Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Making of The Prodigy's "Smack My Bitch Up"

The Prodigy released a song in 1997 entitled, "Smack My Bitch Up." Last year, the Performing Rights Society (which is the UK's version of SOCAN in Canada, or of the RIAA in the United States), voted the song as the most controversial song of all time.

The lyrical content is obviously contentious. The only lyrics in the song are, "Change my pitch up, smack my bitch up." They come from a sample of a rap song called, "Give The Drummer Some," by the Ultramagnetic MC's (from the late 1980's). A lot of people have obviously criticized the Prodigy's song, interpreting the lyrics as being highly misogynistic. Many radio stations around the world would only play an instrumental version of the song, and often just called the song, "The Prodigy" or "Smack."

The video is even more controversial. It depicts someone on a bender in an urban landscape, and includes drinking and driving, cocaine and heroin use, violence, vandalism, a hit & run, nudity and sex. MTV voted it as the most controversial video in their history, and despite floods of viewer requests to play it, the entire video wasn't played until many years after its release. The interesting thing about the video is that it is all filmed in the first-person perspective, but in a twist at the very end, it is revealed that the person at the center of all the action is a female.

Anyway, the point of this blog post wasn't to talk about the song, so bear with me for another couple minutes. I just figured that some background info would be good. However, I actually want to focus on the production of the track. There are seven different songs which were sampled in the making of the song:

1. Ultramagnetic MC's, "Give The Drummer Some"
2. Sheila Chandra, "Nana (The Dreaming)"
3. Kool & The Gang, "Funky Man"
4. Randy Weston, "In Memory Of"
5. Rage Against The Machine, "Bulls On Parade"
6. Afrique, "House Of Rising Funk"
7. Mixmaster Gee & The Turntable Orchestra, "Like This"

Most of these tracks were sampled outright, except for "Nana." The original version of the track used a sample, but subsequent releases had that part sung by Shahin Badar due to legal issues.

Here's a link to the original YouTube recording of "Give The Drummer Some." Unfortunately, this is only an audio recording, since no video was ever made for the song:

Anyway, this is where things get interesting. Jim Pavloff put together a YouTube video showing how to recreate the song using the Ableton Live software. People who aren't familiar with electronic music production will probably be fascinated with how sounds can be altered in the quest to create new music. A very large amount of modern music uses various techniques of sampling older music. Some people don't think highly of this practice, because they believe that it isn't as creative. Others feel that creativity is enhanced. I figure that people should recycle plastic and paper and other similar items, so I don't understand why some people get so passionate about the debate over recycling older music. Anyway, I digress. The point of this whole post is that experienced music producers who haven't seen this "Making Of" video before should find it really interesting. It helps if you are familiar with the Ableton software (if you're watching this for educational purposes), but you don't really need to understand the software to appreciate what's happening.

I find this video to be especially interesting because the techniques used to create the song appear to be very complex, but actually, it was quite simple to create.

Before I stop, here's a link to the YouTube version of "Smack My Bitch Up." This one is slightly censored. Also, there are age restrictions, so if you're not signed into YouTube or Google, it may not play. It may also be restricted from viewing in some countries.

You can also try clicking on this link to see the uncensored version: