If there’s a release that will make me feel like I’m 15 all over again, it’s a new Beastie Boys tune. Make Some Noise has been on my playlist for a few weeks now and it makes we want to steal VW badges and crank up the Brass Monkey. I’m sure the Beastie Boys would be at pains to stress that they’ve moved on, but there’s something about Make Some Noise that really takes me back.
And I’ve since realised it’s that cowbell.
The cowbell has graced some of Hip Hop’s best tunes, such as Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang which opens with a cowbell break that is like a Hip Hop fanfare; a flourish of snapping and funky percussion to bring in Wonder Mike, Big Bank Hank and Master Gee like rap royalty.
The tune that also springs immediately to mind from Hip Hop’s formative years and a great example of the cowbell’s infectious chime in Hip Hop music is Peter Piper by Run DMC, which uses the cowbell break from Bob James’s Take Me to Mardi Gras.
The Beastie Boys themselves have been frequent users of the cowbell from the cool Slow and Low to the groove of Hey Ladies.
There’s probably an essay to be written about the evolution of the tuned cowbell, or alpine cowbell, and how it has progressed from being used in traditional folklore in the Alpine regions. But in Hip Hop it’s quite simple – it’s just so damn good. Infectious, funky percussion is what the cowbell is all about. And it takes me back; it’s the sound of early Hip Hop.
And top of any cowbell crunching set should be a tune I loved when I was first getting into Hip Hop. It’s from the man who knows how to rock the bells hard: Just Ice. He seems to be wrestling a whole herd of cowbell wearing Friesians on the simply dope Cold Gettin’ Dumb.
Play it loud, get dumb like you’re 15 again and make some noise for the cowbell.
Listen to: Make Some Noise, Slow and Low and Hey Ladies by the Beastie Boys; Rapper’s Delight by Sugarhill Gang; Take Me to Mardi Gras by Bob James; and Cold Gettin’ Dumb by Just Ice.
Hey Ladies by the Beastie Boys
Make Some Noise by the Beastie Boys