I went to a club this weekend for the first time in ages. Given that I was older than most of the clubgoers’ parents, it was a pretty short visit – I am basically only 5-6 years from being the creepy old guy in the overcoat hanging out in the corner, bobbing my head awkwardly and talking to myself. During my brief visit to the club, I was struck by a few things: 1) Good lord it’s hot and loud in here; 2) Apparently medleys are popular in clubs now – who wants to hear a great song in its entirety when you can hear 30 seconds of it?; and 2) Rob Base and D.J. E-Z Rock’s classic, “It Takes Two” still gets the proverbial party started, twenty years after hitting the airwaves.
I realize there have been significant one-hit wonders in every musical era, and many of them have remained fairly popular (these kids seemed pretty fired up for 12 seconds worth of “Hey Mickey,” too, but I think that may have been because Toni Basil was one of the waitresses). But “It Takes Two” seems more relevant – still regularly referenced in television shows, movies and video games today. (Apparently there’s a fucking hip-hop radio station in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that plays it – the music options in Atari 2600 Asteroids were a little lacking in comparison.) And this crowd of Jersey shore youngsters got pretty fired up when “It Takes Two” came on (albeit for only 28 seconds as the fucking DJ had a megamix involving every song she’d ever heard going). Or it could just have been a mad scramble for the door as it was something like 115 degrees in there. But I think most likely people were enjoying the song.
So mega-props to my men Rob Base and D.J. E-Z Rock for creating something that has truly endured. Mr. Base should get extra credit for his stage name, with the subtle homophonic genre reference (something that many rappers and pronography performers (TT Boy – clever) have adopted). It’s a shame the duo broke up pretty quickly after their first album (they had another decent-sized hit with “Joy and Pain”); E-Z Rock had undisclosed personal problems (and I’m pretty sure there was an urban legend that he died after eating Pop Rocks and drinking Pepsi, but that may just be Mikey from the Life Cereal commercial). They reunited fairly recently and perform on those extremely sad “Legends of Rap” tours. (They’re sad partially because I recall going to the N.Y. Fresh Festival in 1985 or 1986, when the Fat Boys, Boogie Boys, Joeski Love, etc were still hot – now they’re likely working as third tier radio DJs – no respect for their contributions to the genre.)
It’s impossible to isolate the characteristics that make a song timeless. Is it the apparent abstinence message largely missing from hip-hop (“Can’t stand sex, yes”)? Perhaps the fact that Rob wasn’t well-known internationally endeared him to Americans? Was it that he had a real funky concept? I suspect the more likely factor is that the song is just plain awesome, coupling Base’s sweet work on the M-I-C with that ubiquitous Lyn Collins (and James Brown) sample. I’ve heard it at least 15,000 times in my life and it still holds up quite well. The fucking Black Eyed Peas new single “Rock That Body” samples “It Takes Two” to the point that they should just call it a re-release. And while the BEPs are surely raking in the cash and appearing as holograms on CNN, RB and DJER are probably kicking it at the state fair in Akron. Life ain’t fair.
It’s pretty easy to measure relevance, given that you just have to take a look at how often something shows up in modern popular culture. For a song that’s over 20 years old, “It Takes Two” is still going strong – having been heard on My Name is Earl, Ugly Betty, The Wire (best show ever, which I am contractually obligated to mention – trust me, this practice is much worse in person than in print) just to name a few. Given that the song title sounds exactly like a CW sitcom starring Carlton from Fresh Prince and Eddie Griffin as mismatched roommates that get into goofy predicaments every week, it’s only a matter of time until it’s a title track, too. Hopefully that will start the comeback train for Rob and E-Z, but if not, at least they have an enduring classic to their credit.