equally am proud of my Jazzmatazz series and as the father of Hip-Hop/Jazz. I am most proud of my leadership and pioneering efforts on Jazzmatazz 4 for reinvigorating the Hip-Hop/Jazz genre in a time when music quality has reached an all time low. Solar and I have toured in places that I have never been before with GangStarr or Jazzmatatazz and we gained a reputation for being the best on the planet at Hip-Hop/Jazz, as well as the biggest and most influential Hip-Hop/Jazz record with Jazzmatazz 4 of the decade to now. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time. And we as a team were not afraid to push the envelope. To me this is what true artists do! As men of honor we stood tall in the face of small mindedness, greed, and ignorance. As we fought for music and integrity at the cost of not earning millions and for this I will always be happy and proud, and would like to thank the million fans who have seen us perform over the years from all over the world. The work I have done with Solar represents a legacy far beyond its time and is my most creative and experimental to date. I hope that our music will receive the attention it deserves as it is some of the best work I have done and represents some of the best years of my life.
If you’d like to read more on the story, you can click here.
I know that Guru and Premo had a falling out, and it made me sad to know that they never patched it up. As much as Guru isn’t one of my favorite emcees, GangStarr had some really good hits and to me epitomize hip-hop. When I think hip-hop, I think of GangStarr, because you have Premo’s boom bap, Guru with his rhymes, and Premo scratching. It’s textbook hip-hop music at it’s finest. “Code of the Streets,” “Mass Appeal,” “DWYCK,” “Tons O’ Gunz”, and “Above the Clouds” were just a few of their culture-wide accepted classics, “Full Clip” and “1/2 and 1/2” with M.O.P. being two of my personal favorites to add to the list above.
Gangstarr is on that top list of the legendary duos of the early 90’s, which includes a who’s-who of names including Eric B. and Rakim, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, and EPMD (Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith).
Guru had some big ideas, and aside from his GangStarr legacy, will also be known for his pioneering efforts in what is considered hip-hop jazz or jazz rap, a feat that I do admire. I’ve personally gotten to appreciate jazz more over these past few years, especially when I got to play bass for a jazz band a few semesters ago, really taking in the sounds of Dave Brubeck, Herbie Hancock, and others.
Guru’s Jazzmatazz was an interesting fusion, using a mix of live jazz musicians and some sampling for his audio backdrop; it was a departure of the static looping of hip-hop, using longer phrasing and it allowed for more dynamic instrumental performance. The sound was a lot smoother, and had a definite, laid-back, classy feel that you would associate with jazz. Couple that with Guru’s laid back delivery and flow, and you’ve got a nice combo.
I’m going to drop some YouTube videos below of some of the joints I mentioned above to pay tribute. If you’re a later fan of hip-hop and you’ve never gotten to hear Gangstarr, you’re definitely missing out. I’ll also link up a Jazzmatazz track too just so you can appreciate some of Guru’s pioneering work.
Above the Clouds feat. Inspektah Deck:
1/2 and 1/2 feat. M.O.P.
Jazzmatazz: State of Clarity feat. Common and Bob James
Rest In Peace, Guru. Hip-hop music, musicians and listeners alike, will forever thank you.