The unending influence of Malcolm McLaren's hip-hop project

Nate Dorr

1983. Malcolm McLaren follows up his highly influential career managing (creating) first the Sex Pistols, then Bow Wow Wow, with his own solo album, Duck Rock. It's world music. It's Americana. It's hip-hop. It's almost too weird to be believed.

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Thing is, this is more than a music history footnote. “Buffalo Gals” and “Double Dutch” were trans-Atlantic hits (the latter going to #3 on the UK singles charts) and, perhaps more surprising, bits of these songs have continued to turn up ever since, giving the album a pervasive sense of deja vu. Liz Phair seems to have transposed the hook from “Double Dutch” into the chorus of “Whip-Smart” and “Buffalo Gals” sheds light on the intro to “Without Me.” (This is, in fact the song where Em claims to be “the worst thing since Elvis Presley to do black music so selfishly” so I guess he's just giving more credit where it's due).

And somehow Duck Rock also paved the way for the formation of seminal samplers Art of Noise. McLaren's production team included Trevor Horn (former Buggle, former lead-singer of Yes), Anne Dudley, and J. J. Jeczalik, all of whom had collaborated previously on ABC's hit The Lexicon of Love. The trio's between-recording-session experiments with the Fairlight sampler yielded the first Art of Noise album, showcasing production strategies already clearly in place on Duck Rock tracks like “World's Famous”. And while we're reference-spotting, ever wonder where that “Hey! Hey! Hey!” from “Firestarter” originated? (Or the use of power saws on train tracks, for that matter).

Anyway, Duck Rock might be quite difficult to track down nowadays, but don't worry, the blogosphere has got your back.

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