Aretha Franklin’s Hip-Hop Legacy in Five Songs

In a career that spanned more than six decades, Aretha Franklin’s voice helped define the sound of soul music as the Detroit-raised singer brought the spiritual energy of her church choir upbringing to the pop charts. Digging through a discography that totaled more than forty studio albums, hip-hop producers going back to the genre’s golden era that began in the mid-Eighties have also expanded Franklin’s influence by frequently sampling her voice (and the backing tracks she sang over) and repurposing fragments of her music into the basis of rap songs.

Sometimes the combination is sweet and harmonious, like producer Ayatollah basing Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty” around Franklin’s wistful “One Step Ahead.” But when an artist is sampled as often as Franklin, another layer of insight emerges when you catch glimpses into how various producers experience and appreciate the same songs. Why did Dr. Dre choose a particular sample to bolster the menace of a track, when J Dilla used the same part to further a laid-back, spacey vibe? Why were the Wu-Tang Clan and Kanye West prompted down different conceptual lanes by the same Franklin song?

In respect of Franklin’s passing, at the age of 76, here’s a deep dive into five of her most-sampled songs that spotlight the way hip-hop producers have embraced her music and helped further her legacy.

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“Call Me”

Legend has it Franklin was moved to write “Call Me” after she overheard two lovers twittering away on Park Avenue before signing off with the words, “I love you, call me.” This sentiment was turned into a tender ballad that combines Franklin’s voice and piano-playing with nostalgic layers of strings, anchored by the Muscle Shoals rhythm section.

“Call Me” was originally released on 1970’s This Girl’s in Love With You — and 34 years later Kanye West harnessed the track’s piano lines and melody for Slum Village’s “Selfish.” A hook warbled by John Legend nods to Franklin’s lyrics, as he sings, “I’m calling, yeah, maybe I’m selfish.” The romantic integrity of the sample source is sort of maintained as Elzhi and T3 kick odes to various women they’ve met along their travels — although Ye heads in a crasser direction with a guest verse that features him bragging about paying for a conquest’s breast job.

In 2007, one of Kanye’s disciples, Big Sean, revisited “Call Me” for the first installment in his breakthrough Finally Famous mixtape series. B. Wright is credited as the producer behind the beat: The sample focuses on Franklin singing those overheard words, complete with the sort of sped-up, chipmunk soul-style treatment that you might expect Ye to have been behind — but Sean’s abrasive lyrics are like a middle finger to those who doubted him. This idea of “Call Me” inspiring an MC to write about their rise to success was also embraced by Brooklyn’s Joey Bada$$, who rhymed over Chuck Strangers’s melancholic interpretation of the song’s strings on “Reign.” The production prompts home-borough brags like, “It’s no biggie, I spread love the Brooklyn way/But when push come to shove I’m ’bout that Crooklyn wave.”

Taking “Call Me” in an altogether more rugged direction, Method Man rounded up his fellow Wu-Tang Clan members Raekwon and Masta Killa to spit archetypal Nineties rap brags on “Spazzola.” The track pairs tough kicks and snares with little more than a repeated section of Franklin’s piano-playing from the start of “Call Me,” which was looped up by Meth’s fellow Clan member Inspectah Deck.

“Rock Steady”

Released in 1971, “Rock Steady” is an upbeat, spunky soul track. “Let’s call this song exactly what it is/It’s a funky and low-down feeling,” warbles Franklin as she steps into a funk state of mind. The beat she’s singing over comes courtesy of Bernard Purdie — a drummer whose rhythms have proved a bountiful source for hip-hop sample diggers, along with Massive Attack, Beck, and the Prodigy reusing songs from his 1972 album Heavy Soul Singer. Considering this pedigree, it’s no surprise “Rock Steady” has been heartily mined by a long and regal list of hip-hop producers.

Going back to hip-hop’s golden age, Public Enemy were serial samplers of “Rock Steady.” The group’s in-house production unit, the Bomb Squad, reused a snippet of the track as a way to build up their trademark walls of noise: Grabbed from the mid-section of the song, Franklin’s holler of “Rock!” becomes a prompt for a breakdown section on the heavyweight “Miuzi Weighs a Ton,” while a similar trick is used in the mix of the chaotic anti-crack anthem “Night of the Living Baseheads.”

Dr. Dre picked up on Franklin’s iconic vocal, too, using it as part of the texture of the brooding “Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat-Tat” from The Chronic. Also paying attention to this section of “Rock Steady” was J Dilla, the iconic Detroit producer. But whereas the Bomb Squad favored a funky cacophony, and Dre was all about conjuring up a feeling of menace, in Dilla’s hands Franklin’s cry is saturated in dubby echo effects on the woozy space funk of 1996’s “Rockhuh!” It’s a trick the now-deceased Detroit producer repeats on “Feel This Shit.” Venturing southward, Outkast’s in-house wax scratcher, Mr. DJ, chose to cut up the phrase on the group’s sultry ATLiens track “Jazzy Belle.”

Skipping back to the start of the song, Long Island duo EPMD turned the swaggering introductory groove of “Rock Steady” into the basis of 1988’s “I’m Housin’.” Over Cornell Dupree’s rhythm guitar and Bernard Purdie’s drum lines, Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith boast about supping down bottles of lowbrow Cisco wine. It’s a vibe Wale updated for 2011’s “Lacefrontin,” with the sample assisting the song’s live-jam feel.

“I Get High”

Back in 1995, Smoothe da Hustler and his brother Trigga tha Gambler helped put Brownsville on the rap map with their hit “Broken Language.” The duo followed it up with “My Crew Can’t Go for That,” a track that wound up on Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor soundtrack and features a funky-but-ghostly wail from the very beginning of Franklin’s “I Get High.” Hooked up by the underrated beatmaker DR Period, this smart sample murmurs throughout the track — and gives credence to the idea that there’s often sample gold dust to be found in the first few seconds of a song.

The rest of Franklin’s “I Get High,” which was included on 1976’s Curtis Mayfield–produced Sparkle soundtrack, unfurls as a potent funk experience infused with snatches of luminous synths and dramatic strings. These melodic flourishes caught the ear of producer Ayatollah, who followed up his Franklin sample on Mos Def’s “Ms. Fat Booty” by using parts of “I Get High” to serve up a chunky, motivational backdrop for Talib Kweli and Mos to rhyme over on “Joy.” Similarly soulful strings from the song assisted Princess Superstar’s courting of Kool Keith on their kooky rapped tryst “Keith N Me,” while Justus League beatmaker 9th Wonder used Franklin singing “sister girl” as a recurring motif on L.E.G.A.C.Y.’s “Sista Girl.”

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“Respect” was originally written and released by Otis Redding in 1965. But when Franklin recorded her take of the track two years later, her jubilant and determined singing, coupled with an infectious sax-spiked backing, turned “Respect” into an anthem for the feminist movement as well as earning her a couple of Grammy awards. Since then, it’s been enshrined as Franklin’s signature song — and the track has also inspired a rich run of rap songs: Old-school rapper Kool Moe Dee flipped the lyrical concept and employed the song’s memorable riff for 1987’s “No Respect,” a blast of drum machine–powered rap hooked around the idea that “money can’t buy respect.” Chuck D and Flavor Flav also tapped into Franklin’s lyrics when they added the line “R-E-S-P-E-C-T/My sister’s not my enemy” to the pro-feminist “Revolutionary Generation” from the incendiary Fear of a Black Planet.

Hip-hop’s famed Roxanne wars of the 1980s — wherein a bunch of rappers strung out what would now be called a meme into a series of dis songs — also includes choice samples from “Respect.” The Real Roxanne’s “Respect” gets its thrust from producer Howie Tee tapping into the opening refrain of Franklin’s song, while Doctor Ice — whose group UTFO kick-started the trend with “Roxanne, Roxanne” — used a similar sonic trick on 1989’s “Just a Little Bit (Oh Doctor, Doctor).”

The chorus to “Respect” is etched in the minds of music lovers across the world — and it’s naturally found its way into hip-hop hooks. Pioneering Latino rap group Lighter Shade of Brown struck upon the idea with 1990’s punchy “Paquito Soul,” which pairs Franklin singing “just a little bit” with other vocal grabs. Building on this idea, De La Soul drafted R&B duo Zhané to re-sing the line on their sultry, static-warmed Stakes Is High album cut “4 More.”

“Young, Gifted and Black”

The title track to Franklin’s 1972 album is a gospel-tinged cover of Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” Franklin emotes through the song’s uplifting lyrics with raw emotion, accompanied in the main by her own piano-playing. In the hands of hip-hop producers, the song’s sample history has become a tale of two piano riffs.

Back in the early-1990s, producers like DJ Premier and Pete Rock would often open and close album tracks with short snippets of beats to set the mood. Gang Starr’s “92 Interlude” is one of the most memorable examples of the trend: It’s twenty seconds of a beguiling piano loop and the bare snap of a beat that almost comes off like a click track. It’s a piano loop DJ Premier noticed halfway through “Young, Gifted and Black,” nestled between Franklin singing “When you feeling real low” and, “Here’s a great truth you should remember and know/That you’re young, gifted, and black.” Later that year, Premier fleshed the sample out into a full track for Heavy D, who rapped over the riff on “Yes Y’All” from his Blue Funk album.

While DJ Premier was dropping the needle halfway through “Young, Gifted and Black,” Lupe Fiasco was charmed by the way Franklin’s piano opens the song. Those notes are used as the melodic basis of “Cold World,” an unreleased track from the Chicago rapper’s vault. Similarly inspired by Franklin’s playing, Rapsody’s “Laila’s Wisdom” leans heavily on both the introductory and mid-section original piano lines to give the song its soul factor. Lyrically, Rapsody also rhymes as if she’s channeling the determined and uplifting spirit of many of Franklin’s songs. “Keep that style you got soulful/The best of the best gon’ fear you/Sky’s the limit, see, I told you,” she raps in words that now seem especially poignant in the shadow of Franklin’s passing.


Ty Dolla $ign Has Mad Bowling Tips

[Editor’s note: In “Tweets Is Watching,” Phillip Mlynar asks artists questions based solely on the contents of their Twitter timeline.]

On November 2, Ty Dolla $ign will be strutting onto the stage at Irving Plaza to air out his hits as part of the rap-styled warbler’s In Too Deep tour. It’s a spectacle the genial Ty promises will turn out to be “the best show people have ever seen in their life.” Off the back of those lofty words, then, here’s Ty$ running through timeline talk about his frequent cohort DJ Mustard, his love of J Dilla, and the all-important bowling/grilled-cheese nexus.

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How did you first hook up with DJ Mustard?
I first hooked up with him awhile ago when he was DJ’ing for YG, you know, and then one day he asked me to do some sounds for him — and then the next day he became the biggest producer in the world! Now he’s, like, the homie.

What do you like most about DJ Mustard’s productions?
His samples are straight to the point, the beats are always great, and he makes people want to party.

You’re a fan of J Dilla’s “Purple,” right?
Yeah, I’m a fan of really every J Dilla track. His production is different and it sounds great and when I listen to it, his production reminds me of A Tribe Called Quest and all the old-school real hip-hop shit. I collect records, too, like vinyl and shit, so I know that Dilla actually used to dig and look for crazy shit. One day I might be listening to some old shit and you’ll hear a little loop that Dilla put over his beats.

What would a collaboration between you and Dilla have been like?
Amazing. It would be fuckin’ next-level.

You posted a picture of a bowling alley in Cleveland to your Instagram account. Are you any good?
Yeah, I can bowl — and I can beat yo’ ass at bowling!

Well, I’m terrible at bowling. How good are you?
Pretty good. I usually hit strikes when everybody’s looking at me. I don’t mind the pressure. It works for me.

Have you ever bowled a perfect game?

Do you have any tips for someone who’s not very good at bowling?
Just, you know, try to aim for that little pin at the top. Mainly, I notice that when you bowl, a lot of professional bowlers don’t respect when you throw it straight at the pin — everybody wants you to do that curve shit. So practice on Nintendo Wii!

Do you like the bowling shoes they make you wear?
Nah, most times I wear my own shoes.

They let you do that?
Yeah, I break the rules!

Where was the grilled-cheese picture from?
Oh yeah, that was in Europe or some shit. We were trying to find something out there that was good to eat and that was like the closest thing to home, like making a grilled-cheese sandwich on the George Foreman grill and shit. It was like four or five different cheeses, crazy.

What’s your personal recipe for grilled cheese?
Cheddar, American, Swiss. [Pauses] I don’t really eat cheese like that, though, unless it’s grilled cheese.

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Twenty years from now, if Detroit still exists and Chrysler continues to sell us cars built nearby, it’s possible that the company’s Super Bowl ad (assuming parents still let their kids play football) won’t feature Motown singers or a rasping Bob Dylan but beats by J. Dilla, the late producer whose soulful notes constitute, for many hip-hop fans, the sound of the city. For the eighth year in a row, Brooklyn celebrates both the beats and the man behind them with the roving “Donuts Are Forever” party, named for Dilla’s final album of instrumentals. This year’s roster of DJs appearing at Brooklyn Bowl includes Good Reverend Dr. J, DJ Prince, DJ Still Life, 6th Sense, DJ Parler, and headliner DJ Jazzy Jeff.

Sun., Feb. 16, 8 p.m., 2014


Africa Hitech+Sepacure+Mux Mool

Back in the ‘90s, Mark Pritchard (with Tom Middleton) had a rabid following as part of Jedi Knights. He’s since bounced from ambient to jungle to broken beat, and now he’s taking his cues from dubstep and juke and grime and dancehall and the world, not to mention partnering with J Dilla collaborator and vocalist Steve Spacek to concoct the Bug-esque “93 Million Miles” as Africa Hitech. Sepalcure’s Travis Stewart (Machine Drum) and Praveen Sharma (Braille) channel bass music that’s a bit more house-influenced than that of their fellow Brooklynites—you’ll hear vocals and emotions and everything, while Minnesotan Mux Mool conducts playful hip-hop experiments for sci-fi geeks on Ghostly and Moodgadget.

Thu., Nov. 10, 10 p.m., 2011


Robert Glasper Trio+Vijay Iyer Trio

Been sleeping on jazz’s hippest piano trios? Here’s a chance to catch up with a couple of the scene’s leaders. Both groups are long-standing bands, stressing three-way interaction. Glasper’s mercurial lines mess with the blues and take advice from J Dilla; Iyer’s roiling riddims bite M.I.A. beats and hark back to his heritage. Superb double bill.

Thu., April 28, 8 p.m., 2011



Just because the Fourth of July was Sunday doesn’t mean the party’s over. Check out tonight’s kick-off event for Brooklyn Bodega’s sixth annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival’s “Show & Prove Superbowl,” a competition/showcase for rising hip-hop artists to prove they can pump up a crowd. The six-day festival features panels, film screenings, and theater. Highlights coming up later in the week include the “Bodega Education Initiative: The Legacy of J Dilla,” featuring a conversation with Dilla’s mother, Maureen “Ma Dukes” Yancey, and Q-Tip, and a “Classic Hip-Hop Film Night” screening of 1992’s Juice (1992), starring Tupac Shakur. The festival wraps July 10 with a Family Day for the kids and a concert, hosted by Uncle Ralph McDaniel, with De La Soul, Black Moon, Rakka Iriscience, DJ Babu, J Dilla Ensemble, Those Chosen, and Aquil.

Mon., July 5, 8 p.m., 2010


‘Wordless Music Series Presents Flying Lotus & Kode9’

For a man obsessed with a whiplash breakbeat style he deems “retro-futurism,” the present looks pretty sweet for Flying Lotus. After a debut that slotted him firmly in the Madlib/J. Dilla camp, Fly-Lo elevated to the Warp label for his breakout Los Angeles, even getting love up in The New Yorker. Come May, he’s set to leap into hyperspace with his follow-up, Cosmogramma, not to mention a gig opening for Thom Yorke. Kode9 gets love for his dubstep tracks, but now the man has unleashed a tome entitled Sonic Warfare: Sound, Affect, and the Ecology of Fear. Bomb the bass, indeed.

Tue., March 30, 11 p.m., 2010



Just Blaze made it big back in 2000 when he contributed a few of the smoother tracks to Jay Z’s The Dynasty: Roc La Familia. He’s since worked as a producer for just about everyone. His Santos party gives full range to his loves both obvious (contemporary hip hop and horn-heavy old soul) and unexpected (house and disco). DJ Soul got his start slinging mixtapes; now he’s best known for his homage to J Dilla, and for serving as Chappelle’s Show‘s DJ. With Caribbean sounds from the Federation Sound’s DJ Gravy, Max Glazer, and Micro Don.

Fridays, 10 p.m., 2010


On Charles Hamilton, Joe Budden, Asher Roth, and the Perils of Internet Oversharing

With his pink wardrobe, adoption of retro video-game character Sonic the Hedgehog as a spirit animal, and languid verses, Charles Hamilton was a newcomer built to thrive in a rap environment that has learned to tolerate a splash of DayGlo whimsy. The 21-year-old was cute and contempo and sensitive, but retained enough Harlem arrogance to escape being ostracized as a total pussy. After signing with Interscope Records in the summer of 2008, Hamilton spent the next year exuberantly building a reputation as an underdog smartass: He released several mixtapes, blogged with regularity, Twittered 50-some times a day, and reveled in the real-time furor he was able to create as a hip-hop fameball.

Despite Hamilton’s enthusiasm, missteps accumulated. He was busted for pilfering a beat from an underground producer. He came out the loser after exchanging disparaging video clips with kiddie-rapper Soulja Boy. He was punched in the face by a female spoken-word poet after insinuating that she had aborted their unborn child during a videotaped “battle.” And in a climactic faux pas in June, he weirdly credited deceased beatmaker J-Dilla with “executive producing” his forthcoming LP A Perfect Life—a sin that earned self-righteous rebuttals from protectionist Detroiters and a refutation from Dilla’s mother. Within a week’s time, Hamilton vanished from the Internet: no blogs, no Tweets, no videos. (His last Twitter update, dated June 10: “Good morning sunshine!!!”) According to industry rumormongers, Interscope honcho Jimmy Iovine himself issued the gag order: Shut your pie-hole, or lose your deal. (Hamilton declined an interview request for this story.) A life and death done digitally, this was the rap version of a Tamagotchi pocket pet.

Whether this online exile was self-imposed or commanded from on high, his rise and fail are indicative of the alternative outcomes that can occur when an artist dives headlong into the virtual fishbowl. As record sales wither and labels strain to monetize artists as shampoo-shilling “personal brands,” online outlets such as blogs, Twitter, and video channels like Vlad TV and World Star Hip-Hop have taken on increased importance. Seldom inclined to shy away from attention, rappers have discovered that these are ideal mediums for beefing with rivals, griping about the music business, threatening retirement, and otherwise piling firewood onto the roaring bonfire of their egos. Once muzzled by publicists, promoters, and management intermediaries, they’re now free to grouse, giggle, and emote in real-time. “Artists are feeling more empowered with the technology,” says Elliott Wilson, former editor-in-chief of XXL magazine who currently runs the Rap Radar site. “You can tell people not to do XYZ, but it’s so easy to get your message out there. It just takes you a second to type a couple thoughts.” As a fuchsia-clad Harlemite can attest, the ever-thinning membrane between celebrities and the public can be a gift and a curse.

Hip-hop artists immersed themselves in social networking just like everyone else: A few pioneers recognized the potential, and the clueless masses blundered in later. ?uestlove, El-P, and Prodigy of Mobb Deep were prescient enough to become active on their own websites or message boards early on, but a digital wall manned by label sentinels usually separated artists from the general public. MySpace, a site expressly created to splinter such barriers, was the next major step: Those clunky pages (excellent as they were for aggregating groupies) have given way to an environment in which an independent artist with a strong online presence can compete for face-time with acts on major labels.

Consider New Jersey rapper Joe Budden, a former Def Jam signee who now wedges himself into the news cycle with remarkable consistency without that association. He indulges in feuds with other artists, uploads video of his buxom girlfriend to the Joe Budden TV site, and is part of Slaughterhouse, a group that includes several other artists (Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Royce Da 5’9″) more popular in the blogosphere than on the radio. He even briefly crossed into the world of basketball after streaming footage of an expletive-laced phone conversation with Milwaukee Bucks draft pick Brandon Jennings. To Budden, the key to captivating an online audience is simply authenticity: “Over the years, the fans have gotten a lot wiser,” he says. “They can tell when it’s not the actual artist or it’s just someone doing it for the sake of doing it. When it’s genuine, it’s way better.”

Assuming their digital incarnations aren’t bored interns or multitasking weed-carriers crumbling Kush on a MacBook, artists take divergent approaches to promoting their music and interacting with fans. Diddy, who survived a #unfollowdiddy campaign on Twitter in May, has corralled over 1.6 million people intrigued by his exclamation-point-spiked exhortations for positivity and praise for Ciroc Vodka. He’s not sending out tweets while dodging Basij bullets on the frontline of the Iranian protest, but for Diddy, it fits.

Even artists less prone to taking bubble baths with their Grammys can complement an on-record image by being interesting online. “Personality goes a long way,” says Phonte, a rapper in the group Little Brother who posts on Twitter and the Okayplayer message board. “There is nothing more boring than a PC milquetoast-ass nigga. A little well-placed snark and humor can help people see you in a new light—it shows you are capable of critical thought and enjoy spending time among the commoners in the peanut gallery.”

A personal touch is attractive, but not when it veers into inappropriate humor or cringe-worthy oversharing. Earlier this year, white frat-rapper Asher Roth was demonized for making an ill-advised tweet about “hanging out with nappy headed hoes,” while Kid Cudi penned a blog post claiming that the toll of celebrity was forcing him into premature retirement (unsurprisingly, he walked it back). The ease of blogging or Twittering begets a flippancy that may look even cheaper under scrutiny. “Rappers will make a bad joke or just have a bad day and express their frustration, and it becomes a heavily circulated story,” says Wilson. “If you write some Twitters where you’re just like, ‘I’m feeling real depressed today,’ then everybody has you on suicide watch. Sometimes, artists don’t realize that everything they say on their Twitter page is on the record.”

As blustery and sensitive a breed as they might be, rappers are not the only celebrities who have found social networking a mixed bag. In July, Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor deleted his Twitter account after he and his girlfriend were repeatedly harassed by, as he put it, “unattractive plump females who publicly fantasize about having sex with guys in bands.” Outside of music, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $25,000 for criticizing NBA officials on Twitter, while Pete Hoekstra, a U.S. Representative from Michigan, inadvertently revealed his location while traveling through Iraq and Afghanistan. Rule of thumb: Think first, post second. “Arrogance, negativity, and emotional rants where artists are complaining about private and confidential matters can cause issues,” says Tracy Nguyen, a publicist who has worked with Nick Cannon, Kelis, and Ice Cube. “It can result in the type of press attention that perhaps they aren’t seeking.” Of course, if you live by the adage that all publicity is good publicity, you have nothing to fear—except maybe Jimmy Iovine.


Friday 05/02



A visual feast for the Francophile

Dear friends: I’m sorry if we made plans this month. I have to cancel. For the next five weeks, I will be dining only on popcorn at the Film Forum concession stand during the run of its Godard ’60s! series, where all of Jean-Luc Godard’s greatest ground-breaking, anarchic works from the 1960s (21 in all!) will be screened. If you’d like, you could join me tonight to see Breathless, starring Jean-Paul Belmondo as a wanted criminal who seduces the blonde pixie Jean Seberg (ooh la la!). Or we could see A Woman Is a Woman (May 11-13), in which Anna Karina (Godard’s muse and then-wife) plays a stripper who desperately wants to be a mother; Masculine Feminine (May 25-27), a raucous portrait of the ’60s youth culture in Paris; or Sympathy for the Devil (May 27), featuring a young Mick Jagger at a recording session. Or just pick any day—I’ll be waiting in the lobby. Starts today, through June 5, Film Forum, 209 West Houston Street, 212-727-8110, $10.50 ANGELA ASHMAN



Need a breather? A fresh party outside

Yeah, it’s nice out, and summer feels just inches away. So Studio B’s making the most of it with an event under the open sky that’s been getting a lot of chatter: the Rooftop Launch Party. Why all the fuss? Well, it’s the lineup! The electropop-fabulous Brazilian Girls will be in the top slot, along with Spank Rock, Chester French, and DJs the Rub, IXL, and Roxy Cottontail, with more to be announced. The second-floor garden will remain open during the nightly shows, with a DJ on hand to keep the party spinning. At 10, Studio B, 259 Banker Street, 718-389-1880, $30 advance/$35 at the door ARACELI CRUZ



Hip-hop mash-up

Promoters Rare Form and the Hip Hop Karaoke crew are hooking up for what should be a mad collision of hip-hop party forces: Off the Books. Rare Form promotes the weekly Freedom party at the Canal Room and presented J Dilla’s Brooklyn tribute event, and HHK knows how to put together a sincere throwdown: We’ve been raving about their events since forever, so what’s keeping you from the mic? The first part of the evening will call up all you Salt-n-Pepa wannabes onstage, and with a limited number of sign-up slots, you should arrive early. The second half of the event consists of DJ Parler spinning old-school and original samples. Word to the wise: These parties have been known to go on until the bitter end, because this sort of hookup always gets messy. At 9, Southpaw, 125 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, $8 ARACELI CRUZ