Hosts Joe Watson and Toby Brazwell take a hard look at legendary tracks of the past and present, connecting the dots on the music they sample and the songs that inspired them. Join us for Season 3, where Riffs takes a deep dive into the tragic world of 24-Carat Black, the band everyone has heard, but nobody has heard of.
“Failure is the mother of all success,” quotes multi-platinum recording artist and rapper, Armando “Pitbull” Perez. As someone who went from Miami street rapper to global brand ambassador, he fought and won the battle of ‘starting from the bottom’. Pitbull has sold more than 70 million singles, has more than 67 million digital downloads, more than nine billion YouTube views, and has over 22 million Twitter followers and 59 million followers on Facebook. He’s performed in over 50 countries for millions of people. It’s no wonder they call him Mr. Worldwide. Joe & Toby take a look at one of Pitbull’s mega hit’s “I Know You Want Me” (2009) and connects the musical dots back to one of America’s most prolific rock bands of all time.
What we geek out over in this episode: The legacy and music of Chicago, “25 Or 6 To 4” guitar chord progressions, “Street Player” by Rufus & Chaka Khan (1978), The Bucketheads “The Bomb” (1995), Nicola Fasano & Pat-Rich “75, Brazil Street” (2008), Anger Management Tour, Bad Boy Latino, and Pitbull’s achievements, charity work and even some of his stage antics.
Bonus Material: Rufus & Chaka Khan influence and contribution to music.
Joe: Hello and Welcome to Riffs on Riffs, where we explore the collision of original and sampled tracks and the artists who made them. I’m your host, Joe Watson, and I’m here with my co-host, Toby Brazwell. What’s up Toby? Toby: Not much man! Good to be here! Joe: Together, we listen to the legendary tracks and the timeless — but sometimes not-so-well-known — songs they sampled from. Toby, what are we listening to today? Toby: This is a track called “I Know You Want Me” from Pitbull. Let’s hop in the Delorean and find out what track was sampled to produce this hit. Joe: Rewind!
Toby: Joe, what are we listening to? Joe: This is the song “Street Player” by Chicago. Chicago is one of those bands that can rightly be called legendary. Formed in 1967 in Chicago, Illinois, they were originally called Chicago Transit Authority, but shortened it to Chicago after the release of their first album. Toby: Yeah, they were threatened legal action by the actual Chicago Transit Authority — I guess they didn’t want folks to get confused and start showing up at recording studios to catch the L. Joe: Toby, I know you and I are huge fans of horns in rock bands, or just horns in general. And these guys were pioneers. Though I suspect many folks are most familiar with their epic ballads like “You’re the Inspiration” or “Hard to Say I’m Sorry,” there is no question these cats could rock. Toby: No doubt, and regardless of the style, they are certified hitmakers. Chicago was the leading US singles charting group during the 1970s. They’ve had five number-one albums and 21 top-ten singles, and have sold more than 100 million records. Joe: Yep. 23 gold, 18 platinum, and 8 multi-platinum albums. Five consecutive number-one albums on the Billboard 200, 20 top-ten singles on the Billboard Hot 100. In fact, Chicago once had their entire catalog – their first seven albums – on the Billboard 200 at the same time. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
Toby: My only question is why did it take the Hall so long! Chicago has released 36(!) albums, and that’s not even including all of their live and compilation releases. We don’t have enough time to do a deep dive, but let’s take a very brief run through some of their diverse catalog. Let’s start right with their debut album and the song “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
🔊“Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?”
Joe: Interesting tidbit about this song. While it was definitely a top ten hit on both the Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts, it wasn’t actually released as a single until a couple of songs from their second album charted as hits. One of those singles was a personal favorite of mine, ironically also about time. Let’s listen to “25 or 6 to 4.”
🔊“25 or 6 to 4”
Toby: So on this show we get into sampling and interpolation of songs and music. But sometimes this can be a grey area. After all, there are only so many chords and progressions to work with, and certain ones are more pleasing than others. This song has one of those progressions, right? Joe: Yessir. Much like the ubiquitous “Smoke on the Water” from Deep Purple, this is a song that many budding guitarists first learn the power chords to. And as you say, it’s a common progression. Let’s listen to a quick mashup up a few tracks that feature the same one.
Joe: That was Led Zepplin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” The Beatle’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4,” and then Green Day’s “Brain Stew.” All very different songs that clearly make use of the same chord movements. I think sometimes we can get too caught up in the notion that “Hey, so and so stole that idea…” Toby: Totally agree. Music is a universal language, but we are using the same vocabulary words! It’s always fascinating to see how different artists take the same toolset and create very different finished products. Joe: Absolutely. Chicago’s lineup consisted of some extraordinarily talented musicians, and since it’s a large band that has counted dozens of members over the years, I’m not going to attempt to name them. Suffice to say these cats could bring the funk, as evidenced by this track off of their 3rd album. Let’s listen to the song “Free.”
Toby: Man, if that track doesn’t set your booty free, I can’t help you! Joe: Chicago made a distinct shift in their sound during the early 80’s, beginning to feature the power ballad stylings of singer and bassist Peter Cetera. This culminated in 1984 with their biggest selling album, the 6X platinum Chicago 17. It was the last album to include Cetera. who then left to begin a solo career in 1985. Toby: This album definitely features a different vibe! Where are the horns? The new sound definitely won big on the charts, however. Let’s take a listen to one of those hits, “Hard Habit to Break.”
🔊“Hard Habit to Break”
Joe: I have to admit that I prefer their earlier sound, but there is no denying that this song is high school dance worthy material. Alright, let’s dive back into our featured track, “Street Player,” off of Chicago 13.
🔊“Street Player” - Chicago
Toby: So Chicago 13 was actually their eleventh studio album. But since their 4th album was the live album “Chicago at Carnegie Hall”, and their 9th album was a greatest hits collection, chronologically, 13 makes sense. Joe: It was a tough time for the band as they were continuing to soldier on after the tragic death of founding guitarist Terry Kath, who died from an accidentally self-inflicted gun wound in January 1978. Chicago 13 was critically panned, and many thought the band was caught in between their past success and how disco and the burgeoning new wave movement were changing the popular music landscape. Toby: This album came out in 1979, so rap and hip hop were in their infancy, too. While I wouldn’t call it straight up disco, “Street Player” definitely leans that direction. The track is over 9 minutes long — plenty of time to get your hustle on the dance floor! Joe: And speaking of dance floors, this song was first recorded by an eminently danceable band, Rufus and Chaka Khan. We’ll get into them a bit more in our bonus material, but what’s interesting is that Street Player was actually co-written by two members of these bands: Keyboardist David “Hawk” Wolinski from Rufus and drummer Danny Seraphine from Chicago. Toby: Apparently they wrote a lot together. Let’s take a listen to the Rufus and Chaka Khan version of “Street Player,” from their 1978 album of the same name.
🔊“Street Player” - Rufus and Chaka Khan
Joe: It’s always fun to hear the different vibes artists can give the same song. Now let’s take a listen to a song that was one of the most popular to sample Chicago’s version of Street Player. This is the 1995 track “The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)” from The Bucketheads.
🔊“The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)”
Toby: “The Bomb” was produced by Kenny “Dope” Gonzalez, and it reached #5 on the UK singles chart and #49 on the US Billboard Hot 100. It was a #1 hit on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart. Annnnd another interesting fact — Guy Ritchie co-directed the music video. Joe: This was still a couple of years before Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, so the video doesn’t quite have that Ritchi-esque panache yet. But I love how the song title, “these sounds fall into my mind” is a mondegreen for the Street Player lyrics “street sounds swirling through my mind.” Toby: And for those of you wondering what a mondegreen is, take a listen to Episode 2 of Riffs on Riffs and we’ll tell you all about it! Alright, let’s take a listen now to the next track that samples Chicago’s “Street Player.” This is “75 Street Brazil” by Nicola Fasano and Pat Rich.
🔊“75 Street Brazil”
Joe: I couldn’t find a ton of info on either of the creators of “75 Street Brazil.” Nicola Fasano is an Italian DJ that seems to be in high demand. I’m not up on the DJ scene, so I can’t speak intelligently to this. Pat Rich doesn’t have a ton of info out on the interwebs, but it does say that he’s the one of the official DJs for a club called Jimmy’z in Monte-Carlo. That doesn’t sound like a bad gig! Toby: Not bad at all. And working with Pitbull is a pretty good gig, too. This song is clearly the music bed for our next featured track, Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me.” In an interview with MTV News, Pit had this to say about the song’s creation: “The idea for [that song] is obviously from a riddim called ‘75 Brazil Street,’ but the idea really came from
a Dominican guy, El Cata, and the other one is Omega. They’re both huge on the mambo side of things down in the Dominican Republic. So he had a record, playing around, singing, ‘I know you want me.’ So what they do is they record their records while they’re performing. So they’ll be performing at a club and improvise something and really throw it away. And I told him, ‘Hey, dog, lemme hold that.’ He ain’t even know what hit him [or how big the song would get]. I gave him a percentage for that, put it out, and now he’s like, ‘Oye, hermanito, I got these hooks. You need another hook? I’ll give you another hook. I love you, you love me. How you wanna do it?’ So he’s happy.“ Joe: Mr. Worldwide definitely mines the entire planet for inspiration. He gives credit where credit is due and mentions ”75 Street Brazil“ right at the beginning of ”I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho).“ Toby: Calle Ocho literally translated is Eight Street, so there’s a sort of Google Maps connection there as well. Calle Ocho is considered to be the nexus of Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, so Pitbull is harkening back to his Cuban roots. Joe: OK Tobe, let’s talk some more about Pitbull. Give me a little background… Toby: Pitbull’s birth name is Armando Christian Perez. Armando was born on January 15th, 1981 and after graduating from high school he decided to focus on his music carer. In 2001 he was signed to Luke Records by none other than Uncle Luke Campbell aka Luke Skywalker from the Miami hip hop group 2 Live Crew. Joe: Some of our listeners might be familiar with some of the songs and the adult themed lyrics that made Luke Campbell and 2 Live Crew popular. These guys are known for literally taking their lyrics to court to push the envelope on freedom of speech rights. Toby: Very true. Due to the nature of most of their songs, we can only play a piece of one of 2 Live Crew’s hits. This is ”Hoochie Mama" from the soundtrack for the movie Friday.
Joe: So back to Pitbull, after the deal concluded with Luke Records, he was introduced to crunk music producer, Lil John and was featured on Lil John’s LP entitled Kings of Crunk. The song was called “Pitbull’s Cuban Ride Out.” Let’s take a listen to that:
🔊“Pitbull’s Cuban Ride Out”
Toby: I love to hear early songs from artists. You can tell that he was young on the mic so to speak. But I can still hear how bad he wanted success. Everything about Pitbull says drive, even his name. When he was asked about why he picked his name he had these words to say: “The dog is too stupid to lose. And they’re outlawed in Dade County. They’re basically everything that I am. It’s been a constant fight.“ Joe: Makes sense to me. Pitbull’s debut album M.I.A.M.I was released in 2004 and the lead single, produced by Lil John and the Diaz Brothers, was called ”Culo." Let’s take a listen to that.
Toby: This song reached no 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts and number 11 on Billboard’s Hip Hop charts. Not bad for your debut single. Joe: And the fun didn’t stop there. He had several other singles that must have impressed someone because it landed him an opportunity to join the Anger Management Tour with one of your favorite MCs. Toby: You must be talking about the one and only Eminem. Joe: Exactly my friend. Toby: That tour was a pretty big deal because it featured many well known artists across several genres like Papa Roach, Limp Bizkit, DMX, Jay Z, Ludacris among others over it’s 5 year run. That’s a pretty impressive line up. Joe: Touring didn’t slow down Pitbull’s production, however. He was featured on the Ying Yang twins single called “Shake." Let’s listen to that.
Joe: Pitbull then collaborated with Sean Combs in 2005 to start Bad Boy Latino which focuses on latin hip hop, latin soul, and latin pop artists. He currently heads the A&R dept on this label. As if that wasn’t enough he still continued to release albums. Toby: His third album, entitled Boatli, was released in November of 2007 and had a single called “The Anthem” which featured Lil John. “The Anthem” was #36 on the Hot 100 and #11 on the Hot Rap Tracks. Let’s take a listen to that:
Joe: Pitbull’s fourth album, Rebelution, was released on a new label, Ultra Records, since the previous label, TVT records, went bankrupt. Weren’t we just talking bout another label going bankrupt last episode? Toby: Yes we were. Good memory my friend, but just like PM Dawn that bankruptcy only led to more hits and success. Pitbull’s first single for Ultra Records, “Krazy,” reached 30 on the top 100 charts and #11 on the Hot Rap Charts. Let’s take a listen to that:
Toby: This song was pretty well received and so was the next single, which just happens to be our featured song “I Know you want Me.” Let’s take another listen to that:
🔊“I Know You Want Me”
Joe: Great song and a great video too. This song reached #2 on the Billboard charts and the top ten on charts in the UK, Canada, Italy, and The Netherlands while claiming the #1 spot on the charts in France. Just like with so many other artists that we talked about, that success doesn’t come without an issue or two. Toby: You must be referring to the famous altercation between Pitbull and a fan. Joe: Toby please inform the listeners about what exactly happened. Toby: With pleasure. Due to it’s graphic nature, I won’t be able to quote Pitbull directly. So i will do my best to paraphrase. Here’s the situation, Pitbull’s on stage and during the first 10 minutes of his set he spots a fan making it rain close to the stage. Now I heard about this situation before, but just like with everything else you have to do some research to find out what the real deal is. Apparently Pitbull told him to stop a few times. He explained that his set is 1 hour and 15 mins and he didn’t like starting and stopping his set for anything. So after the last time, it looks like the dude stopped only to start again on the other side of the stage. Joe: It looks like what we have here is a failure to communicate. Toby: Yeah. So Pitbull brings him up on stage. Joe: Ok … i didn’t see that coming. Why did he do that? Toby: So that part always intrigued me as well. To clear this matter up, I read an interview with Pitbull and he said that he brought him up on stage to show the audience who was messing up the show for them all. The dude was cool for a minute and then started to make it rain again….. but this time…. he threw the money directly into Pitbull’s face. Joe: At this point, I think a lot of people wouldn’t turn the other cheek so to speak. Toby: Yeah. Neither did Pitbull. He clocked him in the jaw and security picked him up right after. He said it was sort of an automatic reaction- more instinct than anything. Joe: Makes sense to me. Well just like so many people in the music industry, there are a lot of artists that get a bad rap for situations like this. They often don’t hear about all of the good these people do in the community. Toby: So true! Pitbull’s a good example to illustrate this point. He actually has used his success to help those less fortunate by opening a middle and high school that is tuition free. He started the school in 2013 in Miami and now has schools in several cities across the nationwide and has a 96% graduation rate. Joe: That’s as impressive as any music award that he’s received. And by the way let’s not forget the awards this man has received in music. Toby: Tell the good people how many awards Pitbull’s has received. Joe: 142 nominations with 45 wins including a Grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative album for his 9th album, Dale, that was released in July of 2015. And although that’s pretty impressive, I also think it’s impressive how he used his private plane to transport cancer patients from Puerto Rico to the United States for treatment. Toby: That’s truly awesome man. And just for that I think he deserves another listen. In 2015 Pitbull won the iHeart Music Radio Music award for Best Collaboration for the the song “Timber” featuring Kesha. Let’s take a listen to that:
Joe: Getting back to our second featured track, “I Know You Want Me,” I found a weird connection that maybe I only find fascinating. Nicola Fasano created the “75 Brazil Street” track, and the logo designer for Chicago 13 album artwork was named Nick Fasciano. I think this is part of some Illuminati conspiracy. Toby: And I think we better move along to our bonus material before you take us too far off the deep end! Joe: Ok my friend, that’s probably a good idea. So we talked briefly about Rufus and Chaka Khan earlier in the show and their original version of “Street Player.” Let’s spend a bit more time digging into their catalog and influence. Toby: Great idea. Rufus was one of the most popular and influential funk bands of the 70’s and is famous for launching the career of Chaka Khan. The band had four consecutive number one R&B albums, ten Top 40 Pop Hits and 5 number one R&B singles. That’s a pretty good run. Joe: No doubt. Toby: In 1974, the Rags to Rufus album produced the hit “You Got the Love.” Let’s take a listen.
🔊“You Got the Love”
Joe: This one hit #1 on the Hot Soul Singles chart and #11 on the Billboard 100. Chaka Khan co-wrote this tune, guess who with? Toby: Gimme a hint. Joe: Well, let’s just say if you have a problem, or in this case, need to write a tune, who ya gonna call? Toby: Well if I have a problem, I know Vanilla Ice can solve it. Joe: Perhaps. But let’s go even more old school and maybe even a bit paranormal. Toby: Ahh. I think you are referring to Ray Parker Jr., the famed singer of Ghostbusters. I hope as they were working on this tune together they were careful not to cross streams! Joe: I think they were safe, but there was some unrest stirring. By 1975, Chaka Khan had definitely become the face of the group, as evidenced by the name of their fourth album, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan. As you might imagine, this began to cause some resentment within the band. Still, they continued to churn out the hits, including this #1 co-written by Chaka Khan and Tony Maiden. Let’s listen to “Sweet Thing.”
Toby: By 1979, the band had moved to MCA records and released their 8th album, the platinum-selling Masterjam. This was produced by the legendary Quincy Jones, so there was zero chance it was going to be anything but a huge success. Joe: While Quincy was already a well-established and successful producer at this point, I think you can definitely hear similarities in the sounds and arrangements to the work that he did with Michael Jackson. Toby: 1979 was apparently a busy year for Quincy. His first album with Michael, Off the Wall, was released in August, and Masterjam was released in November. Let’s take a listen to Rufus and Chaka Khans #1 hit from that album, “Do You Love What You Feel.”
🔊“Do You Love What You Feel”
Joe: It was a busy time for Chaka Khan. too. In 1978 she signed a solo deal with Warner Bros and released her self titled debut album, Chaka Khan. It featured her hit single “I’m Every Woman.” Let’s give that a listen.
🔊“I’m Every Woman”
Toby: This of course was later remade into another hit by Whitney Houston for The Bodyguard soundtrack, and Whitney even gives a shoutout to Chaka Khan at the end of the song. Joe: The success of her solo career and mounting tensions within the band eventually led to their separation. Chaka Khan went on to phenomenally successful career that has included 10 Grammy Awards, including for her 1985 cover of Prince’s 1979 anthem “I Feel for You.” Toby: It helps to have an all-star cast in the studio with you, and in this case that included Stevie Wonder on harmonica and that well known intro from Melle Mel of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Joe: This is one of those rhymes that will randomly play over and over in my head for no apparent reason, usually while I’m washing dishes or trying to fall asleep. I believe they call that an earworm. Anyway, Chaka Khan apparently had some issues with it initially. She says: “That’s a song I really like, and I just wanted to cover it. I came into the studio one night and my mentor (and producer) Arif Mardin said he had a surprise for me. I don’t like surprises. I came in and I hear this (voice) saying my name over and over and what he wants to do to me, and I was floored. I was so embarrassed. Arif said don’t worry, it will be a hit.”
🔊“I Feel for You”
Toby: Rufus and Chaka Khan did work together to make another significant contribution to hip hop. In 1983, they released a live album called Stompin at the Savoy, and it included a bonus track entitled “Ain’t Nobody.” Let’s listen.
Toby: This found its way onto the soundtrack album for the breakdancing movie Breakin’ — a movie that also featured the first film performance for Ice-T in the appropriately named role of Rap Talker. Joe: Alright Tobe, I think that’s about all the time we have. Quite the journey we’ve taken today. Beginning with Chicago and our first featured track, “Street Player…” Toby: …and connecting that to our second featured track, “I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)” from Pitbull. We wrapped up with some bonus material on Rufus and Chaka Khan. Joe: It’s been a fun trip! Where are we headed for our next episode? Toby: Well Joe, if you’re looking for a little bit of love, I have a Grande plan to show you The Way. Joe: Sounds like fun, I’m in! And while I appreciate your efforts, I’m betting by the end of that episode it will be obvious that I’m Still Not a Player, I just crush a lot. Alright my friend. In the meantime, let’s head out with a recent track that samples Chicago’s Street Player, this time from the French DJ Retrovision with his track “Get Up.” He gets bonus points for including the Wooh Yeah break on this one! As always, thanks for joining us.