Although techno (and its subsequent sub-genres) is now associated more with its white European exponents than its black American progenitors, Ultra Records’ new series of Public Enemy remixes (finally available in CD form this week) will remind you as much of Todd Terry and Derrick May as Paul Van Dyk or Ti DJ/remixers Don Diablo and Ferry Corsten (both Dutch), along with Benny Benassi (Italian), have updated two trenchant hip-hop manifestos for optimum exposure on multicultural dance floors around the globe.
Diablo has long been blending rock, electro, and hip-hop elements — here, he refines that approach on his stutter-funk version of “Give It Up,” alternating punchy rhymes with tasty but minimal keyboard stabs and a dirty snare hook. Corsten, who rose to fame in the late ’90s as a DJ — producer before masterminding the widely influential Trance Nation compilations, contributes my favorite versions of “Bring the Noise,” making me hope he’ll tackle other rap classics. (Finally, someone opened enough aural space inside a stereotypically abrasive, trebly trance track to allow less robotic frequencies — including the human voice — to be heard.) And while never overtly “soulful,” Benassi confounds any expectations we might have from playful, quirky albums like 2003’s Hypnotica and 2004’s Pumphonia with the dubby 4/4 abstractions he delivers here.
Over a decade ago, when Funkmaster Flex was helping WQHT convert to an all-hip-hop format, I remember him confiding after an interview that he was always listening for “bridge” records that would allow him to credibly segue from rap to house or techno in his sets. While Corben and crew are bridge-building from the opposite direction, their work with PE suggests a tactical erasure of boundaries between underground rap and dance that might reinvigorate drooping sales in both formats.
Published in: Village Voice, September 26, 2007