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Some Ol’ Terminator Shit

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“This is my baby. This is one of those joints I’ve heard in my head from time to time, (crazy right?), but could never duplicate. Until now. Done with hi-hat from a 909, an oscillator, a metronome click for a kick drum and the magnificent Triton keyboard and there u have it. Reminds me of some ol’ Terminator shit.”-J Dilla on ‘B.B.E (Big Booty Express)’

Brad Fiedel’s score for ‘The Terminator’ is one of the most identifiable scores in modern movies, which is really weird when you think about it, because it’s a sorta super-minimal electronic score that if not accompanied by great action scenes, normal people would never give a second thought. This is one of the most interesting things about movie scores; because they act as “background music”, they can do some really weird and experimental stuff and totally get away with it. In that way, it is similar to rap music which to so many, is still either only pop music or silly party music and as a result, Timbaland can drop baby sounds and blah blah blah and they get away with it because no one is listening for it to be “weird” or whatever. If you call it “minimalist electronic”, people won’t listen; if you call it “the score to ‘The Terminator”, it’s a modern Hollywood classic!

I’ve picked my two favorite tracks from ‘The Terminator’ score, the highly-identifiable ‘Main Theme’ and ‘Tunnel Chase’, which has this sounds-like-ass percussion, this super-cheesy but great ‘Owner of Lonely Heart’-ish synth stabs, and gurgling synths…they seemed to have a big influence on Dilla…

-‘Main Theme’ by Brad Fiedel off ‘Terminator OST’
-‘Tunnel Chase’ by Brad Fiedel off ‘Terminator OST’.

-‘Go Hard’ by Q-Tip off ‘Amplified’ (Produced by Dilla): When I recently re-discovered this album, I was struck by how weird it is and how my perception of it when it came out, as some kind of sell-out album was really knee-jerk. Just the prevalance of electronics probably made me blow it off- just as now the same is done to so many Southern producers- but I feel even dumber about myself because this album is kinda overtly bizarre and electronic. On the first track, you get about 18 seconds of electronic pulse (the same length sustained on ‘Go Hard’) and a couple of other tracks go pretty deep into this style. It’s great the way ‘Go Hard’ begins with these very ‘Terminator’ pulses and then the beat drops and Q Tip starts rapping and it sounds like every other track on ‘Amplified’ but Dilla does a cool thing of bringing the pulses back for the chorus and you begin to hear them hiding in the background of the rest of the beat…really great.

-‘B.B.E (Big Booty Express)’ by J Dilla off ‘Welcome 2 Detroit’: This song is presented as a kind of rework of Kraftwerk’s ‘Trans Europe Express’ but ‘B.B.E’, like Dungeon Family’s ‘Trans DF Express’ (I never understood why it wasn’t Trans Dungeon Express, but oh well), is a slight homage to the Electronic classic turned early hip-hop sampling staple but more just an excuse to do some serious electronic shit on a hip-hop album. It also touches on Dilla’s Detroit influences, especially 80s Detroit techno, which has some of its roots in Kraftwerk and like that subgenre, Dilla grabs electronic throbs and robotic rhythms but makes them a little warmer and danceable. Kraftwerk were purposefully calculated and intellectual, in part as a parody of Germanic coldness, but they really did seem to occupy a weird contempt/love of dance music (see: ‘Showroom Dummies’) that Americans who gleaned their influence don’t have. It’s interesting that while ‘B.B.E’ is Kraftwerk “in spirit”, the only part it outright swipes is the delivery of the chorus…those brief pauses between words. In that sense, it’s right in-line with most rap sampling, grabbing the melody from a past classic and taking it somewhere newer and weirder…It’s telling that in Dilla’s discussion of the song (quoted earlier in the post) he doesn’t reference Kraftwerk but does mention its connections to ‘The Terminator’ theme; Maybe because the ‘Trans Europe Express’ connection is super-obvious but also because the song has the tangible menace and arpeggiated lines of the music from ‘The Terminator’.

-‘Black Terminator’ by Cyrus tha Great off ‘A Kite to Dilla’: This indie producer crafted a pretty nice beat-tape in the style of Dilla and manages an appropriate homage. ‘Black Terminator’ has less to do with the side of Dilla that conjures up images of head-wraps and poetry readings than the side that made stuff that sounded like “that ol’ Terminator shit”. The title ‘Black Terminator’, conjures up images of some kind of bizarro world, lower-budget exploitation version of ‘Terminator’, starring like Carl Weathers or something, in the vein of 70s blaxploitation stuff like ‘Black Caesar’, ‘Blackenstein’, or ‘Dr. Black & Mr. Hyde.’ and that sort of works, as the song is a little less rigid and rhythmic than the Terminator theme. Cyrus’ sorta off-beat beat and some really simple synth-lines that play over and over and manage to capture some of the hypnotic qualities of Dilla’s sparer beats and still resemble the Fiedel score.

Written by Brandon

November 12th, 2007 at 5:04 am

Posted in J-Dilla, films

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