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Black Sabbath and hip-hop

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Rebuilding my music collection from scratch has had unintended benefits. One is the chance to revisit classics. When I had every album I ever wanted, classics sometimes got lost in the shuffle. You think you know a record, so you don’t feel the need to hear it again. I resolved not to make that mistake this time. What better place to start than year zero, Black Sabbath?

My main impression this time around was how “black” it sounds. (I won’t discuss the record in full, as there will be chances for that with its upcoming double-disc reissue and 40th anniversary next year.) It is essentially a heavy blues record. I once pointed out the funkiness of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath; someone else compared Sabbath to the Meters. The funk is not so much on display here, but on “Wicked World”, Bill Ward, who grew up with jazz, swings like a mother.

My other main impressions were hip-hop samples. Enough time has passed so that not only has Black Sabbath become iconic, so have songs that sample it. (Black Sabbath’s other records have also been sampled. For brevity’s sake, I will focus only on Black Sabbath. I will also omit The Beatnuts’ “Reign of the Tec”, which samples only a snippet of Tony Iommi’s “Wicked World” solo, and Busta Rhymes’ “Blackout”, which merely replays the riff from “Black Sabbath”.)

Black Sabbath – The Wizard
Cypress Hill – I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That

The first is Cypress Hill’s “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That”, from 1993’s Black Sunday. As one commentator put it, “Las armónicas son de Black Sabbath!!!” (“The Wizard”, specifically.) As we know from their awful rap metal later efforts, Cypress Hill were down with the metal. DJ Muggs grew up on Zeppelin and Sabbath before discovering hip-hop, and the group has covered “War Pigs” and “N.I.B.” live. (The thought makes me shudder.) Even the video for “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That”, with its skulls, fire, and graveyard, is kind of metal.

Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Ice-T – Midnight

The second is Ice-T’s “Midnight”, from 1991’s O.G. Original Gangster. It puts the best riff ever (“Black Sabbath”) over the best drums ever (Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks”). With its tense plot and vivid imagery, “Midnight” is one of the best storytelling songs ever made. Ice-T’s acting skills are, to use a ’90s phrase, in full effect. He has had many metal moments – Body Count (bad, funny), collaborations with Slayer and Six Feet Under (bad, not funny), talking head on Cannibal Corpse’s Centuries of Torment DVD (good, funny), cameo alongside the Ugly Kid Joe singer on Motörhead’s “Born to Raise Hell” (just plain bizarre). “Midnight” is by far his best.

– Cosmo Lee

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