This was the first time a sample loop was used on a hip-hop record. With the help of producers J.B. Moore and Robert Ford, Kurtis was the first to use a drum machine, and the first to use a sampler, which was a $250,000 Fairlight machine. For this, they used an AMS sampler and created a loop. A loop is continuous play of a section of a record, usually the break. If you have a drum loop of one bar, you can loop it to play it repeatedly so there's no pause between the loop and it sounds like a continuous drum beat.
Kurtis was the first rapper signed to a major label. With the backing of Mercury Records, he and his producers were able to afford these expensive drum machines and samplers and pioneer their use on hip-hop records.
The song they sampled was "Pump Me Up," which was released in 1982 by a go-go group from Washington, DC called Trouble Funk. They looped the percussion section that plays after the chorus of "Pump, pump, pump me up."
Kurtis: "We used this machine to sample a whole section of a record. That's how the DJs used to play, they used to take the sections of a record and repeatedly play them. You'd have two records of the same song and keep the break going by looping it with your turntables. You'd play the records over and over and have just the break play for 5 minutes, and that's what we used to rap over - the DJ extended the break. That whole concept evolved into the studio. When we started making records we wanted to keep that funky loop going, that funky break and that quick mix so we could rap over it."
Before drum machines, rap songs used live musicians, which limited what they could accomplish in the studio. Using these machines had drawback, however, that Kurtis explains: "Drum machines revolutionized the whole industry, but it made the music sound mechanical and electronic. There wasn't a live drummer, the soul of a live band was lost. In the '70s, when we first started with Hip-Hop, we'd have a whole band come in. Now, musicians come in and record onto a track. When that evolution happened, things got mechanical. When the sample loop came around we used to sample old records in the '70s, those breaks we used to play in Hip-Hop, that Cool Herc and all the old DJs used to play. Those breaks were live drummers and when you sampled and looped it, it made the live drummer feel come back into the music, so it brought the soul back into the music. The sample loop revolutionized the music industry once again by bringing soul back into the music with a live drummer."
This was used in the 1985 movie Krush Groove, one of the first movies based on hip-hop culture. Kurtis was in the movie along with Run-D.M.C., The Fat Boys, LL Cool J, New Editon and The Beastie Boys. Kurtis worked on the soundtrack to the album and was also producing The Fat Boys and working on his own album at the time. They shot the film in 3 weeks.
Nas covered this as "If I Ruled the World (Imagine That)
" in 1996, and it became his biggest hit. Says Kurtis: "They sent me a tape of the song, I heard Lauryn Hill in the background and I knew it was her. I played it over and over, it was incredible. I knew it was going to be a mega-hit."