I heard DJ Kool Herc before I ever saw him. I was two full blocks from the park jam and it was only an hour into the night, but already it was loud. Really fucking loud. I could name the tune he was playing: it was “The Mexican” by Babe Ruth. And…It…Was…Thundering…
– Grandmaster Flash, The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash: My Life, My Beats, 2008
|Wu-Tang Clan’s GZA recently teamed up with Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello to remake the classic song “The Mexican” by Babe Ruth.|
[A]s GZA prepares his seventh solo album Dark Matter, Wu-Tang’s lyrical scientist has remained active over the past several years. GZA has maintained a presence with lectures at universities (Harvard, The University Of Toronto), Tedx talks and of course rapping.
GZA’s teased fans with his most recent release, a one-off single titled “The Mexican,” featuring Rage Against The Machine’s guitarist/vocalist, Tom Morello.
The Wu-Tang wordsmith clearly knows his Hip-Hop history since the tune is a remake of Babe Ruth’s (no not the baseball player) 1972 song of the same name.
Artists like fellow Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah, Pete Rock, and N.E.R.D. have utilized bits and pieces of “The Mexican” to craft new songs.
Alan Shacklock, the Audio Technology Department Chair at SAE Institute Nashville, is very familiar with Hip-Hop culture.
His sons Jesse (DJ Kidsmeal), who is also an alumnus of SAE Nashville and Sam Shacklock (DJ SOSA) are Wu-Tang fans. They were the ones who told their father of the project.
However, Shacklock’s connection to Hip-Hop stretches back to 1972, the year “The Mexican” was released. Shacklock is the one who composed and produced the tune, which has been a staple of Hip-Hop culture, since the infancy of the genre.
Bronx legends like Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash made “The Mexican” a hot break amongst the B-Boys and B-Girls. When technology caught up with Hip-Hop music and sampling became the standard, “The Mexican” became further ingrained into Hip-Hop.
|Click the image to listen to Babe Ruth’s 1972 track “The Mexican” from the album First Base. The song has since become a Hip-Hop classic. Do you hear “Planet Rock” in it?|
Shacklock produced the song while he was a student at the Royal Academy of Music in London, where he was studying classical guitar and orchestration.
“Our sound was a combination of classical music, Motown, Western film scores, and progressive rock,” Shacklock explained.
The group Babe Ruth was conceived as a vehicle to showcase Shacklock’s original compositions.
Babe Ruth’s artistic flair and Alan Shacklock’s songs led the musicians to a deal with Harvest Records, the same label that signed Pink Floyd and Electric Light Orchestra.
“The song’s success has been very flattering, and it’s been sampled legally and illegally more times than I know,” Shacklock said.
The popularity of “The Mexican” even holds weight with new students familiar with the music and Hip-Hop culture at SAE.
“When our students learn of Alan’s successful career with Babe Ruth as a band member, songwriter, engineer, and producer, they’re always impressed,” added Lynn Dorton, Campus Director of SAE Institute Nashville.
“The fact that GZA and Tom Morello consider ‘The Mexican’ a classic track that’s worth covering adds even more cache to Alan’s brand as an esteemed educator and a resource of invaluable industry and creative knowledge,” Dorton concluded.
GZA’s album Dark Matter is due in stores this fall. As for Shacklock, he will continue his duties with SAE Nashville.
Thanks to GZA and Morello’s update, “The Mexican” will serve as the springboard for a new album from Babe Ruth, which will be released this year.