The Booty-Bass Continuum
by Mosi Reeves | June 21, 2013
Bass music has been a part of hip-hop culture ever since it transitioned from disco novelty raps to a full-blown electro kingdom with Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock." Yet the sound that marks rap music's first great evolution has subsequently been viewed as lowly and even nastily ignorant. It's a historical inaccuracy that is only now being corrected, thanks to recent endeavors like Red Bull Music Academy's "United States of Bass" party in New York last May.
When the popularity of rap music spread from the East Coast to other parts of the country, Los Angeles was the first to truly develop a scene, and it was via electro-bass producers such as The Egyptian Lover and Arabian Prince and Dr. Dre of the World Class Wreckin' Cru. The same phenomenon would repeat itself in Miami with Mr. Mixx of 2 Live Crew and in New Orleans with Mannie Fresh. But while New York adopted and shed styles in quick succession -- Def Beat, New Jack and "funky drummer" sampling were just a few during the '80s -- these Southern hotbeds stuck with bass while developing a regional spin, from Miami bass to N'awlins bounce. Bass music generated numerous spin-offs such as techno-bass, electro-rap and Latin bass. In Orlando, Magic Mike built an empire out of packaging instrumentals expressly as car speaker fodder. They were made of pure bass meant to boom and rattle cars cruising down city streets. In New Orleans, producers latched onto obscure Queens, N.Y., group the Showboys and their single "Drag Rap," then revived the instrumental as the "Triggaman" beat and turned it into a veritable riddim that lives on to this day, generating countless bounce songs like the late Cheeky Blakk's "Twerk Something."
Bass has proved remarkably resilient and populist in a way that other rap styles have not. Its objective (get dat booty shaking) is fairly straightforward, but the ways in which musicians have reached that nexus has been anything but simple. When N.W.A. inspired West Coast rappers to abandon bass for the strength of street rap, it remained embedded in the styles that followed. Hyphy, swag and ratchet all have bass in their DNA. In Atlanta, crunk and trap music are clearly descended from the booty-bass revival of the Nineties and hits like 95 South's "Whoot! There It Is." Bounce remains popular in New Orleans, having turned into a cherished local tradition studied by academicians and anthologized by rock groups like Galactic. Even house scenes like Detroit ghetto-tech, Baltimore club and Chicago juke/footwork owe much to the way booty-bass inspires ass-shaking ribaldry.
Clearly, every one of these permutations deserves its special deep-dive. This playlist emphasizes the connecting tissue between the many strands. It's not exhaustive, but it gives a big picture perspective on how bass music is a continuum that animates hip-hop culture.