Future classics can be birthed when it’s least expected. That’s also the case for “Impeach The President,” years before the first four bars of the song turned into a monumental piece of music. Sampled in close to 800 tracks—a number easily stretched into the thousands when all unlicensed and unrecognizable samples of the song are included.
But in 1973, a little over a decade before Marley Marl was the first to sample and reprogram the kick and snare for MC Shan’s “The Bridge,” it all started with a group of high-school kids in a basement in Jamaica, Queens. Invited by Roy C. Hammond who discovered the group of young musicians, following his own success as a soul singer for over a decade. With "Shotgun Wedding" as his biggest hit (#14 in the Billboard R&B charts).
“I worked hard with the drummer because he wasn’t as good a drummer as I would have liked to have”
Roy C about the drummer in The Honey Drippers (Wax Poetics, 2013)
Ironically, Roy C thought the drummer was the weakest link in the group. “I worked hard with the drummer because he wasn’t as good a drummer as I would have liked to have,” he told Wax Poetics in a 2013 interview. “But we finally accomplished what we set out to do. I had a good bass player and horn player, but the drummer was the weakest point. I remember drilling him over and over in that basement in Jamaica, Queens.” They recorded “Roy C.’s Theme Song” and “Impeach The President,” a protest song against Nixon during the Watergate scandal. The basement sessions were tough, but it earned the group of young musicians the name of The Honey Drippers, named by Roy C as the spiritual father of his own backing band.
Roy C’s label at the time, Mercury, deemed the lyrics of the song to be too controversial. That led him to press it on 45 vinyl via his own Alaga Records imprint, releasing only a hundred copies(!) That puts in perspective why DJs such as Kool Herc, who found the record in its early days—way before the break made waves through sampling and, later on, its inclusion on Ultimate Breaks & Beats in 1987—masked the labels of the record to keep the break they found a secret.
Up until Marley Marl made the notorious break an open secret with MC Shan's "The Bridge" in late 1985. He reprogrammed the beat and sampled and triggered the kick and snare from his Roland TR-808 into the Korg SDD-2000 Sampling Digital Delay, making hip-hop history from there. “Hear that snare? That snare would change the world. [laughs],” Marley Marl told Chairman Mao during an RBMA talk in Tokyo. “Basically, when I sampled that kick and that snare and made my own beats, that changed hip-hop.”
All through Roy C. Hammond’s backing band, and that young high-school drummer who, down in that Queens basement, got pushed and motivated by Hammond to give the drums his all.
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