Thursday, March 16, 2017

Jackson band's contribution to early hip-hop

Jacob Threadgill writes a funktastic piece for the Clarion Ledger about "Get Up and Dance" by Freedom. Freedom featured on drums the current Hinds County Sheriff, Victor Mason. And the music was a source of inspiration and sampling for early hip-hop and more recent music. The band is reuniting for this year's Mal's St. Paddy's Parade. Threadgill writes:
In the mid- to late-1970s, Jackson was home to one of the region’s hotbeds of funk music. In a crowded field of talented bands that included Sho-Nuff, Wynd Chimes, Natural High and Magnafunk, Freedom rose above the rest with its tight rhythm section and charisma of lead singer Joe Leslie Short. Not long after graduating from Callaway High School, Mason was recruited by Wingfield alums Caleb Armstrong (guitar) and Ray Smith (bass) to form the foundation of Freedom in 1976 while they were students at Jackson State. Mason also enlisted fellow Sonic Boom members David Thigpen and Robert Black on saxophone, keyboardist Larry Addison and multi-instrumentalist Adolph Adams. After performing showcases for both CBS and Motown Records, Freedom signed a deal with Jackson’s Malaco Records to release their first album, “Farther Than Imagination,” in 1979. A&R representative Dave Clark was instrumental in getting the album’s second single, “Get Up and Dance,” on the radio and in clubs in New York City. Freedom didn’t understand the impact “Get Up and Dance” was having on the emerging genre of hip-hop until a concert in Hialeah, Florida, with rapper Kurtis Blow. Blow’s manager, Russell Simmons (of Def Jam fame), came into Freedom’s dressing room to ask if it was OK for Blow to perform over the track. “Russell explained that our song was the hottest track in New York City,” Smith said. “Kids were walking around with radios on their shoulder, blasting our music.” The trend didn’t escape the city’s guru of hip-hop, Joseph Saddler, better known as Grandmaster Flash. Flash and the Furious Five renamed “Get Up and Dance” after the band, and “Freedom” became a hit for Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five, reaching No. 19 on Billboard’s R&B charts. Unlike the first breakthrough hip-hop hit, Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” which was ghostwritten and co-opted Chic’s “Good Times,” Freedom had respect for Grandmaster Flash, until the track listed seven songwriters, none of which were Smith or Armstrong. Malaco sued the Sugar Hill label to include Armstrong and Smith as songwriters, becoming one of the first cases of copyright infringement and samples in hip-hop. According to, various parts of “Get Up and Dance” have been used on at least 52 songs. SWV’s “Anything” is on the “Above the Rim” soundtrack. Beck used its horns on the track “Novacane.” The kazoo part, which Armstrong and Smith thought of while watching SEC football cheerleaders, has become one of the most enduing parts on the song. "Get Up and Dance" has officially been used by the likes of John Legend, Black Eyed Peas, Jurassic 5 and many others. Even Japanese hip-hop group Scha Dara Parr has used “Get Up and Dance” for its biggest hit. The first edition of the arcade game Dance, Dance Revolution featured the song. The “Amen Break” is the most famous sample. The six-second drum solo from The Winstons’ “Amen, Brother” is the basis for entire subcultures of electronic music, but because of publishing deals, the copyright owner has never received royalties for the track.
Read the full piece in the Clarion Ledger: "Hinds Sheriff reunites funky Freedom, riffs on musical secret." Entertaining and informative.