A roommate first introduced me to hip-hop in the late 80s as he unpacked his military issue canvas duffle bag and set his clothes in his locker. The new guy, Thomas, was black and from the Bronx. Tougher than Leather had just been released and he had his boom-box set to a too-low 3;
I asked our new roommate for a smoke (he also introduced me to Newport cigarettes), and told him I couldn’t hear the music. He looked at the other guys then turned the knob to 7. Soon it was just the two of us in the room.
The lyrical assault, the bass driven beats, and the turntable scratching turned the music I’d previously known on its head. Thomas then put on “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel,” a song made completely from samples of other songs. “It wasn’t so different,” I told my other roommates when they questioned how I could listen to that “noise.” Rock and roll distorted the sound of the acoustic guitar by running it through an amplifier before putting it on a record; the next logical step was to distort the sound of the record itself.
Like a lot of people, my roommates believed that nothing good could come from mixing and matching and cutting and scratching of music that was originally performed by people playing instruments. And over the years, as the musical spectrum called hip-hop has grown, and more importantly, as the promise of big, fast cash has grown, those views have likely become more entrenched. That makes sense: if you’re not into hip-hop then the version you’re most likely to hear is the one in commercials and award shows, songs like Puff Daddy’s “I’ll Be Missing You,” a song with music that resonates due solely to the riff from The Police.
Four decades on, the influence of hip-hop sampling can be heard in veins of the collagists: musicians who use sampling software, turntables, and instruments to create completely new music. Musicians such as Flying Lotus break samples down into hundredths of a second, rearrange, and put them back together. Bands such as Fresh Millions use samples, electronic sounds, and live instruments to create driving, compelling dance music. The Austin based trio layers melodies upon countermelodies, an approach that in other hands all too often becomes plodding and weighty. The music of Fresh Millions never falls into that trap as keyboards and bass and polyrhythmic drumming pushes the music forward while filling the dance floor. Their music is fun and fresh and will make you move.
Fresh Millions’ self-titled debut album was released November 23, 2010, on fellow Austinite Butcher Bear’s [iN]Sect Records.
Check this video of Freshmillions at Beauty Bar.
2. The Helicopter
4. The Million Dollar Bill (part 1)
5. The Million Dollar Bill (part 2)
7. Step by Step
8. Just One Word (feat. Charlie)