It all boils down to the endless possibilities that sound offers us. Maybe we learned from nature, because nature is an accomplished musician. Sea breezes, bird chirps, cricket shrieks, a fallen tree that no human was around to hear make its last splash, a volcano popping off— I’m talking about the original bangin’ beats right there. Somebody famously said that the hills are alive with the sound of music. Said individual wasn’t bullshitting.
In nature, the duty of sound is to represent the life force of the immediate environment. This is why hip-hop is so appealing: The sound and culture are a reflection of and a reaction to their immediate surroundings. When you listen to Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, you hear sirens and air-raid alarms booming behind Chuck D’s growl, the way you would hear Sitting Bull’s wail accompanied by hawks and stampeding bison on the Lakota plains. The Bomb Squad — the chief architects of that classic PE sound — was referencing the chaos of everyday inner-city life in their fearless narratives. Most bomb squads deactivate bombs; Hank and Keith Shocklee and Eric “Vietnam” Sadler dropped them on our heads.
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