Sounds Go Through The Muscles: Bjork's Top Ten Hip-Hop Connections
As you may have heard, Björk's latest album, Biophilia, has been specially designed to work best on an Alphasmart 2000 word-processor. This pioneering piece of multimedia is likely huge fun for tech-heads, but for music fans it might also be the aural equivalent of playing with your food. And Björk's food is usually fine as is.
Coming to you from heaven's art gallery: "Triumph Of A Heaven."
So, then, why not take the opportunity of Biophilia's release to plot Björk's hip-hop connections. She said that Public Enemy's music was a fixture on the Sugarcubes' tour bus back in the day. Since fleeing that band and going solo, she's maintained on-and-off collaborations with rap artists and industry figures alike. Here then are Björk's ten most prominent connections to rap, listed in chronological order for optimum nerd-friendliness.
"Play Dead (Tim Simenon Remix)" (1993)
Björk's first post-Sugarcubes album, Debut, saw her relying on the production savvy of Nelle Hooper, a one-time member of The Wild Bunch collective that morphed into Massive Attack. It's a thread she mined further when Tim Simenon, the architect behind UK cut-and-paste merchants Bomb The Bass, was entrusted to remix "Play Dead," her contribution to the Young Americans soundtrack. (Nerd note: The song doesn't appear on the first pressing of Debut.)
"Keep Your Mouth Shut" (1996)
As Björk's beau at the time, Tricky notched a couple of artistic contributions to her 1995 album, Post. He produced the metallic "Enjoy" and the extraordinarily intimate "Headphones," which closes out the album with close-to-whispered lyrics like, "Genius to fall asleep to your tape last night/ Sounds go through the muscles." In return, a year later Björk's vocals were present on "Keep Your Mouth Shut" and "Yoga," two tracks on Tricky's Nearly God project.
A Tribe Called Quest, "Stressed Out (The Björk Remixes)" (1996)
In which Björk shows herself more adept at remixing rappers than hip-hop types are at remixing her. Here the second single from Tribe's sort-of-maligned album Beats, Rhymes & Lifeblame Dilla and Consequence! No, really, please dois subjected to a triple whammy of Björk remixes: "Björk's Say Dip Mix" allies a replayed horn-version of the main melody to a steadily lilting beat; "Björk's Dandelions Mix" builds on this template, but adds some industrial sounding stabs as the song progresses; "Björk's Married To The Mob Remix" heads in a seductively shifting direction, adding her own vocals and eradicating all percussion from the session. Conspiratorial jab: All versions feature only Phife's raps, possibly because Q-Tip was too busy trying to live out teenage Janet Jackson fantasies during those days.
"I Miss You (Dobie Rub Part One Sunshine Mix)" (1996)
In its original guise on Post, "I Miss You" employed the production talents of Scottish trip-hop architect (and future UK cohort) Howie B; it sounded somewhat like Björk was excitedly singing about a future love opportunity while being accompanied by a chorus of frantic cartoon crickets. For the remix collection Telegram, UK hip-hop and soul producer Dobie wholesale switched to a melancholy vibe, wove in a sample of Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves The Sunshine," and turned the optimism into something of a lament. Long-time London rap chap Rodney P is the man obliging with a short and appropriate guest rap.
DJ Shadow, "Mutual Slump" (1996)
"Possibly Maybe" is the closest Post gets to tapping into the trip-hop sounds of the mid-'90s. Nattily, DJ Shadow was smitten with the opening riff and wove it into his own trip-hop-inspired opus, Endtroducing. The sample appears on "Mutual Slump," which adds clattering drums to the original's coy charm.