Chopped Locks

Urb on the Oh No & Galt MacDermot collab

Brandon Perkins & Ramond Roker URB July 01, 2007

Chopped Locks Six years ago, URB ran a story on Galt MacDermot that began, 'You may not recognize the name ... but you're familiar with his music.' However, if any sect of hip-hop fans know MacDermot intimately enough to identify obscure tunes from his long discography merely by label, it'd be the good folks with Stones Throw. Hell, label manager Egon Alapatt wrote that article more than a half-decade ago. So with all this hip-hop cred, it may be surprising that MacDermot's most famous feat comes as the composer for the hippie- happy, Late-'60s musical Hair. The anti-Vietnam play stands especially true in our current war climate - swap Nam with Iraq, LBJ with George W. Bush and the civil rights movement with the immigration debate. Suddenly, tie-dye doesn't seem so far away.

One guy came to my door one night, and said 'I want to thank you for writing Hair.' We'd only been open for about a month or so," MacDermot recalls from his Staten Island home. "He said, 'I'm going off to Vietnam tomorrow and I'm scared shitless.' I said, 'I don't blame you." With a strong affinity for black music (his father lived in Jamaica and MacDermot spent two years in South Africa), his music melds an extreme devotion to funky bass and an eclectic desire to explore (without losing melody or his listener). Canadian-born MacDermot became an obvious sample source for hip-hop's beat-diggers. From the daunting foundation of Busta Rhymes's Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check to cuts by Pete Rock, MacDermot's catalog is now getting a more dedicated treatment.

Much like what older brother Madlib did with the Blue Note masters, the beats on Stones Throw MC-producer Oh No's Exodus Into Unheard Rhythms are sculpted solely with MacDermot's music and feature Posdnous of De La Soul, Murs and the standard stack of labelmates. Oh No - who's never seen a production of Hair - says that he was immediately drawn to MacDermot's music and the level of experimentation that make him an easy fit with his crew. "His patterns aren't the same," Oh No says of GaIt. "They're not like A-B-A-B; they're like A-B-Z-X. It's not just a song, it's art. He's pouring his heart out in those keys."

Maybe more people should get acquainted.