5 times kate bush ruled the rap game
As Dean Blunt’s Babyfather drops a new single sampling the enigmatic queen of out-of-the-box pop, we take a look at Kate’s other unlikely hip-hop crossover moments, from Tupac's early fondness to Big Boi's full on obsession.
Yesterday, elusive British musician and visual artist Dean Blunt released, "Skywalker Freestyle," a new track under his Babyfather project. The song includes a pitch-adjusted sample of Kate Bush's debut single from 1978, "Wuthering Heights." Despite its oddball vocals, the Brontë-inspired ballad soared to number one on the UK Singles Chart and cemented Kate's status as the genius pop alchemist we know and love today. Bush's history of rave crossovers is well-acknowledged, her hip-hop ones not so much. It's wrong to classify Babyfather's oeuvre as pure hip-hop (though it's definitely the lane Blunt and producer Arca were skrrrting down on BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow, the politically charged record they released earlier this year). Nevertheless, Bush does boast something of a strange hip-hop history outside of Blunt's genre bending. Her eccentric, explosive pop sorcery has made fans of Mystikal, Tupac, and, above all, OutKast visionary Big Boi. As you play "Skywalker Freestyle" on repeat, discover the moments in which Kate Bush ruled the rap game.
Himanshu's "Kate Boosh": For his debut solo mixtape Nehru Jackets — released in 2012 following the disbandment of Das Racist — rapper Himanshu (today known as Heems) recruited Queens spitter Despot and Kool AD for "Kate Boosh." The free-wheeling track used Bush's "Suspended in Gaffa," off her fourth LP The Dreaming, as a backdrop for the off-beat trio to showcase its languid lyrical flow.
Tupac's Brit Pop leanings: According to multiple biographies, the late rap icon had a real fondness for British and Irish pop-rock records during his younger days. It makes sense he gravitated towards Sinead O'Connor and U2's melodic yet deeply political compositions (he was, after all, the son of Black Panther Party activists), but he also enjoyed Culture Club and Kate Bush. In his 2001 biography Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, Michael Eric Dyson quotes actress Peggy Lipton, whose daughter, Kidada Jones, Tupac was engaged to before his murder. "[Lipton] remembers playing classical music and some Kate Bush music one night when he came over. 'I remember sitting there saying [to him], 'This is Kate Bush.' 'I listen to Kate Bush,' Tupac replied. 'He divulged his incredible musical interests. He had wonderful musical taste, and he listened to everybody. Kidada confirmed that with me,' said Lipton."
Dean Blunt's "Demon": "Skywalker Freestyle" isn't the first time Blunt has sampled Bush; he made excellent use of the big, brash percussive elements that open her 1981 track "Sat in Your Lap" on his outstanding 2013 effort "Demon." Like "Suspended in Gaffa," "Sat in Your Lap" is lifted from The Dreaming, and is accompanied by one of Bush's most brilliantly bizarre music videos. In it, she and two others rollerskate into another dimension dressed in dunce caps and jack in the box costumes.
Mystikal's "Ain't Gonna See Tomorrow": Yes, he of "Shake Ya Ass" fame. Actually, the Bush-sampling record in question appears on the very same album — 2000's Let's Get Ready — that contains the New Orleans rapper's biggest hit (my first ever ringtone, in case you were wondering). This one, however, was not produced by The Neptunes (though we're sure they're all familiar with Kate's experimental catalogue). "Ain't Gonna See Tomorrow" lifts directly from the absolutely excellent track "Fullhouse," which appeared on Bush's platinum-selling sophomore album Lionheart. An evocative piano part opens both tracks, though Mystikal's vocals are, predictably, much more rapid fire. With 808 hi hat hits and a police siren layered over the lilting "Fullhouse" keys, "Ain't Gonna See Tomorrow" blends one of Bush's best early track with all the classic trappings of slappin' Southern rap.
Big Boi's full-blown obsession: Without a doubt, the biggest Bush fan in the rap game is one half of legendary duo OutKast, Big Boi, whose love runs deep. The ATLien has kept Bush's records on repeat since his uncle first introduced him to her music when he was in middle school. "[She] became my favorite artist of all time. Her and Bob Marley would tie for first. I used to listen to 'The Kick Inside' and 'Wuthering Heights' and 'This Woman's Work' and just admiring the style of music she was making, from the production side of it to the lyrics," he said. "It was kind of mind-blowing. I was like OK, I wanted to be like her," he told the Los Angeles Times. Since then, he has undertaken a noble quest to win the elusive Bush — who two summers ago made an epic return to the stage after a 35-year absence — as a collaborator. "I've been trying for some years now," Big Boi told British GQ in 2010, around the same time he revealed to UK mag Flavour that he made a month-long voyage to the UK specifically to try and track Bush down. "She's like a kinda recluse. She lives somewhere in a castle around here and plays some sort of oversized piano like the Phantom of the Opera! You can hear music come out the windows! I'm looking for her, know what I'm saying? That's my dream collaboration for sure." If you do not believe me, head to Spin for a more extensive timeline of Big Boi's Bush obsession — literally "Babooshka" was his ringtone.
Text Emily Manning