Jam On It

Album: Jam On Revenge (1984)
Charted: 89 56
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Songfacts®:

  • This hip-hop classic is all about fun, with Newcleus busting family-friendly rhymes over a highly danceable beat. The title - often heard as "jamoney" - comes from the name of their DJ crew, Jam On Productions. Based in Brooklyn, they had been doing park jams, block parties and battles with other crews since 1977. Unlike many crews from the Bronx, they played a lot of disco and funk. "You had to play the stuff the girls wanted to hear because the girls wanted to dance and the guys wanted to dance with the girls," group leader Cozmo D (Ben Cenac) said in a Songfacts interview. "Whereas in the Bronx, it was more of the B-Boy thing, which was almost exclusively a male thing, and they would compete with each other."
  • Many hip-hop records from this time relied on samples or interpolations, but this one was completely original. It started out as a song called "Jam On Revenge," which had the same musical elements but no rapping. That song Newcleus released in 1983, and when their record label asked them to do something with a rap, they reworked it into "Jam On It."

    For the lyrics, Cozmo D, who wrote the song, dug into his notebook for rhymes he would recite to the crowds when he was DJing for the group. He also wrote the rap for Chilly B (Bob Crafton), his musical partner who became the other main vocalist.
  • Cozmo D put the track together using Roland TR-808 drum machine for the drums, and three different synthesizers for the other elements: a Sequential Circuits Pro One for the bassline, a Roland TB-303 for the arpeggiates, and a Roland RS-09 for the chords.

    He started with the bassline, then added the sequence, chords, string line and bells.
  • Some of the vocals, including the "wikki-wikki" refrain, are in a high-pitched voice similar to The Chipmunks. They were done lo-tech by recording the voices at slow speeds so when they played back they'd be pitched up.
  • At one point in the song, Superman comes down to battle, blows away every crew he faces, but is thwarted by Newcleus, who have "Disco Kryptonite" on their turntable. Back in the day, many MCs had a Superman rhyme, the most famous is by Big Hank Hank in "Rapper's Delight" (which he lifted from Grandmaster Caz of The Cold Crush).

    "Everybody had a Superman rhyme, but I had the BEST superman rhyme," Cozmo D told Songfacts. "Everybody else had a certain style and most of the Superman rhymes were based on other people's Superman rhymes, like Superman having his way with Lois Lane and all that. I decided I was going to change it up completely, so my Superman rhyme doesn't sound like everybody else's. It talks about the crew."
  • The 12-inch single runs 7:55; the 7-inch version, which most radio stations played, was cut down to 3:48.
  • In 1979, "Rapper's Delight" became the first hip-hop song to make the Hot 100. It didn't exactly open the floodgates: By the time "Jam On It" charted in 1984, there had been only a handful of rap songs that made it, including "The Breaks" by Kurtis Blow and "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force. At the time, many felt rap was just a passing fad, and Billboard even designated "Jam On It" a novelty song. Run-D.M.C. helped hip-hop go mainstream with their Aerosmith "Walk This Way" collaboration in 1986.
  • This was the only hit for Newcleus, which got screwed over on the business side. According to Cozmo D, their label signed them over to Sunnyview Records, which was owned by the mafia-affiliated Morris Levy, who notoriously withheld royalty payments from artists.
  • This was a hit in the summer of 1984. That fall, Newcleus hit the road with Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow, The Fat Boys, and Whodini on the Fresh Fest, the first arena hip-hop tour. Newcleus was the opening act, and the only one that played live instruments on stage.

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