Whodini – “Friends”

Go on and let this one play for a minute. Sounds familiar? If you’re a hip-hop fan, you already know, but if you don’t? Well…

Let’s turn the clocks back 30 years. Because I like doing that. In the mid-1980s Whodini was one of hip-hop’s premier groups, helping to bring the fledgling genre to the mainstream and legitimizing the music as more than just a fad. The trio of Ecstasy, Jalil, and DJ Grandmaster Cee were one of hip-hop’s early success stories, with strong sales, radio play, and tours. Their sound was cutting edge (and still sounds really crisp today), thanks to the unsung record producer Larry Smith (who also helped out on Run-D.M.C.‘s records) as well as their attitude and delivery. From ’84 to about ’87 Whodini was among the very best when it came to rap, and they remain one of the era’s most influential groups. Several of their songs have been reworked, revisited, sampled, and called out over the years by younger generations of rappers.

Now, I ask again: Does this one sound familiar? Once that famous melody comes in, you may have an idea. From their 1984 record Escape, a classic album which you should track down, (and FUN FACT: Escape was the first rap record to go platinum!) “Friends” remains a  listen for the ages. If there was some Museum of Rap, this track would be in it. Ecstasy and Jalil smoothly trade stories about deceiving friends and backstabbing former flames, with just a hint of bitterness and biting sarcasm. That skeletal beat, with the synthesizer hits and descending piano melody is simple but crushingly effective, and elements of this song has cropped up in rap tracks since, such as a vocal sample in The Pharcyde‘s seminal “Passing Me By” and the beat making up the backing tune to Nas‘s early hit, “If I Ruled The World (Imagine That).”

Nevertheless, I say it again…

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