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Nile Rodgers – Profile Of A (non) Hip Hop Producer

Nile Rodgers GuitarNot long ago we learned that legendary Chic guitarist and producer Nile Rodgers is working with equally legendary pop band Duran Duran on their latest album, expected to be released in early to mid 2015. This news once again puts Nile Rodgers, who’s coming off a wildly successful year having co-written the Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams über hit ‘Get Lucky’ right back in the forefront of the music industry’s conscious. As such, we at JP Lime Productions felt this was a prime moment to bring to focus the immeasurable impact that Nile has had on Rap music. That’s right, you read that correctly. Nile Rodgers, though not an emcee himself nor one to promote or feature Hip Hop acts has left quite the imprint on Rap music. How you ask? As one of the genre’s most sampled producers. Let’s take a closer look.

Nile Rodgers’ biggest sampling contribution to Rap came in the form of Hip Hop’s very first crossover single, the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, which borrowed its baseline from Chic’s ‘Good Times’, a smash hit in its own that he co-produced. Below we’ve provided a by no means exhaustive list of Rap songs that borrowed from Nile’s production, and while we all have our favorites, none were more instrumental (put intended) in the flourishing of Rap music and Hip Hop culture as a whole than ‘Good Times’ becoming ‘Rapper’s Delight’. We can theorize that Rap music, a budding art form in the late 70s and early 80s, would’ve come to fruition at some point without ‘Rapper’s Delight’. The fact remains however that this particular track was the masses’ introduction to what this Rap music thing was all about. The smooth and equally funky disco groove on ‘Good Times’ was perfect for the fun rhymes and animated deliveries employed by the Sugarhill Gang on ‘Rapper’s Delight’, and the end result was the birth of commercial Rap music. No longer were Rap and Hip Hop an underground movement confined to urban Northeast U.S.A. While Rap had its naysayers then (and still does today, despite the cajillion dollar industry it’s become), there were plenty who liked ‘Rapper’s Delight’ enough to start paying attention and engaging themselves in the genre, whether as fans, artists, radio Dee Jays, or music industry types looking for the next big money-maker. For all of this, we can largely thank Mr. Rodgers.

That said, taking a quick look at the below list of notable Rap songs that have borrowed from Nile Rodgers speaks for itself. With ‘Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems’, ‘Notorious’, and ‘Let’s Dance’ among them, one can argue that Rodgers not only had a lot to do with Hip Hop’s growth, but specifically the success of Bad Boy Records in the mid-90s as well. Why does a man who’s worked with notable international acts such as Chic, Madonna, Duran Duran, Diana Ross, David Bowie, and INXS become one of the most sampled producers in Rap music? Is his core sound uniquely Hip Hop? The answer to the first question is simple; his music is good. Some of it is very funky, sometimes it’s soulful, but the constant is that he makes damn good tunes. As far as whether his music is uniquely Hip Hop? No, but what exactly is? Let’s explore a bit.

Nile Rodgers GrammyRap music, from a pure beats standpoint, independent of the lyrics, has taken on many different sounds over the years. We alluded to ‘Rapper’s Delight’ as being groovy and funk based earlier, but a lot of Rap songs in the 80s incorporated heavy drum patterns, often laced with scratching and James Brown vocal samples. Keyboards and synthesizers would eventually find their way into Rap music’s melodies, and who can forget that Rap / Rock fusion sound that Run DMC made famous. And that’s just the 80s. Dr. Dre would revolutionize the G-Funk sound in the early to mid 90s, incorporating P-Funk style baselines laced with masterful use of the worm whistle. Wu-Tang’s RZA brought a raw, gritty sound to the genre, while Gangstar’s DJ Premier excelled at sample based, mid-tempo beats that sounded fantastic under Guru and Nas vocals, among several others. We can go on and on listing influential producers and sounds; J. Dilla, Kanye West, Swizz Beats, Alchemist, DJ Mustard, etc… Truth be told, doing so would just the tip of the iceberg, as emcees have rapped over everything from reggae and dancehall grooves, to trap beats, to EDM, to country influenced tracks, beats containing Latin rhythms and then some. The point here is that Rap music has no ‘core sound’ in the traditional sense of that phrase. As long as the beat has a meter, one can rap to it, and over the course of Hip Hop’s evolution, countless sounds have been used to make Rap songs.

As such, asking whether or not Nile Rodgers has been sampled so often in Hip Hop because his sound is uniquely or even loosely reminiscent of Rap’s core sound is irrelevant. He makes good music. That’s why the songs that borrow from his production tend to do so well, plain and simple. With that said, we at JP Lime Productions salute Nile Rodgers for providing the groundwork for some of the most enjoyable and most memorable Rap songs the genre’s ever known, and offer our readers the following playlist of Nile’s original work alongside the tracks that sampled from them. Enjoy the playlist.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Special thanks to @guaterican26 for her invaluable input in researching this post.

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