Tucked away amongst the 1537 apples of my eye are This DJ and I Shot The Sheriff 12″s by Warren G. Now, I’m no rock snob, hip hop gained a massive ‘in’ with me thanks to the brilliant collision that was Def Jam (I mean, come on! ‘Rock the Bells’!) and I’ve always liked angry music and so Ice-T, NWA and Ice Cube’s grumpier gangster moments have always been fine with me* – seeing Ice-T’s Bodycount in Bradford in 1993 was a thrilling, scary experience. Then interesting things started happening on the arty fringes, people like DC Basehead, The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, Paris, The Goats and Digable Planets made great interesting LPs and I always thought sampling was a brilliant creative tool in the right hands, but then Warren G spoilt it all for me.
In my memory it happened on a bus in Leeds, there was a guy in front of me holding a copy of Regulate…G Funk Era, which I’d been reading about, apparently it was like Ice Cube but relaxed, hmm, worth a go? Anyway, I got given a copy of This DJ in October 1994 by a friend who reviewed records and it was … okay. A good, well-produced sound and I still like the Remix version, but it wasn’t what I wanted from hip hop. As I think I’ve said elsewhere I like my rappers to sound like they’re working up a sweat at least and that was certainly not going on there.
Fast forward to February 1997 and I was sent I Shot the Sheriff to review – Hip hop was already swarming with lazy-ass variations on Warren G’s sound by then, but by the wrath of Crom! what the hell was going on here?! Basically, rather than find, mine and refine a cool sample, maybe a bit of the JBs, or a forgotten bassline from an obscure 70’s funk release, what we had here, particularly on the Godawful ‘What’s Love Got to do With it’ was taking something as mainstream, but hooky, as you could find, unbolting a bit of its superstructure and floating it out to sea crewed by some feeble platitudes rapped over the top. This was horrible. I actually prefer Eric Clapton’s cover of ‘I Shot the Sheriff’ to this one. There said it. Drokk! it’s not even a good Bob Marley song!
Okay, okay I know deep down it’s not really his fault and plenty of more influential dudes were at it too (Mogwai did a track called ‘Puff Daddy/Antichrist’ …), but I blame Warren G anyway. The track ‘Regulate’ is a B-side on ‘…sheriff’ and I have to say I really dislike it, there’s something lazy about it and its’ attitude to bloodshed that I just can’t relate to, which repels me in a way that similar tales from Ice-T never did**.
So the prosecution rests – I blame Warren G, despite knowing he didn’t really do it, or at least not without accomplices and because he committed the heinous crime of sneaking two of his records into my collection which I’m far too weak-willed to get rid of. Guilty as charged – I consider myself regulated.
*although certain bits of their LPs made me squirm in a way that only a true middle-class white liberal can when confronted with really unpalatable sentiments from someone they’d like to like. I did once try to write a song called ‘The Squirm’, which began very promisingly with ‘Come on everybody do the squirm…’, but this great contribution to culture was abandoned when I could only rhyme it with ‘perm’ or ‘fern’ – still, it would have been great, obviously.
**he always said tracks like ‘Midnight’ were meant to be listened to as urban horror movies anyway, I think it’s this basic show-business awareness that keeps his stuff more palatable to me.