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Production Credits:

Root Down


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First Appearance: Ill Communication LP May 31, 1994
Written by: Beastie Boys
Performed by: Beastie Boys
Production Notes: Produced by Beastie Boys and Mario Caldato, recorded and mixed at G-Son Studios, Atwater Village CA and Tin Pan Alley, New York, NY. Engineered by Mario Caldato and assistant engineer Settly. Sequenced at Bundy's Playhouse, mastered at Futuredisc by Tom Baker. Root Down (Free Zone Mix) remixed by the Prunes, engineered by Lars H. Nissen at Easy Sounds Studio (Copenhagen, Denmark). Root Down (PP Balloon Mix/Prince Paul Remix) remixed by Prince Paul

Behind the Beats and Lyrics...

Samples

  • "Root Down (And Get It)" by Jimmy Smith from the album Root Down (1972)
  • "The Show" by Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew from the single "The Show/La Di Da Di" (1985)

References

  • "Sweetie Pie" - a 1976 song by The Stone Alliance
  • The Stone Alliance - a mid-1970's band founded by jazz musicians Don Alias and Gene Perla
  • Dropping science - lyrical term used in the 1989 Beastie Boys song "The Sounds of Science"
  • Dick Hyman (1927- ) - a jazz virtuoso of the organ, piano, and synthesizer
  • Money-Making - Beastie Boys nickname for Manhattan; in addition to this song, Beastie Boys refer to Manhattan as "Money-Making" in "Unite," "Super Disco Breakin'," and "The Lisa Lisa/Full Force Routine
  • Fruit of the Loom - an underwear manufacturer
  • The Meters - a New Orleans funk band
  • Brooklyn - a borough of New York City
  • Utah - a U.S. state
  • Jimmy Smith (1925-2005) - a jazz organist who popularized the use of the Hammond organ in jazz music
  • Brim - a namebrand coffee
  • Beatsie Boys - another name for the Beastie Boys, possibly coined by Biz Markie; in addition to this song, the band refer to themselves as Beatsie Boys in "Putting Shame in Your Game," "All Lifestyles," "Crawlspace," and "Nonstop Disco Powerpack"
  • High Street Station - a Brooklyn train station on the 8th Avenue subway line
  • Harlem World Battles - old school hip-hop MC challenges
  • Zulu Beat Show - a 1970's East Coast (NJ/NY) radio show, hosted by Afrika Islam
  • Kool Moe Dee (1962- ) - old-school rapper/former member of The Treacherous Three involved in several infamous MC Battles with Busy Bee and later LL Cool J
  • Busy Bee (1956- ) - Busy Bee Starski, a reputable old-school rapper involved in one of the most infamous MC battles in history with Kool Moe Dee
  • Ma Bell - Bell Communications, a phone company; also referenced in "Sure Shot" and "Get It Together"
  • Bob Marley (1945-1981) - a Grammy Award-winning reggae singer, songwriter, and guitarist
  • Dad and Mom - Adam Yauch's parents, Noel and Frances Yauch
  • Mario - Mario Caldato, Beastie producer/engineer

Sample & Reference Breakdown

  • "Everybody knows I'm known for dropping science" - Beastie Boys first "drop science" in the song "The Sounds of Science"
  • "I'm electric like Dick Hyman" - refers to the album Moog-The Electric Eclectics of Dick Hyman by Dick Hyman
  • "Just struttin' like The Meters with the 'Look-ka Py Py'" - refers to The Meters' songs "Cissy Strut" and "Look-ka Py Py"
  • "But when the snow is falling then I'm gone" and "A phone call from Utah and I'm throwing a panic" - refers to Adam Yauch's love of snowboarding
  • "Jimmy Smith is my man, I'd like to give him a pound" - Jimmy Smith's "Root Down" is sampled throughout the song
  • "I'll fill you to the fuckin' rim like Brim" - refers to the 1980's Brim's television ads, which featured the slogan "Fill it to the rim with Brim"
  • "And say 'Oh my god, that's the funky shit!'" - The "oh my god" underlying beat is sampled from "The Show" by Doug E. Fresh
  • "Every morning I took the train to the High Street Station/doing homework on the train, what a fucked up situation/On the way back up, hearing battle tapes/Through the underground, underneath the skyscrapes/Like Harlem World Battles on the Zulu Beat Show/It's Kool Moe Dee vs. Busy Bee, there's one you should know" - refers to teenaged Mike Diamond's subway journey to High Street Station and school, listening to battling MCs on the Zulu Beat Show
  • "Give thanks and praise to the Lord, and I will feel alright" - refers to the lyrics in the song "One Love/People Get Ready" by Bob Marley ("Give thanks and praise to the Lord, and I will feel alright")

Commentary:

Beastie Boys

"[A] huge impact on me growing up musically in New York was having to take the subway from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn Heights every day. That's how I first started hearing battle tapes -- early hip-hop tapes that people had taped from Afrika Islam's Zulu Beat Show of like the Harlem World Battles, like the famous ones like Kool Moe Dee versus Busy Bee or the Soul Crush Brothers" - Mike Diamond

"After recording all the playing tracks in New York City, we headed out to L.A. to finish the record. Our plan was to do the hip-hop stuff, as well as all the mixing back at our own studio. As I recall it, there was this Jimmy Smith record lying around. I think in was Adam H's. We used to listen to it all the time while we played basketball. The title track, 'Root Down' was ridiculous. I remember thinking, 'How can a groove be this nice?' It was the type of music that you hear and it immediately improves your game. For a while we thought about looping parts of it, maybe the bass line. Then one day we were hanging out in studio G (the 4-track room) with Jimmy Smith's record on the turntable as we freestyled over it. Someone came up with the idea of looping up big parts of it and making a song over his groove. Basically just rhyming over his song without any other beats. And that's what we did." - Adam Yauch, 1999

Press

"...based on a sweet Jimmy Smith groove, a tribute to the master of the Hammond organ" - Mix, 1994

"...where the Beasties show their roots - in this case, the strutting bass undertow, organ fills and wah-wah, chicken-scratch guitar of 70's blaxploitation-era funk" - Rolling Stone, 1995

"[Mike D] paints a vivid verbal picture of those early morning journeys to school that would ultimately be more of use to his career than what he learned in class. Recalling his train journey to High Street Station, still frantically scribbling his homework, the teenager recalled listening to tapes of legendary emcee battles" - excerpted from Rhyming & Stealing: A History of the Beastie Boys by Angus Batey, 1998

"[A] groundbreaking funkified jam" - excerpted from Rock: The Essential Album Guide by Gary Graff and Daniel Durchholz

 

Released Versions:

Root Down
Root Down (Acappella)
Root Down (Bionikworld Remix)
Root Down (Cheap Cologne Remix)
Root Down (Clean Version)
Root Down (Free Zone Mix Clean)
Root Down (Free Zone Mix)
Root Down (Green Mix)
Root Down (Instrumental)
Root Down (Live)
Root Down (Mild Davis Remix)
Root Down (PP Balloon Mix Clean)
Root Down (PP Balloon Mix)
Root Down (Rich Soul's FreakdaFunk Mix)
Root Down (Taggy Matcher Remix)
Root You (Beastie Boys vs. Justin Timberlake)

Live:

Performed in 261 known Concerts.

First known Performance:
29-Apr-1994 : California State University, Dominguez Hills, CA, United States

Last known Performance:
12-Jun-2009 : Great Stage Park, Manchester, TN, United States

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