99 Problems and a Big Fire Ain’t One
The Black Album came out on a Friday - three weeks early due to a leak. It was a bittersweet moment for Jay-Z fans across the world seeing as though it was advertised as his final album before retiring. No need for suspense, because we all now what happened next... the retirement was short lived, thank the Rap Gods. We are still living in the era of that reversed decision, giving us hits for more than a decade - particularly every Bey and Jay collaboration from Drunk in Love to the On the Run II World Tour. But the Black Album left its mark with the controversial hit single “99 Problems,” and that’s our lead for this episode of Riffs on Riffs.
The song snagged a pounding drum beat, provided by mega-hit Producer Rick Rubin and his trademark sound. From there, Joe and Toby trace this infamous drum beat back to the 80’s where big hair and music videos made a splash, or even sunk. Either way, it’s a beat that has been sampled over 280 times in rock, hip-hop and beyond. With the help of Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and many more, the drum riff that shook the 80’s got the credit it finally deserved.
What we geek out over in this episode: bad music videos, Gremlins, answer songs, Jay-Z singles, “Mississippi Queen”, Rick Rubin, and bongos.
Bonus Material: NAS “Hip Hop is Dead,” Iron Butterfly, Incredible Bongo Band “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” and DJ Danger Mouse’s The Grey Album.