Saturday, October 23, 2010

October 23: Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock, "It Takes Two"

Artist: Rob Base And DJ E-Z Rock
Song: "It Takes Two"
Album: It Takes Two
Year: 1988

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There was a time when hip-hop music had very little to do with drugs, guns, or money, and it genre itself was more about having a good time or raising ones' place within society.  In modern times, songs with such a subject are often termed as "alternative" hip-hop, and yet it is within this style that the sound itself began.  From the early days, when hip-hop was the sound of block parities and a new era of social change, there was almost always a sense of positivity or a group atmosphere, and this was much of the draw of the earliest singles in the genre.  As hip-hop began to rise and fuse into the mainstream, it was this sound that served as the backbone for many of the biggest singles in the genres' history.  Then of course, there was the duo from Harlem, New York, that completely changed the genre and released one of, if not the greatest single in the entire history of hip-hop music.  Before this single, few knew of emcee Rob Base and his partner, DJ E-Z Rock, and yet within their first album, it sounds as if they'd perfected their style years before, and the record sounds like one made by long-time hip-hop veterans.  Bringing together all of the elements, a great beat, perfect samples, an emcee with a smooth, solid voice, and superb lyrical work, there is nothing that could have prepared the world for the arrival of Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's monumental 1988 single, "It Takes Two."

In many ways, "It Takes Two" is the epitome of teamwork within a song, as both Rob Base and E-Z Rock's contributions are absolutely and equally essential to the songs' success.  From a musical viewpoint, few songs of any genre are as instantly recognizable as "It Takes Two," as the samples and break-beats constructed by DJ E-Z Rock stand today as some of the finest and most infectious.  The song itself is based around a sample from Lyn Collins' 1972 song, "Think (About It)," and this is from where the song takes its unforgettable chorus, as well as namesake.  However, this is where "It Takes Two" separates itself from most hip-hop singles, as DJ E-Z Rock does not excessively loop the single, making it into the base for the song as is usually the case.  He instead places it briefly and perfectly into the song, and lets his own musical arrangement work remain the core of the songs' sound.  It is perhaps due to this ideal balance that made "It Takes Two" such a smash success, and one can point to the song as one of the most important crossover singles in history, though in reality, it barely even broke the Top Forty on the singles charts.  This seems almost unfathomable, as in modern times, the moment the song comes on, it still has the ability to light up any room, and this is the final piece that proves the true musical genius that was achieved in all areas on "It Takes Two."

With DJ E-Z Rock creating a truly extraordinary musical background, there was nothing more emcee Rob Base had to do than simply be himself on the microphone.  Though the phrase has been used countless times over the decades, there are few better examples of an emcee's delivery truly sounding effortless than one finds on "It Takes Two."  Choosing to rhyme about having a good time and doing nothing more than enjoying a party and the presence of others, Rob Base even calls out the then-rising trend in hip-hop when he rhymes, "...don't smoke buddha, can't stand sess..."  Though there is a laid-back mood to his vocals, they are delivered rapidly and with a great deal of energy.  In many ways, this clashing of styles within his voice is what makes "It Takes Two" such a classic.  Furthermore, the clarity and pace with which Rob Base rhymes makes it easy for anyone to pick up the lyrics, and this fact is what has turned the song into an all-out party anthem over the decades.  Building on this thought, there are few songs from any point in history that have as memorable an opening verse as when Rob Base delivers the lyrics, "...I'm not internationally known, but I'm known throughout the microphone..."  The fact that the line can carry people away into a far more positive, festive mood even more than twenty years after it was first released is a testament to just how timeless the song has become, and in turn what an extraordinary achievement one finds within "It Takes Two."

Serving as the final verification as to the overall impact and timeless nature of "It Takes Two," since its initial release, the song has been sampled and lifted into countless other musical efforts across a number of different genres.  From Snoop Dogg to Girl Talk to Black Eyed Peas, it is almost impossible to note all of the different types when the song as been sampled, and it has also appeared in a number of movies, TV shows, and video games.  All this from a song that barely charted as a single, yet stands today with an unquestionable status of "all time classic."  It is this juxtaposition of facts that proves the fact that the success of a song is not always an indicator of its greatness or influence, as there are many today who still point to "It Takes Two" as the greatest hip-hop single in history.  It is not hard to justifiy such an honor in this case, as the work of both members of the group is nothing short of superb, and the combined product perfectly walks the line between using samples and creating original material.  The way DJ E-Z Rock is able to create such an infectious beat around the Lyn Collins sample is truly second to none, and Rob Base's unmistakable voice over-top catapults the song into a category all its own.  Truth be told, few songs in history have come off as perfectly in every aspect as one finds here, and that is much the reason why Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's 1988 single, "It Takes Two" remains a paragon of hip-hop more than two decades later.

1 comment:

Matthew J. Harris said...

You know this is one of the greatest songs of all time because you find yourself thinking "Hell, yeah!" every time you hear it.