R.I.P. Melvin Bliss

Unless you’ve spent quality time digging in crates or at least Breaks.com, you’ve probably never heard of Melvin Bliss. But you’ve heard his drums. Specifically, those iconic kicks...
By    July 27, 2010

Unless you’ve spent quality time digging in crates or at least Breaks.com, you’ve probably never heard of Melvin Bliss. But you’ve heard his drums. Specifically, those iconic kicks and snares that have been lifted for everything from “Ego Trippin’ and “Mighty Healthy,” to “Don’t Believe the Hype” and “Ya Mama.” Earlier this year, the great Matthew Africa compiled a stellar mix including nearly every song that lifted the drum pattern from Bernard Purdie. It’s posted below and it’s as fitting of a tribute as you will find.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on Bliss’ catalogue, and judging from a quick survey of other reactions to his death, neither were most music writers. But the whole of “Synthetic Substitution” deserves accolades in its own right–with Bliss’ gorgeous vocals and shag carpet-keyboards riding Purdie’s bare-knuckle groove. It’s been reiterated ad nauseum that the beauty of hip-hop is its ability to unearth and re-contextualize esoteric soul records, and Bliss is one of the best examples. There was no ego, no trippin, just a profound funkiness. So it goes.

Tracklist below the jump.

MP3: Matthew Africa – “Synthetic Substitution” Mix
MP3: Melvin Bliss-“Synthetic Substitution”

Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Melvin Bliss, R.I.P.

A few months back I devoted an episode of 2 Busy Saying Yeah to songs that sample Melvin Bliss’s “Synthetic Substitution”. Yesterday, I heard from my friend Cosmo Baker that Bliss had passed away.

At the time I posted the original mix, I hinted that I would post some biographical information about Melvin Bliss. Despite “Substitution”‘s stature in the breakbeat canon, Bliss has always been a seriously mysterious figure– he only had one release to his name and the only published information I had ever been able to find came from a brief profile in a 1974 issue of the UK mag Blues & Soul.

Since biographical information about Bliss was so scarce, I was looking forward to posting a scan of that article but then, just days after I posted the mix, I learned that Bliss had been tracked down and some folks were planning to do a film about him:

(Biggest/best revelation from the trailer: the drummer on “Synthetic Substitution” is Bernard Purdie!)

In addition, I learned from Cosmo that Monk-One wrote about Bliss in the new issue of Wax Poetics. These have probably rendered the Blues & Soul article useless, but for the curious, I’ve uploaded a PDF here.

Incidentally, Cosmo has posted some thoughtful thoughts about the significance of “Substitution” and some cool mp3s, including this nice Monk-One edit of “Substitution”:

Melvin Bliss: “Synthetic Substitution” (Monk-One edit) (Internet, 2010)

Anyhow, for those who missed it, here is my “Synthetic Substitution” mix:

2 Busy Saying Yeah 19 – Substitution

Matthew Africa’s Podcast

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1. Ultramagnetic MCs: Ego Tripping
2. Xperado: Watch Your Step feat. O.C.
3. Divine Force: Holy War
4. Ghostface Killah: Mighty Healthy
5. N.W.A.: Real Zaggin Don’t Die
6. Too Poetic: God Made Me Funky
7. Onyx: Throw Ya Gunz
8. Pharcyde: Ya Mama
9. Pete Rock & CL Smooth: For Pete’s Sake
10. Public Enemy: Don’t Believe the Hype
11. Willie D: Put the Fuckin’ Gun Away
12. MC Jr. Cas: Walk On the Wild Side [Club mix]
13. Almighty RSO: One in the Chamba feat. M.O.P.
14. Group Home: So Called Friends
15. T-Wiz: Good Thing Goin’
16. Knowledge: Put On Your X
17. Def Jef: Black to the Future RMX
18. Top Choice Clique: Peace of Mind
19. Biz Markie: Cool V’s Tribute to Scratching
20. Supreme Nyborn: Versatile Extension
21. Ultramagnetic MCs: Pluckin’ Cards
22. Freddie Foxxx: Crazy Like a Foxxx
23. Percee P & Ekim: Now They Wanna See Me
24. Robbie B & DJ Jazz: Comin’ Correct
25. AMG: Trunk of Funk
26. Zhigge: Toss It Up
27. Public Enemy: Brothers Gonna Work It Out RMX
28. Public Enemy: Brothers Gonna Work It Out
29. Von Love: This Is How It Should Be Done
30. Choice M.C.: This Is the B-Side feat. Chill Phill & MC Sergio
31. Ol Dirty Bastard: Cuttin’ Headz feat. the RZA
32. Wu-Tang Clan: Clan In Da Front
33. Naughty by Nature: Yoke the Joker
34. Ghostface Killah: The Champ
35. Funk Lab All-Stars: La Da Da
36. Digital Underground: Tie the Knot
37. Too $hort: Hoes
38. EPMD: Mr. Bozack
39. De La Soul: Stone Age
40. Coolio: I Remember feat. J-Ro & Billy Boy
41. Method Man: All I Need
42. Scarface: Murder by Reason of Insanity
43. Eazy E: Eazy Street
44. Gang Starr: Code of the Streets
45. New Style: Drop the Bomb
46. C.E.B.: Get the Point
47. Brotha Lynch Hung: 24 Deep
48. Melvin Bliss: Synthetic Substitution

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