Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Know Your History: Hugh Masekela...Still Grazin'

"Sure is mellow grazin' in the grass"-Nice and Smooth knew that 16 years ago. However, you'd have to go back 23 years before that to truly understand the impact of that one song.

In 1968 South African trumpeter, Hugh Masekela had a huge hit with his jazzy instrumental Grazing In The Grass. The 4 million selling song was a giant mash up of instruments including: cowbells, drums, horns and piano. It was also one of the few instrumentals to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Only a year later the R&B group The Friends of Distinction had another top 10 hit with their version of Grazin' now with lyrics.(Nerd Trivia: In "I'm Gonna Get You Sucka" when Jim Brown and Isaac Hayes are driving around it's playing on the radio. The irony is Brown used to manage the group back in the day. Can you imagine telling that dude he can't get more than 10% of your shit?)

I have to admit, I had no idea the two were the same song. It wasn't until I started reading liner notes as a DJ that I got the correlation. In '91 Nice & Smooth effectively used the sample on One, Two and One More Makes Three off of their album Ain't A Damn Thing Changed. It was a noisy homage to Masekela's original with the "impeach" break draped over it and classic Greg Nice-isms like: "Almond Joy/Butta Finga/rapper actor and a singer/jump start the mic like it ain't no thing-a". While The Friends version has been used in everything from GAP commercials to the Anchorman trailer, I prefer the jazzy, laid-back vibe of the genuine article.

Check 'em out and see for yourself.
Grazing In The Grass (1968)-Hugh Masekela
Grazin' In The Grass (1969)-The Friends Of Distinction
One, Two And One More Makes Three-Nice & Smooth


Kyle Rosenkrans said...

Great post... well done.

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