Thursday, March 25, 2010

March 25: Tone Lōc, "Wild Thing"

Artist: Tone Lōc
Song: "Wild Thing"
Album: Lōc-ed After Dark
Year: 1989

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In an era when an overwhelming majority of hip-hop music is little more than a dull, uninspired rhyme about drinking and women or a recycled, bass-heavy beat, one must look to the "old school" not only to understand the roots of the genre, but for a reminder of the quality of music which the genre once held as a standard.  During this so-called "golden age" of hip-hop, an artist was forced to rely almost completely on their lyrical talent, and this amazing display of skill is one of the main reasons why a majority of the songs of this era remain standards of the genre to this day.  Similarly, the names of the emcees that recorded these legendary songs stand as some of the most highly respected rappers in history, and among them is a man who perhaps just as well known for his voice as he is for the songs he created: Tone Lōc.  Responsible for two of the most iconic hip-hop songs in history, his more risqué lyrics were counteracted by his raspy, yet relaxed delivery style, and his 1989 debut, Lōc-ed After Dark, is an absolute classic of the genre.  While many do not realize it, the fact of the matter is, Tone Lōc stands in many ways as the "first" West Coast rapper to gain commercial success, and with this in mind, he becomes an even more important part of the rise of hip-hop on a global scale.  Though it was not perhaps his original intention, Tone Lōc gave the world one of the most memorable songs of any genre when he released the first single of his debut record, and the song almost instantly became a success, the unmistakable classic single, "Wild Thing."

During this era of hip-hop, the idea of paying royalties to the artists that were sampled on songs had not yet become a normal practice, and it is one of the many reasons why the beats and sounds of this period are so distinctive.  Truth be told, "Wild Thing" is not only the debut for Tone Lōc, but also for the gentlemen who produced the song, a pair of up and coming musicians only known as The Dust Brothers. Though their later work would be far more aggressive and electronically based, on "Wild Thing," the duo shows that they have an amazing talent for working samples and creating an amazing mood.  Then again, when you are sampling a song that is already legendary to begin with, one can make the case that it makes the job a bit easier.   Containing extremely famous drum and guitar riffs, one can quickly pick out that nearly the entire musical backing for the song is derived from the Van Halen classic, "Jamie's Cryin'."  Truth be told, as were a majority of the samples at the time, the band was not paid what would be considered a "fair amount" at the time, and initially, it was only $5,000, as Van Halen's management did not believe the song would be a success.  Though it was later settled in court, the riffs are in many ways just as important as the lyrics, and the combination of these sounds propelled "Wild Thing" all the way to the second spot on the charts, selling well over two million copies.

With the music and production both going far beyond a majority of the songs at the time, Tone Lōc himself delivers on an equally impressive level, and he was almost instantly a star of the hip-hop world.  Tone Lōc's voice is wonderfully distinctive, as there is a certain raspy, gravely quality, and the fact that he is clearly not "pushing" to get the lyrics out gives a great contrast in styles.  Truth be told, there are few emcees in history that bring as relaxed, yet powerful a delivery as Tone Lōc, and it is one of the reasons why his songs appealed to hip-hop fans across the board.  Yet even with his fantastic delivery style, there is little question that it was likely the content of "Wild Thing" that made it a crossover success, and why it remains a classic more than twenty years later.  Along with Tone Lōc and The Dust Brothers, one more artist makes his debut appearance on Lōc-ed After Dark, and that is the man who is credited as the writer of "Wild Thing," another rising emcee who goes by the name of Young M.C.  Almost every lyric of the song has become a classic over the decades, and the songs' opening line of, "Workin' all week, nine to five for my money...when the weekend comes, I go get live with the honies..." remains one of the most borrowed and revered lyrics ever penned.  Leaving little to the imagination, one can also make the case that it was this song that firmly cemented the term "wild thing" as a euphemism for sexual intercourse.  Though it was certainly used in this manner before Tone Lōc's classic song, it was largely due to the track that it became a part of the world-wide vernacular.

Though "Wild Thing" was kept out of the top spot on the charts by a flash-in-the-pan pop-artist, the fact of the matter is, it was one of the highest selling songs of the year and remains one of the most iconic tracks ever released.  Borrowing a page from the legendary Rick Rubin, the song revolves around a hard-rock style sample, and one can make the case that "Wild Thing" is the best re-working of a previous hit that has ever been recorded.  Molding Van Halen's "Jamie's Cryin'" into something almost completely new, producers The Dust Brothers found the perfect vehicle to compliment the songs' provocative lyrics.  Capped off by the smooth, measured vocal delivery of Tone Lōc, "Wild Thing" is without question one of the most instantly recognizable songs of any genre in music history.  The fact that more than twenty years later, the song still holds up against current releases serves as a testament to the overall quality of the song, as well as marking one of the most pivotal moments in the history of hip-hop.  Paving the way for nearly every artist that followed, Lōc-ed After Dark was only the second rap record ever to top the charts, and this was due to the fact that in every aspect, both the album and the single were truly unforgettable.  While trends throughout every genre come and go, there are a handful of songs that never lose their impact as the years go by.  These classic songs find new life in every generation, and few are as memorable or as outright fun as Tone Lōc's 1989 ode to promiscuity, the iconic song, "Wild Thing."

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