David Banner & DJ Shadow

T.I.'s "Rubberband Man" was my first introduction to the genius of David Banner. The initial hookiness of the song comes from the infectious organ riff (carnival-esque?) and effective use of children singing the chorus (see "Paper Planes," MIA). In the intervening years, though, I've gained a deeper appreciation for why this track has remained in and out of various mp3 players / computer hard drives / and mix cd's I've owned. It's the production, and more specifically, it's Banner's production flourishes that elevate the song to a status above simple pop detritus. 

Strip away T.I.'s (more than adequate) lyrical delivery, the dizzying organs, and the chanting kids, and you're left with one hell of a dense layering of drum tracks sequenced to within inches of their very lives. It's quite fascinating to me: here you have a collection of generic drum and percussion sounds that anyone can make with even a basic Casio keyboard (and much respect to Banner for repping the MPC drum machine in the video that he did actually use), yet the multiple drum lines twist and weave atop each other to form something wholly unique and precise-sounding. Meanwhile, the overall effect of all these drums melds into an irresistably head-nodding rhythm. 

This focus on and understanding of this particularly southern percussive tradition has helped me understand the musical development of another talented producer-musician: DJ Shadow. Both artists are renowned for their attention to sonic detail, and both are equally adept at the type of complex, syncopated drum patterns and rhythms that reward repeated and attentive listening. 

Reflecting on this now, it's somewhat less jarring to contemplate a Banner-Shadow musical pairing (2006's "Seein Thangs" -- although there's still something so unintentionally comical about Banner's intro, 'DJ Shadow up in this motherfucker!' -- but I digress...)

Compare the drums on both tracks. You'll notice the same type of syncopation and digitized beats layered on top of each other like so many bricks on mortar. Both tracks are hard driving and pounding, but they utilize this density of production for different effect. In "Rubberband Man," Banner's drums are layered for rhythmic effect, each measure bouncing happily off the other creating an endlessly danceable loop. Shadow uses the same production trick for the opposite effect: "Seein Thangs" is menacing, oppressive, and paranoid--the drums churning under a dreary synth riff and ghostly choir (the "Rubberband Man" children's choir as ethereal Katrina victims?? Hmm...)

I would posit here that Banner's flow (an angry stream of staccato barks and growls) is so perfectly in tune with the track because of the similar musical tastes of the two collaborators. And while on the surface it might seem an odd pairing it ultimately works because of the power that music has to transcend everything on that surface level.

Bonus note: At about 1:55 into "Seein Thangs," Banner has a line about people being too busy on the internet, and about putting LoJack in our kids' necks. Right as he's saying "necks" Shadow drops a tiny snippet of dial-up modem noise that encapsulates everything I'm trying to say about sonic density and attention to detail. I love that random modem noise.



Stroker Ace said...

I don’t love either of those songs, but I wanted to comment on the modem sound drop. I like it, but it made me question how much longer that noise is going to be ingrained in pop culture. A decade ago everyone knew that sound. Does a 13 year old still know the dial tone modemy sound? If so I think it’s only because it’s been used in a lot of songs from the 90s (I can think of 2 off the top of my head). Shadow does get the credit (?) of being the guy to use it most recently. If I was a DJ I’d drop telegraph sounds in my song (clickity-click-click). But I do like the sample because it’s used subtly and isn’t invasive to the song. Is there a phrase for that thing that some musicians do where in between every line, or whatever you would call the “take a breath pause” in technical music terms, you throw in some sound effect, noise, or a decreased volume response to the last line? I was recently listening to the Slim Shady album for the first time in a while, and I noticed that in between almost EVERYTHING Eminem says, there is some sort of noise or wacky sound effect. I had never really noticed it before, but once I realized it was there it was all I could listen to. (Re-listen to My Name Is if you don’t know what I’m talking about). I guess it’s a prime example of overproduction, and I give DJ Shadow credit for not overproducing (which may be the only time that sentence has ever been written).

deepcomputerblue said...

i would call those 'fills.' that's a non-technical, semi-made up term, but that's what i'd call it. and in the case of eminem, it'd be that he employs liberal use of fills, both vocal and non. also, what's with all this dj shadow hate??