Welcome to 909rewind, a new series from 909originals that delves into the early careers of some of dance music’s biggest names, uncovering hidden gems and familiar classics from the archives.
We dive into an artist’s back catalogue to uncover rare singles, albums, productions, remixes and more… the tracks that helped shape their sound and set them on the path to legendary status.
This week we pay tribute to an individual who has overseen dance music’s evolution from Philly soul to breakbeat electro to four-to-the-floor house… Arthur Baker.
The Boston native began his music career DJing across the city’s various clubs in the 1970s, before turning his hand to production; first for Casablanca and Salsoul Records, and then for Tommy Boy, where he produced the seminal Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force – introducing Kraftwerk to the b-boy masses.
He formed his first label, Streetwise, in 1982; early releases on which were the epic Soul Makossa by Nairobi, and the anthemic Walking on Sunshine, released by his Rockers Revenge studio project.
It was an exciting, do-it-yourself kind of time. As Baker told Red Bull Music Academy in 2007, “Basically, back then, well there was no hip-hop. Because it didn’t exist. But really, the roots of hip-hop were club music, were disco. Guys like Kool Herc, he was playing breaks but the breaks were from disco records, or from any kind of records. But basically, it was the same, everything was the same.
“When rap started to be recorded, the records that rappers would want to rap over, were usually records that I had been playing, or DJs had been playing as disco records. […] There was no break between what was club music and what rappers were rapping over.”
As the 80s progressed, Baker would lend his production hand to artists Hall & Oates, Cyndi Lauper, Pet Shop Boys and finally New Order, making an appearance in the latter’s video for Confusion, a crossover hit on the US dance charts that kicked off a 20-year collaboration with Bernard Sumner and co.
Often copied, never equalled, this week’s 909rewind playlist showcases the talents of a true maestro… Arthur Henry Baker, we salute you. [Main pic: Atlantic Records]