Journal: News & Comment

Tuesday, April 26, 2005
# 10:55:00 PM:

Amerie's "1 Thing" samples "Oh, Calcutta!" by the Meters

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Many of us who grew up before hip-hop became mainstream (I'm at the tail end of that group—Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy hit just as I finished high school) have a subconscious disdain of sample-based music, especially if, like me, you're a musician. You might find yourself thinking that songs based on samples are somehow not "real" enough.

Well, that's crap. Yesterday, my wife bought the song "1 Thing" by Amerie (you can listen at iTunes—Canada or U.S.). Producer Rich Harrison constructed the entire track from almost nothing but two drum-and-guitar loops and Amerie's vocals. And it's awesome.

That's because he picked one of the best possible sources: the huge, slamming drum break is a three-second slice from New Orleans funk legends the Meters (now known, with only half the original musicians, as the Funky Meters). It features Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste on drums and Leo Neocentelli on guitar, and you can find it around 1:41 of their version of "Oh, Calcutta!" (yes, from the infamous stage musical) on the Look-Ka Py Py album.

Now, that could have been enough on its own, but the Harrison does a brilliant job of chopping up and recombining a couple of those Meters samples with bongos, a bit of keyboard wash, and fantastic high-range singing from Amerie, as well as her "whoah-oh-wa-oh" background vocals. (The rap by Eve is good too.) It's not so much a song as a series of greasy, impeccably assembled, dance-inducing hunks of groove that you can't get out of your head—and don't want to.

It went straight onto my iPod, and I've found myself air-drumming to it all day even when I wasn't actually listening to it. Also, I was thinking that Zigaboo Modeliste may be the coolest drummer's name ever. He's got, even.

NOTE: You can hear an NPR interview with the original Meters lineup before what was billed as their final reunion performance—just last week!—in New Orleans.


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