Idris Muhammad x Chr0me Sparks - C0uld Heaven Ever Be Idris
This is the fifth in a selection of secret blends I've been playing out recently, this one mostly at Dance Club, but also at a wild night in the Psybus at Rainbow Serpent Festival.
My boy CL hipped me to Idris Muhammad during one of our cloudy basement studio sessions back in the early 00s. I’m pretty sure it was in the context of Beastie Boys samples, a source of much inspiration for both of us over the years.
Idris Muhammad was one of those special drummers from New Orleans who was influenced by decades of musical history yet was able to leave his own mark on the city’s music.
As a child in New Orleans, he was inspired by the popular marching bands of the time, "The bands would do what we called a “dry run.” They’d start rehearsing in a guy’s house, then they’d come out of the house and go down the street, and people would follow them right into a bar. It was spontaneous. Someone would say, “Get the band a drink!” and then they’d move on to the next bar. This was my beginning in music, because the music was there. My thing was the bass drum. I used to hear this boom boom boom, and I’d run out the house and dance underneath the bass drum player. I can still remember the guy with the bass drum saying “Move your ass from under this drum, or I’ll hit you with this mallet!” I was walking between the bass drum player and the snare drum player."
One of his first regular gigs was on Hair - The Musical, where he was covered by Billy Cobham & Alphonse Mouzon on his nights off. At just sixteen years of age, in 1956, he played on Fats Domino’s most important song “Blueberry Hill.” Then a chance encounter with Sam Cooke lead to him becoming Cooke's personal drummer.
Subsequently he played with Curtis Mayfield, Freddie Hubbard, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, George Benson, Stanley Turrentine, Ralph McDonald, Bobbi Humphrey, Grant Green, Charles Earland, Bob James, Pharoah Sanders and a host of others. One day met he Miles Davis, who told him, “Idris, you should get a band together and play some of that funky shit I heard you play in Hair. When I saw Hair, I changed my whole band".
Through his solo albums in the 1970s, Muhammad would achieve rock-star status. “Turn This Mutha Out,” from the 1977 Kudu LP of the same name, hit number 21 on the Billboard R&B chart, and “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This” received heavy play in the clubs, including David Mancuso’s infamous Loft in New York.
After finding global success in the 70s, his inimitable beats began to be sampled in the 80s and 90s by artists as diverse as 2pac, Jamiroquai, The Beastie Boys, Roni Size & Moodymann
His opinion of this wholesale lifting of his musical elements is undeniably positive, "I like it, ’cause it’s another phase of the music."
"It don’t really belong to me, man; I’m only the creator. If you take something I create, and you do something with it, then someone else will take it and move it to another stage. And this is what happened with hip-hop. This is in my aura. I’m doing stuff for people to put out there so people can grab it. The gift the Creator has given me, I can’t be selfish with. If I keep it in my pocket, it’s not going to go anyplace. It doesn’t matter if a guy stole from me. I’d say, 'Well, what did you do? Okay, let me show you this.' This is how I live."
"Well, you see, man, it don’t belong to us. Secretly, whatever you have is gonna come out anyhow. If you think you are hiding something—you have a private vault that you have stuff in—when you leave this world your wife is going to open it up and sell everything. She’s gonna sell everything in that vault! It’s gonna come out anyway. So why not be free with it while you’re here and share it with other people? ’Cause it don’t belong to you."
This track was of course sampled by Jamie XX on 'Loud Places' in 2015, but also earlier in Chrome Sparks' 'Marijuana' in 2013.
Jeremey Malvin began producing music under the alias Chrome Sparks while attending University of Michigan, where he was studying percussion.
His education, although not definitive, was an integral part of his evolution from a bedroom producer to adding a plethora of tour dates into his iCalendar. “There was a lot of discipline within practicing. I was learning how to perfect things, and how to get from an idea, to a goal, to accomplishing that goal,” he says. “I feel like if I didn’t study percussion, or any sort of instrument in a music school—or anything in college that required perfection and discipline—then I might not have known how to get from my idea to where I think I am now.”