In honor of Black History Month programming, Urban Legends have shared the third and final episode of ‘The Get Down: The Influence Of James Brown.’ You can check it out below.
This third episode of ‘The Get Down’ explores Brown’s third most sampled song “The Payback.” Narrated by the legendary Patrice Rushen (Artist, Composer, and Musician), this episode explores the story behind how the ultimate revenge song was created and the numerous samples and influence it’s had on hip-hop’s musical culture. Where “Funky Drummer” provided one of hip-hop’s most iconic drum breaks and “Funky President” providing hip-hop’s social conscious, the “The Payback,” well, the Payback provides the swagger!
First released in December 1973 on the album of the same name, “The Payback” is one of the keystones of funk. The music was well established by now, having practically been driven into public consciousness by Brown from 1967, though he was building the sound from 1962 onwards.
The Payback album is now regarded as one of the classics of 70s African-American music. And the lyrics of the single, cropped from a groaning, growling seven-minutes-plus on the album, speak of vengeance, violence, and being pushed beyond his tolerance. James Brown served this dish cold, releasing it in February 1974 – the second single from the album. It was too uncompromising, too intimidating, to climb beyond the Top 30 in the US pop charts, but it went gold, hitting No.1 in the R&B chart, where its edgy drive was welcome. It was one of three occasions that James Brown topped the chart in that year. If he was past his prime, nobody told Black America: “The Payback” was a smash with the audience Hell Up In Harlem was aimed at.
“The Payback” has had an influential afterlife. Brown “versioned” it for “Same Beat,” credited to Fred Wesley And The JB’s, laying a different melody over John “Jabo” Starks’ drum pattern from “The Payback” and releasing it as a single a month ahead of that track. Hank Spann again provides interjections – and there were samples from Dr. Martin Luther King in a time before samplers existed.
By the time hip-hop was in full swing in the mid-80s, “The Payback” was fair game for re-use and interpolation. Ice Cube sampled it twice, including on the self-explanatory “Jackin’ For Beats.” EPMD bit off a chunk at least four times, with “The Big Payback” acknowledging the source in its title, and Redman was another regular subscriber. “The Payback” fed two of the biggest R&B hits of the early 90s in En Vogue’s “Hold On” and “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It).” More recently, it informed some of the lyrics and much of the attitude of Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta.”
Listen to the best of James Brown here.