I Used to Love H.E.R.: Le Switch (Josh Charney)

The 36th installment of I Used to Love H.E.R., a series in which artists/bloggers/writers discuss their most essential or favorite hip-hop albums and songs, comes from keyboardist Josh Charney of Los Angeles-based band Le Switch, whose debut album “And Now … Le Switch” was released last month on Autumn Tone, the label run by our pal Justin at Aquarium Drunkard.

cypress hillCypress Hill
Self-titled (Ruffhouse/Columbia, 1991)

The first Cypress Hill song I ever heard was “Hand on the Pump.” I was 10, sitting in the front seat of my brother’s car when he popped the tape into the player and the looped sample of Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl” started coming out of the speakers. When the beat dropped, accented by a high siren and the words Cypress Hill, I was mesmerized. They were the first hip hop group I heard to incorporate jazz bass lines, soulful horn parts, and off course distorted in-your-face guitar. At the time, groups like Run DMC and the Beastie Boys had been consciously experimenting with the fusion of rock and hip hop. For me, producer DJ Muggs wasn’t trying to bring the two together, he was trying to make the funkiest beats he could and he did this by using his musical knowledge and taste.

“How I Could Just Kill a Man,” the second track on their self-titled record, is the epitome of their sound. The track has basically three things going on, a punchy hip-hop drum beat, a three-note upright bass line and a blaring high-pitched guitar riff. It’s danceable and unsettling at the same time. Add B Real’s nasally and playful voice combined with Sen Dog’s sparse baritone and the sound is complete. The album’s profanity and open discussion of marijuana use would make any 10-year-old boy hungry for more.

It wasn’t until I was older that I was able to appreciate the few yet effective instrumentals on the albums. “Ultraviolet Dreams,” for example, is almost like a psychedelic soul song, leading nicely into “Light Another.” Dj Muggs brings in the wah guitar to create a trippy blunted theme. It’s clear that the Los Angeles trio was attempting to do something original. The bottom line is you could take any one of those beats and add a singer, a MC, or an instrumental solo and it would work. It showed me that music is music and if the beats funky, people will listen.

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