May 10th, 2007

Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme

Below is the “paper” I “gave” at EMP and IASPM last month. Longtime readers may notice samples from things I’ve written here and there, and I should note — apologize even — that this is, as one might expect, the awfully cursory sort of overview that a mere 20 minutes and about as many musical examples (barely) permits. Do read the following, then, as but a draft of a more measured, more textured cultural and social history — a zigzagging story about the migrations and manifestations of a well-traveled musical figure. As always, I appreciate all the helpful & encouraging feedback I’ve received, my dear readers, colleagues, and interlocutors (e.g., here and here). Your words and ideas and mp3-shares echo through these stories I’m spinning, as I hope you can hear, and no doubt they’ll continue to reverberate. But without further ado —

Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme
by Wayne Marshall (April 07)

What can we learn about hip-hop and reggae, about the US and Jamaica, about race and nation and place and migration, about music, from the movements of a musical meme? To put it more concretely, what might Mos Def mean when he says, at the beginning of Black Star’s 1998 lead single, “Definition” —

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We might be tempted to dismiss Mos Def’s accented invitation — “follow me now” — as a bit of ethnic filigree, especially in a moment — the late 90s — when the sounds and images of Jamaica, including Bounty Killer’s signature “Lawdamercy,” had accrued as much cultural cache as ever, offering alluring mirror-mirror images of black heroes and gangsters and lovers and sufferers, as vividly portrayed, for example — perhaps too vividly — in the contemporary Hype Williams feature, Belly. And especially in a place like Brooklyn, a place which had been deeply reshaped by Jamaicans in the last few decades of the 20th century. We might be tempted, then, to ignore such accents, such foreign but familiar phrases. Why take Mos Def at his word when so many other MCs, across the boroughs and further afield, have often donned the trappings of Jamaicanness, often via some cliché or other? The melody that directly follows the call to follow, however, compels us to attend a little more closely. When we’re asked in this manner, implored even, to follow Mos Def, it’s not simply to follow his lyrics and flow, impeccable and engaging as they may be, it is also to follow him in song.

Like any torch bearer of tradition, Mos Def expects that we’re noting, or at least feeling, the deep degree of intertextuality at work in the song, an articulation of texts and times and places enabled by a set of indexical musical figures. Mobilizing the power of musical memory, he invokes two well-worn late 80s hip-hop melodies, both of them associated with seminal recordings by Boogie Down Productions — and both from tracks which themselves sampled and adapted other resonant melodies infusing the New York soundscape. Black Star deploy such familiar figures in mourning and in warning. They bemoan the violence that had recently claimed the lives of two of the genre’s shining stars, Tupac and Biggie — two rappers who themselves, in memorable, widely-heard recordings, alluded to the same melody that Mos Def connects to KRS-One.

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As with dead prez’s resonant, radical use of the riff shortly thereafter —

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— Black Star’s homage to BDP’s “Remix for P Is Free” on a song addressing the deaths of Biggie and Tupac thus represents more than a capricious, if canny choice in the service of what otherwise might be taken for a little resonant retrofitting. For a lot of hip-hop artists and aficionados, BDP’s Criminal Minded stands as foundational — as the first, or at least loudest, shot fired in the gangsta rap revolution, and hence as responsible, in part, for pushing the genre into a realm of Scorcese-noir crack-rap, offering the kind of bleak, brutal, and often cartoonish stylings (in spite of constant claims to the real), which remain central to hip-hop today and which seemed to spin out of control in the late 90s, culminating in a stunning set of events whereby life appeared to imitate art.

On De La Soul’s 1996 album Stakes Is High, which at times approaches a similar attempt at downright, downhome intervention as Black Star’s debut, the group sets the tone by opening with a collage of interview fragments, as various respondents recount the first time they heard Criminal Minded, framing the album’s 1987 release as a kind of Kennedy Assassination for the genre — a singular, unforgettable, transformative event, marking a new and less innocent era. Notably, while foreshadowing the album’s sad and sardonic critique, the skit takes on a celebratory, nostalgic tone —

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One of the voices we hear here is Mos Def’s. And the warmth in his recollection is revealing. Black Star’s invocation of Boogie Down Productions’ melody is not a cynical move. It’s a tribute — radical but reverent. And it propels itself and projects its meanings by channeling not just hip-hop’s past, but the contemporary sound of New York, a sound which, strikingly, can be represented at this point — “to the fullest,” we might add, nodding to B.I.G. — in such a creole tongue.

If this seems striking in 1998, how striking then that Black Star’s “Definition” essentially covers a track that had been recorded, if in another borough, over a decade before? To put it more directly and suggestively, isn’t it remarkable that as early as 1987, Boogie Down Productions could represent the Bronx with such a Jamaican voice — the same Bronx, mind you, where a decade before they were throwing Jamaicans into garbage cans (to paraphrase Kool Herc via Jeff Chang) — and, moreover, represent it in such a manner at a time of intense, interborough rap rivalry, as in the feud between BDP and Queensbridge’s Juice Crew. But there’s little question about the success of such a sonic strategy: KRS-One’s posse-inflected, rude bwoy / b-boy stance and dancehall-derived routines were clearly working, and doing no little cultural work in the process. His recycling of the tune but a year later suggests that it struck a chord:

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The resonance of such sounds bears witness to a seismic social and cultural shift in New York City during the 80s and 90s, a product of continuing migration from Jamaica as well as the coming of age of many second-generation Jamaican-Americans. Orlando Patterson describes the surprisingly slow, if perhaps inevitable, cultural shift that followed on the heels of these changes in New York’s social fabric — a reshaping of the city’s demographic profile which has been examined extensively by sociologists such as Mary Waters and Philip Kasinitz. Patterson writes,

Reggae spread to the United States as a result of a second mass migration of the Jamaican working class [the first was to England], which began with the liberalization of American immigration laws in the early 1960s. A new kind of West Indian migrant now entered America, not the relatively well-educated, highly motivated petty-bourgeois migrants of previous generations, but the working-class and lumpen-proletarian people from the Kingston slums. Eventually, the reggae music these new migrants brought over with them, along with their disk jockeys and dance halls (as well as their gangs, the notorious posses), were to influence black American youth, but what is interesting is how long it took to do so.

A recording like Criminal Minded, so replete with references to reggae, would seem to offer some confirmation of this cultural process reaching a critical stage, though, in circular fashion, it may also have played no little role in further promoting the already quite fearsome profile of Jamaicans in New York — a reputation largely earned by the ruthlessness of the posses, drug- and gun-running gangs loosed from their ties to Jamaican political patronage by the cocaine trade. Though their reputation was in many ways deserved, as Laurie Gunst details in Born fi Dead, the images of savage, black foreigners were eagerly taken up by the press and eventually by Hollywood, leading to such arch villains as Screwface, the dreadlocked, cannibalistic, psychopathic foil to Steven Segal in Marked for Death, never mind the dreadlock- and mesh-marina-sporting alien in Predator, who, lest one suspect this reading a stretch, actually squares off against dreadlock-wearing Jamaican posse members, representing — one can only surmise — yet another form of invasive, predatory alien, in the Danny Glover-starring sequel to Schwarzenegger’s box-office hit.

In stark contrast to the threat of harassment that beset Jamaicans in the early 70s, the powerful, new significations of Jamaicanness in the 1980s could be a young immigrant’s saving grace. In his memoir, Gunshots In My Cook-Up, Guyanese-born hip-hop journalist Selwyn Seyfu Hinds recalls getting into a confrontation one night while walking through the streets of Brooklyn. As he and his friends are surrounded by a menacing group of teenagers, he decides on a telling strategy to evade a beat-down: “I was scared shitless,” he recounts,

The kind of fear when your Adam’s apple swells up and seems liable to burst out your throat. So I did what most recently arrived Caribbean kids in that era would do in such a situation . . . I began talking with a Jamaican accent.

‘Wha ya deal wit? Mi nah wan no trouble, seen?’

See, Jamaicans had a rep in those days. Still do. Jamaican kids in Brooklyn were thought of as fearsome, aggressive, not to be fucked with lightly. For the rest of us Caribbean folk, donning the trappings of that reputation when convenient was a welcome ability.

In a similar fashion, employing Jamaican language, reggae melodies, and the battle style of Jamaican soundsystems represented an explicit, and fairly successful, aesthetic choice — a musical-cultural tactic — for a young KRS-One seeking to distinguish himself and his crew from rival rappers. As he tells it (to Brian Coleman):

Oh, man, the damage we used to inflict on these groups, it was just crazy. We’d go into these clubs and they’d set up the battle and I would just start rhyming, and it wasn’t just the Jamaican lyrics. It was how we battled. We battled like a Jamaican sound system. You played one record, then you’d rewind, and the crowd would go crazy.

One borrowed sonic weapon among many, the distinctive little melody that propels “Remix for P” would have offered charged connotations to borough audiences. The tuneful couplet that imbues “Remix for P” with some of its cool and deadly, cocky swagger, was by that point a well-established melodic resource in dancehall reggae. By mid-decade, it had underpinned choruses and allusive interjections in a number of recordings — including several songs which were, in so many words, international hits (at least in that they were played in nightclubs in New York, London, Miami and other centers of Jamaican migration). At the musical and social events where KRS-One no doubt honed his Jamaican accent in an ironic reversal of Kool Herc’s attempts at assimilation and translation a decade before, the young MC would have heard any number of dancehall artists recycling the recognizable phrase — or versioning it, as they say in Jamaica. By 1985, the short, singsong melody had already animated performances by Super Cat, Frankie Paul, Ranking Toyan, Sister Nancy, and, of course, Yellowman, who, despite his proclivity for t(h)iefing melodies, as they also say in Jamaica, appears — at least to my searching ears — to have been the first to put it on wax. (Note that King Yellow changes the contour of the tune on the live version from an AA to an AB, the form which most subsequent rehearsals take).

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Quite closely related to New York hip-hop’s engagement with the sounds of Jamaica, an engagement bearing witness to a cultural currency tied to social shifts in the city, Puerto Rican hip-hop producers and vocalists also increasingly incorporated reggae riddims and melodies into their own productions and performances. The embrace of reggae in Puerto Rico, today marketed to the American mainstream and the world (and especially to pan-Latin audiences) as reggaeton, originally could be heard informing a similar sort of cultural politics as we note in New York.

Sometimes called melaza, or molasses (signifying as sugar does), sometimes called underground (marking its economic position as well as a connection to hip-hop), and sometimes called dembow (after the Shabba Ranks song that producers such as Playero and DJ Negro jacked for beat after beat), Puerto Rico’s rap-reggae fusion, especially in the mid-90s, was also promoted, in song, as música negra, as black music — no small statement in a place that identifies as 80% “white” on the US census. The blackness of Puerto Rican reggae-rap was not only proclaimed by vocalists representing, “en la casa / para la raza,” but was expressed indexically via direct musical quotations. In addition to producers sampling the hip-hop and dancehall hits of the day for their dense, collage-like pistas or tracks, Puerto Rican vocalists made their own musical connections by reworking the same well-worn melodic contours that appealed to Super Cat and Sister Nancy, Buju Banton and Bounty Killer, as well as KRS-One. That the Zunguzung meme could be found in several seminal hip-hop tracks only affirmed its resonance in this sense, especially among Nuyoricans —

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Hence we might hear the invocation of Yellowman’s melody in these examples embodying a musically-propelled cultural politics. Representing in suggestive, sonic form what Juan Flores calls the “cultural remittances” of “transnationalism from below,” such articulations challenge longstanding notions about the relationship between home and away, Puerto Rico and diaspora, and thus offer what might be heard as audible harbingers of the rediscovery of Puerto Rican negritude and a reconciliation of Puerto Rican national identity. As Flores argues:

while traditionally the translocal Puerto Rican sensibility was characterized by the emigrant longing for the beauties of the long-lost island, in some rap texts and among street youth it was the urban diaspora settings of the Bronx and El Barrio that became places of fascination and nostalgia.

And yet, while we might hear such an articulation of cultural politics in Puerto Rican invocations of the Zunguzung meme, even as artists in question mobilize the melody in the service of braggadocio or somewhat aggressive forms of flirtation, other appearances of the melody — in particular in recent stateside, commercial hip-hop — appear to suggest ways that such critical connotations can grow muted in the same way that reggae figures more generally seem to have been absorbed into hip-hop’s lexicon.

As the Zunguzung meme becomes, for certain performers and audiences, just another reference to the hip-hop canon, we hear how reggae paradoxically disappears into hip-hop’s vocabulary by virtue of its very centrality and ubiquity. This is partly KRS-One’s fault, for he so successfully infused his influential recordings with reggae borrowings that they almost immediately became more familiar than foreign. But it is no doubt also in part the fault of Biggie and Tupac, whose uses of the melody were likely more widely heard than any others and yet made no overt reference to Jamaica. On Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s “Player’s Anthem,” which centers on whether one loves “hip-hop” and if so whether one will grab or rub certain body parts to prove it, Biggie seems primarily to be invoking hip-hop tradition — that is, KRS-One’s seminal allusions — and of course, Tupac employs the melody, in turn, to demean and threaten Biggie.

Some years later, looking for the perfect hook, Joe Budden re-animated the well-worn musical meme on “Pump It Up,” though, notably, he employs only the A phrase of the melody rather than the more common AB version, perhaps suggesting sonically some distance from earlier examples. As we might expect, the echoes of Yellowman’s catchy phrase grow even fainter in Jin’s “Learn Chinese” (2004), a recording released not long after (and which makes direct reference to) Budden’s “Pump It Up.” “Learn Chinese” represents not just another node along the “Zunguzung” network but yet another degree of slippage from the tune’s reggae roots. The invocation of the melody is preceded in the song by the young MC’s admission of having “Biggie Smalls posters all over the walls,” suggesting a likely knowledge of Biggie’s use of the melody, but not necessarily confirming a connection to other, earlier instantiations. And the most recent example of what we might call an unknowing invocation of Yellowman’s melody comes to us via VH1’s and EgoTrip’s White Rapper Show. Asked to produce a club banger with Just Blaze, the producer of Joe Budden’s successful Zunguzung interpolation, aspiring rappers Shamrock, Sullee, and 100 Proof, make direct reference to “Pump It Up” in order to push the song along, if a little flatly —

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Perhaps we can hear an even clearer, if different, sense of slippage as the Christian rock band POD, featuring Hasidic singjay Matisyahu, employ the phrase to proclaim themselves warriors chanting down Babylon —

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Regardless of whether the melody connects back to Yellowman and Jamaica for artists and audiences — which I maintain is an important question, but one that I’ve yet to ask any of these performers — there is plenty we can say about the way such a phrase functions. It is rather remarkable, for instance, how often the invocation of the meme serves to direct, to instruct, to implore — a product of accretionary meanings, no doubt, but perhaps also related to the very processes of musical memory, of invoking a set of sonic symbols that can subconsciously compel listeners to follow along. At times this can feel like a coercive marshaling of musical memory, as if something automatic emerges in that moment of recognition, of sympathetic vibration. One feels forced to respond, to hum along or nod along or push up a hand, a finger, a gun salute.

Across the various versions we’ve heard here, we’re not only drawn into the feelingful realm of musical memory by the melody, we’re frequently simultaneously told to do something, as if the artists take advantage of the opportunity, of the moment of sudden resonance: “bubble for me,” they say, “push up your hands,” “grab your dicks,” “grab your glocks,” “hold your head,” “do your thing.” Cultural politics dovetails here with body politics, and sometimes with the body politic itself — as in the case of Cutty Ranks, who demonstrates during a performance at a political rally in 1986, how the melody could be pressed into the service of politics qua politics, of electoral politics, of “party” politics, if you will; indeed, of People’s National Party politics —

I’m afraid this overview only scratches the surface of meanings and narratives we can read from these myriad instances, but I think it provides nonetheless an intensely audible example not only of the musical, cultural, and social connections between hip-hop and reggae and reggaeton. In a more general sense, it also tells us something about why music echoes across time and place, and, indeed, how music can inform and texture our notions of time and place. Listening to the Zunguzung meme as it reappears again and again, accruing new meanings in new contexts and recalling (or not recalling) the connotations of previous occurrences, we hear how music can draw and redraw the lines of community, compelling us to follow along, sometimes whether we’d like to or not.

An Ever Growing Timeline of the Zunguzung Meme:

[Update (May 2010): I’ve added an additional 14 instances (!!!) which people have brought to my attn, especially via comments below, in the 3 years since I posted this piece. Now that’s distributed research! Thanks so much to all, and keep em coming!] [Update (March 2011): I’ve continued to add instances as they bubble up; I’ve now lost count of how many additions I’ve made since initially publishing this post!][Update (April 2013):The list is now up to 50+ appearances, and I’ve finally replaced the mini-mix audio below with a longer and more complete record — more like a mega-mix!]

1982 — Yellowman, “Zunguzungunguzunguzeng”
1982 — Yellowman & Fathead, “Physical / Zunguzung (Live at Aces)”
1982 — Sister Nancy, “Coward of the Country”
1984 — Frankie Paul, “Alesha”
1984 — Toyan, “Hot Bubble Gum”
1985 — Little John, “Clarks Booty”
1985 — Super Cat, “Boops”
1986 — Cocoa Tea, “Come Again”
1986 — Cutty Ranks @ StereoMars PNP Rally
1986 — BDP, “The P Is Free”
1987 — BDP, “Remix For P Is Free”
1988 — BDP, “T Cha T Cha”
1988 — Queen Latifah, “Princess of the Posse”
1988 — Masters of Ceremony, “Keep on Moving”
1988 — Sublime, “Roots of Creation”
1989 — Nice & Smooth, “Nice & Smooth”
1989 — Nice & Smooth, “Dope on a Rope”
1991 — Leaders of the New School, “Case of the P.T.A.”
1991 — Michie Mee & L.A. Luv, “Jamaican Funk Canadian Style”
1992 — Lecturer, “Gal Yu Mean It”
1992 — Sublime, “Scarlet Begonias”
1992 — Roxanne Shanté, “Dance To This (Dance To Cee’s Zunga Zunga Mix)”
1992 — Rev. Baddoo, “Bop Scuche”
1992 — Leila K, “Open Sesame”
1993 — Us3, “I Got It Goin’ On”
1993 — K7, “Zunga Zeng”
1993 — KRS-One, “P Is Still Free”
1993 — Jamalski, “African Border”
1993 — Buju Banton, “Big It Up”
1994 — The Coup, “Pimps (Freestyling at the Fortune 500 Club)”
1994 — Ninjaman, “Funeral Again”
1994 — Bounty Killer, “Kill Or Be Killed”
1995 — Buju Banton, “Man a Look Yu”
1995 — Junior M.A.F.I.A. ft. Biggie Smalls, “Player’s Anthem”
1996 — 2pac, “Hit ‘Em Up”
1996 — Captain Barkey, “Go Go Wine”
1996 — Junior Dangerous ft. Lucas, “Comin’ Out To Play”
1997 — Cru, “Pronto”
1998 — Mr. Notty, “Sentencia de Muerte”
1998 — Black Star, “Definition”
1999 — Lil’ Cease ft. Jay-Z, “4 My Niggaz”
2000 — Dead Prez, “It’s Bigger than Hip-Hop”
2000 — Daisy Dee, “Open Sesame”
2000 — Wyclef Jean ft. Xzibit and Yellowman, “Perfect Gentlemen Remix”
2001 — Ñejo, “El Problema Ser Bellaco”
2003 — Joe Budden, “Pump It Up”
2004 — Jin, “Learn Chinese”
2005 — Looptroop, “Chana Masala”
2006 — POD ft. Matisyahu, “Roots in Stereo”
2006 — JD (aka Dready), “UK Zunga Zeng”
2007 — White Rappers, “One Night Stand”
2007 — Gwen Stefani ft. Damian Marley, “Now That You Got It”
2009 — Wax Taylor ft. ASM, “Say Yes”
2010 — Vybz Kartel, “Whine (Wine)”
2011 — Tifa, “Matey Wine”
2011 — Rankin Taxi & Dub Ainu Band, “You Can’t See It, and You Can’t Smell It Either”
2011 — Yellowman, “Zungguzungguguzungguzeng (Horsepower Productions Remix / Dub)”
2013 — Benga & Kano, “Forefather”
2013 — Deekline & Ed Solo ft. Rubi Dan, “Zunga”

A Mega-Mix of the Zunguzung Meme —

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  • 1. droid  |  May 11th, 2007 at 3:11 pm

    Epic stuff Wayne.

    One thing Ive been wondering as Ive uncovered more and more of yellowmans lyrics and melodies in the earlier work of other performers. Is it possible that Zunguzung itself is an adaptation of someone else work?

    Ill also have to have a look and see if I can dig out some jungle/rave connections. there HAS to be at least one!

  • 2. wayneandwax  |  May 11th, 2007 at 4:01 pm

    It’s totally possible that Yellowman tiefed the melody from someone else (as I subtly suggest in the text). I’d love to ask him about it sometime. Seems he cribbed a great deal from General Echo and others, not to mention show tunes, folk songs, etc.

    If you turn up any earlier instances — or any jungle/rave conneckees — do let me know! Indeed, there must be some. The only such example that I know of now, which I forgot to include in the list above, is a d’n’b remix of the Black Star track which came out on Rawkus’s d’n’b sister label, Rawkuts:

    Also, a big thanks to Gabe from Heatwave who brought to my attention just today yet another interpolation of the melody: Lecturer’s “Gal Yu Mean It,” an early 90s Jammys joint. I’m totally thrilled to have so many sharp listeners keeping their ears peeled for this one!

  • 3. droid  |  May 11th, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    All bases covered as usual. :) My speed reading let me down once again!

    Ill keep an eye out anyway. 80s and late 70s sound tapes mght be a good source too. i have a feeling Brigader mightve doen something similar, but knowing him, it never made it onto wax.

    Now to read this properly!

  • 4. Shards, Fragments and Tot&hellip  |  May 14th, 2007 at 7:47 am

    […] » Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zungazung Meme […]

  • 5. el canyonazo  |  May 18th, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    maybe a connection with Zugzwang (German for “compulsion to move”)?

  • 6. Birdseed  |  May 18th, 2007 at 7:31 pm

    This is only tenuously connected to the incredibly well-researched post above (I’ve always loved your various articles on Zungazung and Mad Mad), but I thought I’d post it here anyway.

    For the past few weeks I’ve been listening fairly intentely to a lot of Miami hip-hop for a bar DJ session I finally got to do today. Among the tracks that I played (and incidentally, one of the few that ended up not fitting at all in the mood) was “Bilingual” by Remy Ma featuring reggaeton star Ivy Queen. It’s got a nice classical-music vibe to it and I like both artists.

    Now, near the end of this (about 3:20 in), Ivy Queen toasts, in English, “Remy, get ready, everybody go Rocksteady” which startled me a bit. The melody is off, of course, but it seems very much a reference (direct? indirect?) to Alton Ellis or to The Uniques’ “People Rocksteady”. I can’t off the top of my head think of any dancehall songs that include similar lines, but surely it must have come via some sort of later, jamaican intermediary?

  • 7. wayneandwax  |  May 19th, 2007 at 9:08 am

    Hmmm. First, I gotta say that that song’s pretty tough to listen to. Quite dark and plodding — and too many refs to bitches and faggots for me (I can see, perhaps, why it didn’t fit the mood). And I have no idea whether Ivy’s alluding to Ellis, some other reggae intermediary or what. Of course, “People Rocksteady” is itself an adaptation of Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions’ “People Get Ready.” And round and round we go…

  • 8. Birdseed  |  May 20th, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    It was more the doom-laden, foreboding horror-movie feel than the lyrics I think. some tracks just don’t feel bar, I had a couple of tracks that felt too club in there too. Needless to say I don’t DJ that often or well.

    (What I played was basically this plus-minus a few tracks and in a different order. One thing that struck me, in relation to that discussion we had about video game music and hip-hop a few months ago, is just how many hip-hop tracks have started incorporating obviously synthetic, videogamey versions of classical/symphonic instruments in recent years. I mean, a lot of stuff a few years ago would have fake glockenspiel or strings, maybe piano on the slower tracks, but producers like Goldrush or The Runners are putting in all sorts of things. Trumpets, entire horn sections, synth choirs, english horns, marimbas, all set up with trills and arpeggios that feel much more japanese role-playing game castle level than Public Enemy.)

  • 9. Mark Anthony Neal  |  May 24th, 2007 at 4:03 pm

    OMG, this shit is brilliant–makes my ass want to retire :)

  • 10. CokNi  |  May 24th, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    MAN! I’m speechless!

  • 11. bfnh  |  May 25th, 2007 at 8:44 am

    this is incredible.

  • 12. mike t  |  May 25th, 2007 at 11:54 am

    really amazing work. very well done, sir.

  • 13. Unite  |  May 30th, 2007 at 12:49 am

    Very interesting reading. The stuff music nerds drool over. BOH!

  • 14. Ben  |  June 5th, 2007 at 10:49 am

    Brilliant–this is what hip hop scholarship should look like.

  • 15. » Linkag&hellip  |  June 5th, 2007 at 10:09 pm

    […] A comprehensive breakdown of everyone who’s utilised the ‘Zungazeng” Yellowman chant since the original. A hefty but worthwhile read… […]

  • 16. AK  |  June 6th, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    wow, a labor of love. thank you – this is amazing. and i like the easy, understated but smooth way how u combined text with snippets & video. great stuff. thx!

  • 17. ian  |  June 10th, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    great essay. another song that uses the tune is The Coup’s “Pimps (Freestyling at the Fortune 500 Club)” .

  • 18. wayneandwax  |  June 11th, 2007 at 7:11 am

    Thanks much for that Coup reference, Ian. Found the track in question embedded here —

    Indeed, this seems to be the meme that just can’t stop. It’s no surprise that for such a feat the Coup would pick this zigzagging melody to trigger musical memory. What I love about the use on “Pimps,” though, is how it also demonstrates a tongue-in-cheek “parody” of reggae style from a hip-hop (and/or an ignant rich dude’s) perspective. (The reference to “reggie” is perfect.) It’s always telling how certain cliches get highlighted, though it’s interesting further that the phrase propelled by the melody here — “hol up yu han” — demonstrates an acquaintance with many of the less well-known (in hip-hop anyhow) appearances of the melody. The Coup know their reggie, fi true.

  • 19. tha 1 who Trevs  |  June 14th, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    another instance! Chana Masala by Looptroop at 2:49 in this video

  • 20. wayneandwax  |  June 14th, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    Nice one! A little looser, a little faster, but we even get the “push up yuh hand” reference too!

  • 21. L  |  July 6th, 2007 at 4:18 pm

    Hearing the sister nancy version, i’m thinking zigazung sounds like it could easily have even earlier roots in a skatalites/duke reid horn line.

    Its just too fanfare-y not too to have some ska origins…


  • 22. » D&hellip  |  August 1st, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    […] ticket to my heart book) […]

  • 23. wayneandwax  |  September 20th, 2007 at 9:24 am

    As noted here, thanks again to Heatwave’s Gabriel for bringing to my attention yet another example: Gwen Stefani’s “Now That You Got It,” featuring Damian Marley.

    Gabriel also points out that Cocoa Tea’s “Come Again,” an old Jammy$ joint, also features the familiar phrase.

    & the net grows bigger…

  • 24. Papa Shock  |  September 27th, 2007 at 8:45 pm

    This is an excellent paper, though I feel like I’ve missed something. In what way specifically is “Zunguzeng” specifically being differentiated from the Mad Mad/Johnny Dollar Riddim? Other examples of the riddim being used in the same general time frame as Yellowman’s “Zunguzeng” are, of course, “Diseases” by Michigan & Smiley (I believe it predated “Zunguzeng” by a year or so), as well as Yellowman’s own “Soldier Take Over” (which I also believe predated “Zunguzeng”).

    Also from 1981-ish, Echo Minott’s “Love Problems”, Clint Eastwood & General Saint’s “Jack Spratt” and Nicodemus’ “Boneman Connection”. Except for “Soldier Take Over”, I think all of the tracks I’ve mentioned so far were produced by Junjo Lawes.

    An artist named Toyan did “Pants & Blouses” circa 1982. It’s been years since I was a youth hearing these on the radio, but I believe Toyan borrowed heavily from Michigan & Smiley for his lyrics on that number. For some reason, I thought Welton Irie had a song on the Mad Mad Riddim, but can find no written reference to such. I was a big fan of Welton’s back in the day, but have a hard time recollecting the actual riddims at this point. Lyrically, however, many people are probably familiar with his lyrics and subject matter thanks to Yellowman’s frequent “borrowing” habits. Yelloman’s greatest talent seems to have been his more broadly commercial delivery, as most of his content was liberally adapted from his less commercially successful contemporaries.

    Great stuff, Wayne. I’ve been skimming through a few of your articles on the hip-hop/reggae & New York/Jamaica topics…quite interesting. I still remember the first hip-hop song I ever heard, which was while living in Jamaica – “The Message”. The arrival of hip-hop stirred up a bit of controversy among some of my compatriots in the early 1980’s, in regards to the effect it had on our, until then, dedicated-to-dancehall listening habits.

  • 25. wayneandwax  |  September 30th, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Papa Shock. You’re right that the story of the Zunguzung meme is also related to the story of Mad Mad / Diseases / Johnny Dollar, etc. That extended tale is the subject of my dissertation, and the Zunguzung chapter is but a small part of a much larger narrative (which I one day hope to share here in various forms; here’s an earlier version). The melody that I’m following here is somewhat distinct from the Mad Mad / Diseases riddim, though, in that it is found in plenty of recordings that don’t use some version of that well-worn riddim. So in this case, I’m focusing on the travels of Yellowman’s vocal melody rather than the (guitar/horn) riff and bassline that originally animated Alton Ellis’s “Mad Mad Mad” and were so crucially versioned by the Roots Radics for Junjo Lawes back in 1981.

    I haven’t heard Welton Irie’s song on the Mad Mad, but I’d love to hear it if it actually exists. He’s a significant figure in the story of hip-hop and reggae given his heavy allusions to “Rapper’s Delight” on “Hotter Reggae Music.”

    And that’s an interesting story about “The Message” and the impact it had. I’d love to hear more about some of these early hip-hop songs that found an audience among reggae’s listening public.

  • 26. Kevin Holm-Hudson  |  October 2nd, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Enjoyed your paper at IASPM very much, and am glad to have found it online here.

    Has anyone else mentioned Kanye West’s “Go on girl, go ahead, get down” zungazung at the end of “Gold Digger”?

  • 27. wayneandwax  |  October 2nd, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Kevin.

    As for the Kanye reference, to my ears it’s a bit too much of a stretch to consider it another iteration of the Zunguzung. It does share some qualities with the Zunguzung — especially the way Kanye takes the melody up in the repetition of the phrase, not to mention some general rhythmic/melodic similarities — but other than that, I don’t hear anything that really cements the connection.

    I suppose, though, that this may suggest yet another way that the Zunguzung phrase works (and lives on): once we get it in our heads, we start to hear it in the darnedest places, and sometimes one’s mind (or is it the meme?) plays tricks on us.

  • 28. Papa Shock  |  October 2nd, 2007 at 10:17 pm

    Wayne, I’m going to have to write off my earlier Welton Irie comment to faulty memory. After doing some research (though not necessarily exhaustive), I don’t find where Welton ever did a song on the Mad Mad Riddim. However, I did check out your piece on the Mad Mad phenomenon….shoulda read that before my previous comment. Good stuff, once again. Incidentally, I also came across your Aug. 1st entry “Duppy or Funman”, which referenced the Mad Mad intro on that video. That’s me on the intro; a jingle I made for Duppy Art Productions.

    Even if to a lesser extent, are you aware of similar occurrences of such classic Jamaican riddims being incorporated into hip-hop, or is this unique to the Mad Mad/Zunuzung musical thread? For instance, the “Answer Riddim” has to be one of the most reused, revamped and reinvented backings in Jamaica. I’m not aware that it ever found a home in hip-hop. What makes one seminal riddim “crossover”, so to speak, and not others, I wonder. Is it simply a matter of KRS-One making a choice at some point to cut a particular recording that just so happened to become a musical landmark, or is there some other cultural element that made one riddim/melody more palatable than others among an American audience?

  • 29. wayneandwax  |  October 3rd, 2007 at 8:55 am

    That’s a really interesting question, Papa Shock. I think it’s fair to say that the crossover success of the Mad Mad / Zunguzung have a lot to do with historical contingency: that is, because they ended up prominently sampled on such a seminal album as BDP’s Criminal Minded, they quickly became a part of hip-hop’s own musical vocabulary.

    Some have speculated that there is something musically distinctive that makes these figures so compelling and catchy, but I can’t really see how the melodies associated with the Mad Mad / Zunguzung are any more compelling or catchy than dozens of other reggae riddims and melodic contours. There are certainly other examples of reggae riddims working their way into hip-hop, including a number of uses of the Real Rock for instance, or little snippets from “Boom Bye Bye” or “Heads High” or other dancehall hits that have found a place in hip-hop DJs’ crates. But I haven’t yet found another quite like the Mad Mad / Zunguzung, which makes it such a great thread to tell this intertwined history of the two genres.

    Big up on that jingle. I love hearing the Mad Mad in new contexts. That Duppy Art stuff cracks me up.

  • 30. » M&hellip  |  December 7th, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    […] modern-day lynching, it was the title — for obvious reasons, if you’re familiar with my Zunguzung meme-trackinge — that grabbed my […]

  • 31. » Z&hellip  |  February 5th, 2009 at 2:16 am

    […] the first comment on my Zunguzung Meme post, Droid asked the perfectly reasonable question, Is it possible that […]

  • 32. » S&hellip  |  March 29th, 2009 at 8:42 am

    […] from @ripley, my favorite musical meme rears its head once again, thus time in a mid-90s Swedish rave-pop setting!? sez rip: note the […]

  • 33. Birdseed  |  April 2nd, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    FINALLY might be able to contribute to this. I’ve been listening to music for years and always kept an ear out for the Zungu melody, and with any luck you’ve already heard this one:

    Queen Latifah – Princess of the Posse (1988)

    It’s about 40 seconds in. Lots of other JA influences too.

  • 34. wayneandwax  |  April 6th, 2009 at 7:59 am

    A fantastic find, Birdseed! Thanks. Always happy to learn of another instance, especially one outside of reggae proper (showing circulation) and one that allows us to hear how hip-hop has inflected its American accent with patois patter over the years. This is great for that. Latifah is an important avatar in that late 80s / early 90s re-infusion of dancehall into hip-hop. And the presence of the other phrases show that Yellowman’s tune was hardly simply inserted into the lexicon by BDP, but rather, was really quite in the air in NYC — probably from 1982 onwards.

    Your find — and some poking around it led me on — also allow me, astoundingly, to bring Sinead O’Connor into the story, for here she is singing that section along with Latifah on the latter’s talk show (?):

    Finally, while we’re cataloging examples here, I should note that I hear the meme last night yet again — and in an interesting place: Slingshot Hip-hop, the documentary on the Palestinian rap scene. One of the members of DAM is shown in an early studio session rapping the words from 2pac’s “Hit ‘Em Up,” including my favorite phrase.

  • 35. Frantz Barosy  |  April 9th, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    This was great. Here’s another link in the chain: Lil’ Cease (of Junior Mafia)- 4 My Niggaz feat. Jay-Z. From The Wonderful World of Cease-a-Leo LP from 1999. Joe Budden bit off the hook to this cut.

  • 36. Frantz Barosy  |  April 9th, 2009 at 11:29 pm

    This version appeared on a DJ Screw mixtape so of course the track is pitched down. It’s the only clip of it i could find but you hear the meme about 2:12 in.

  • 37. wayneandwax  |  April 11th, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    Thanks a million for that Lil Cease reference, Frantz. It’s a really great link between B.I.G.’s use of the tune on “Playa’s Anthem” (on which Cease also appears) and the Joe Budden hook (you’re clearly right that Budden basically lifted the whole thing from Cease, wtf!?).

    It’s remarkably hard to track down the audio (you didn’t link to any in your comments), so I can’t embed any here, but I was — with a little help from the internet & twitterfrenz — able to find the track on a Jay-Z mixtape, zunguzung phrase and all. The beat features a Kraftwerk interpolation and what sound like samples from “Genius of Love” — what a weird production, layers of meaning in there. Would love to hear the screwed version too if you can link to it / send it.

  • 38. Frantz Barosy  |  April 16th, 2009 at 10:59 pm

    that’s the screwed link. It’s really good. It was a good track–a shame that it never hit. The Kraftwerk lift was dope too.

  • 39. Jesse  |  May 21st, 2009 at 2:16 am

    I got linked into your blog by the Wikipedia article on KRS-One and immediately thought of I Got It Goin’ On by Us3, from their 1993 album Hand on the Torch which featured the radio hit Cantaloop (“dip trip, flip fantasia”).

    This video is only a few days old so it may be pulled soon, but check out around 2.33:

    If that doesn’t work, it’s at 2.58 in this one:

  • 40. wayneandwax  |  May 21st, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Nice one, Jesse! Thanks. I’m amazed at how many examples keep rolling in. So glad I put this thing online. The “final” version will be that much richer as a result.

    What’s interesting about this is that it predates the Biggie & Tupac uses, which no doubt really helped the meme to get out there. US3 were likely informed by, and riffing off, BDP. I’m curious to know whether reggae examples (Yellowman, especially) motivated the allusion here too. Given the Jamaicanized UK soundscape, seems probable.

  • 41. Shais  |  August 19th, 2009 at 3:24 am

    This is absolutely brilliant. I can’t believe that something like this even exists. No joke.

    I just want to add another song to your time line which I did not see there or in the comments. I know you said that it is incomplete, but this is the archetypical zugyzang to me. Keep on Moving by Masters of Ceremony (Grand Pubah Maxwell Dixon’s first group). Here it is:

    Besides for this being my subjective opinion, I would draw support from the fact that Bobby Jimmy and the Critters parodies the Masters of Ceremony on NY/LA rappers. The fact that the Keep on Movin’ zugyzang was considered worthy of mocking shows that it was considered to be idiosyncratic (at least in LA in 1988).

  • 42. wayneandwax  |  August 19th, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Wow, thanks for these, Shais! I’ve been meaning to track down and listen to the MOS album for a minute now, knowing that it would have some Jamaican gems on there. This one’s great, adds some nice wrinkles to the story, including evidence that plenty of folk prolly identified KRS’s melody with the Yellowman tune from which it borrowed. I love how this timeline keeps filling out. It’s about time for me to revise it and flesh it out further, adding all the other examples people have brought to my attn.

    The Bobby Jimmy & the Critters angle is interesting, for sure — and hilarious. I’m not so sure, actually, that the parody means MOS’s song was seen as idiosyncratic; rather seems like its inclusion implies the opposite: that it was iconic, on-the-map, and thus worthy of mockery?

    Sure, they’re definitely lampooning dancehall’s flip-tongue scat stylee (blippity-blippity-bum), exoticizing it as gibberish (which a lot of it is) and unskilled (which a lot of it is not), though, of course, MOS’s invocation of Yellowman here would seem to suggest, again, the opposite (at least in NY): that patois stylings and reggae references would be familiar and relevant enough to go over but different enough to be cool.

    It’s also interesting that Bobby Jimmy’s parody of MOS includes a Slick Rick sample; makes me wonder if he’s intending to tar all of NY’s Jamaicanese MCs with one brush.

  • 43. Shais  |  August 19th, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    Did you recently listen to the Bobby Jimmy song? I couldn’t find it online and was writing from memory. If you know where I can have a listen, please let me know.

    The thing about parody is that it tells you what people are famous for. You wouldn’t make fun of Ice Cube by saying diggedy-diggedy-das-effex because that was Ice Cube imitating Das Efex or make fun of Master Ace by growling in a weird voice because that was Master Ace imitating Biz Markey. (BTW, how many instances of parody can you think of in MCing?)

    So too, if Bobby Jimmy is mocking the Masters of Ceremony with the zuggyzigga, that means that to Bobby Jimmy (at least) it was emblematic of the MCs. Now, I am sure that Bobby Jimmy was aware of the BDP single but may not have made the connection since KRS changed the words. Truth is, I never made the connection myself until I read your article.

    What I am saying is that in Los Angeles in the 80s, it is entirely possible that the first place you heard zuggyzang was from the MCs song. With all dues respect (and I am amazed with your scholarship and coolness) I think you may have a certain East coast cultural bias.

    Listen to some Egyptian Lover as a penance.

  • 44. wayneandwax  |  August 20th, 2009 at 9:14 am

    Haha – I don’t need to be told to listen to some Egyptian Lover more than once. I’m on it! And, yeah, I suppose I do have some inevitable East Coast bias — certainly what I know is informed by where I’m from, though I really have been attempting to trace the zunguzung’s West Coast profile as well.

    The funny thing about Bobby Jimmy’s parody of MoS (which I found here) is that he doesn’t reference zunguzung at all (either in phonemes/syllables or in terms of the tune). Instead he just mumbles over a beat that maybe resembles the MoS track (though not too closely), occasionally interspersing “know what I’m saying” and a sample of Slick Rick’s “la di da di.” Now that I listen more closely, it’s a little hard to tell whether it’s a specific take on “Keep It Movin” or whether it’s an attempt, as I speculate above, “to tar all of NY’s Jamaicanese MCs with one brush.” Of course, he does intro it with: “Masters of Ceremony making money, wish I could…”

    It’s a pretty hilarious send up, really, but I don’t think we can give it credit for introducing the “zunguzung meme” to LA. It’s significant, though, that MoS get to stand alongside PE, Eric B and Rakim, and other NY acts that were/are much better known. Their (outsize?) presence on a track like “NY-LA Rappers” means that NY was being figured in LA as a more Jamaican place, perhaps, than it even was at that time.

    As far as tracing Yellowman to LA more generally, the fact that “Nobody Move” was sampled on Eazy-E’s album and that D.O.C. attempts some pseudo-Jamaicanese on “Funky Enough,” among other traces (like, later, the patois patter on the Chronic), tells me that dancehall had reached the city on its own merits — and probably via various channels. I don’t think Bobby Jimmy is patient zero in this case. But I’m grateful for any other evidence you can pass my way.

    re: parodying other MCs — I think it’s probably a more widespread practice than it may seem at first blush; gonna have to give it some thought though. Definitely happens plenty on diss/beef tracks; othertimes, as homage.

  • 45. Shais  |  August 20th, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Okay, the Bobby Jimmy download is taking WAY too long for me to download but now I remember that the spoof of the Masters of Ceremony was of the hit single “Sexy” and not of the lesser known “Keep on Movin’.”

    It makes sense that that would be the subject of the parody because “Sexy” was, like I just said, the hit single. It also explains why the MCs are the only one hit wonders among seminal groups like PE and Eric B. and Rakim. “Sexy” was such a big single, no one would have thought in 1988 that EPMD would survive longer than the Masters. Again, I have not heard the Bobby Jimmy spoof in 20 years, but from memory, I recall that they spoof EPMD on there.

    It also explains the Slick Rick sample. The Ladi Dadi is an actual sample used in “Sexy,” so it seems that Bobby Jimmy was just trying to replicate the elements of “Sexy” and had no secondary intent of lampooning Slick Rick at the same time. The tongue-flipping is also from “Sexy.” Pretty simple.

    It seems that in my mind I remembered that Bobby Jimmy parody being of zuggyzeng, but clearly it wasn’t at all. Like I said, I haven’t heard it in 20 years.

    Re: the LA connection… Yellowman collaborated with RunDMC on Roots, Rock, Reggae (on their second album? 1985? Again, this is all just from memory.) Certainly RunDMC was known in LA so Dre was not the first to introduce Yellowman to the LA hip-hop scene. I will also point out that the UCLA Jazz-Reggae festival (which has evolved into somewhat of a hip-hop scene) started in 1986. I don’t think you can really say that there was one person who introduced the Dance Hall style to LA. What I do think you can safely say is that 1) it was known to the Angelinos 2) it was considered a “New York thing” (not necessarily bad or good just not local).

    Now, the fact that Dre used some of these elements (with Easy-E and with DOC) does not make it an LA thing but – to the contrary – it shows Dre’s versatility. Please remember that at the time, Dre was very much considered to be a “NY style” producer. There was no G-Funk in 1988. Before Easy Does It, West Coast production styles were basically electronica, no sampling, lots of synth. Like Too Short (Oakland) and LA Dream Team and Egyptian Lover (LA). Even the Ice T debut Rhyme Pays was very electronic. Heck, even Dre’s own producton on Boyz n da Hood and Dope Man was like that. So, when Dre came out with slower, harder beats and lots of sampling, he actually sounded more like Ced Gee of Critical Beatdown (and uncredited Criminal Minded) fame. What made Dre great back then is that he took production work that sounded like it came from Marly Mar or something and had guys rapping over it with lyrics and voices that sounded like they came from a different world.

    Anyway, the fact that Dre would incorporate Jamaican sounds does not indicate that it was refelctive of a trend but, to the contrary, that he was actually transcending West Coast aesthetics and borrowing and incorporating “foreign” and “exotic” elements.

  • 46. » The Na&hellip  |  September 23rd, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    […] But of course, for obvious reasons, I was most intrigued by the label’s name, ZUNG ZENG […]

  • 47. » P&hellip  |  October 1st, 2009 at 9:52 am

    […] happy to revisit some of my favorite well-worn musical materials (sometimes referred to, including by me, as memes) in order to talk about common practices of reuse, reference, and […]

  • 48. Leor Galil - Ex-Spectator&hellip  |  November 10th, 2009 at 2:45 am

    […] professor Wayne Marshall calls it the Zunguzung Meme, and its a musical theme in hip-hop that stretches back to the genre’s zygotic state. The […]

  • 49. wayneandwax  |  January 22nd, 2010 at 9:16 am

    thx to Chrysaora for pointing me to yet another example, from Wax Tailor’s “Say Yes,” which is a straight-up Yellowman attributing quotation, as opposed to the more melodically allusive references that mark so many of the other examples collected here (see ~2:40) —

  • 50. » S&hellip  |  January 29th, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    […] While taking more departures than Arzu’s siempre fiel (save for Spanish) “Amor” — including, of course, the very melody / flow and lyrics that Don Omar recites — Nando Boom’s song is itself quite audibly a version of Gregory Isaac’s rubadub classic, employing the Night Nurse riddim as well as some of Isaac’s vocal melodies (and, yeah, underlying medical conceit). Doing what Omar does in “MySpace” or what Nando does on “Enfermo” — i.e., inserting a musical mnemonic, invoking a familiar phrase — is not merely commonplace but arguably central to the poetics of reggae and its many musical kin. (Can I get a zunguzungung?) […]

  • 51. wayneandwax  |  February 19th, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Adding another instance to the list, “Perfect Gentlemen Remix,” with Xzibit and Wyclef. It’s kind of a cheap addition because Yellowman basically just shouts out all his big chunes at the end of the song. But it’s another repetition of ‘zunguzung’ all the same.

    Thanks to Seth Watter @ WFMU’s Beware of the Blog for the tip (and the tip of the hat) —

  • 52. » T&hellip  |  August 25th, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    […] Mexico I demonstrated less in the way of mixes, though I did do a brief rundown of the Zunguzung meme, zipping through 20 or so examples at a rapid clip. And I discussed a few organizing themes […]

  • 53. wayneandwax  |  August 25th, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I’ve gotta thank the keen ears of Christina Xu once more for picking out the latest “sighting” of our old zig-zagging friend. This time we hear the tune turn up — as a recurring, structural element, no less! (not some fly-by allusion) — in Vybz Kartel’s new track, “Whine (Wine),” produced by Max Glazer of Federation Sound.

  • 54. » W&hellip  |  September 13th, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    […] I gotta thank Christina Xu once again for spotting yet the latest allusion to the good ole “zunguzung meme.” If you haven’t heard it yet, Vybz Kartel’s new track, “Whine (Wine),” produced […]

  • 55. John R.  |  December 17th, 2010 at 4:15 pm

    …and then it gets even more complicated:
    DAS RACIST – “Fake Patois” Indian guys from New York (jokingly, kind of) calling out Jamaican-cool-appropriators!

  • 56. wayneandwax  |  December 17th, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    “Fake Patois” is a recent fave of mine! Indeed, I played it for my “global reggae” class just last week. But, alas, they didn’t throw in a “zunguzung” reference, so it doesn’t exactly fit into this post, tho, yes, it’s definitely another part of the larger story. (And the particular set of tropes Das Racist invokes offers another nice bit of audible evidence of how Jamaican slang has been embedded in wider New York / hip-hop repertories of language and performance.) Of course, they’re not the first to make such allegations. Eek-a-Mouse’s “Jamaicanese” (Tricky remix!) called out a litany of American rappers for this very infraction a few years ago.

  • 57. John R.  |  December 17th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    >>”doesn’t exactly fit into this post, tho, yes, it’s definitely another part of the larger story.” Exactly – that’s what I meant to say :)

    >>Eek-a-Mouse?? Tricky?! THANKS. Can’t wait to listen to this!

  • 58. wayneandwax  |  January 10th, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    For the latest chapter in the saga, here’s news that London’s Horsepower productions are remixing Yellowman’s tune for a dubstep-remixes-Greensleeves release:

    I gave a preview a listen via, and it’s quite a new feel for the track: up near 130bpm, it’s almost a +50 in bpm, bringing it squarely into UK funky territory.

  • 59. Markat  |  January 14th, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    Hi wnw,

    What about Kanye West’s “Gold Digger” the part where he sings “Go ‘head girl, go ‘head get down, go ‘head girl, go head get down” ? It seems he could be paraphrasing zungzung….

    Thanks for all the research!


  • 60. wayneandwax  |  January 14th, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Hi Markat — please see comments #26 and 27 above!

  • 61. » N&hellip  |  February 9th, 2011 at 8:41 pm

    […] alley. I love to tell a good audible story, where a particular set of materials is transformed over and over again, according to its new […]

  • 62. w&w  |  March 28th, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Can’t believe it’s taken me so long to notice — and no one brought it to my attn — but Jamalski’s “African Border” employs a zunguzung allusion at 2:29, “put up yu han if you love africa…”

    Yet another wonderful, meaningful invocation of the well-rehearsed tune.

  • 63. knowledge reigns supreme &hellip  |  April 8th, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    […] ^ Marshall, Wayne: Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme, April 2007. […]

  • 64. Carmelo  |  July 15th, 2011 at 4:21 am

    Someone knows this version of this unknown artist?

  • 65. Dookie Platters  |  August 18th, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    and here it is, in a 2011 Bollywood sountrack, for the film “Ready.” Check for it, however briefly, at around 2 minutes 12 seconds, chatted by an unknown rapper.

    The song is “Character Dheela-Ishq Ke Naam” (“Bad Character-In the Name of Love”, sung by Amrita Kak & Neeraj Shridhar.

    Long live zunguzung!

  • 66. wayneandwax  |  August 19th, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    @Carmelo, that’s quite an interesting example, thanks! I’m afraid i can’t ID it either. At first i thought it might be a strange incarnation of this Lucas, but it sure sounds like they chant “it’s the L U C the A A S”) and I can’t find anyone by that name out there. Was this recording made off the radio or something? (There’s an odd bit of channel switching at the end.)

    It’s a little cheesy, but definitely cool for any rap-reggae nerd worth their salt. i mean, he even sings the Boops / Bridge Is Over bassline in the first verse, reconnecting “Zunguzung” to Super Cat and BPD. Really gotta find out when & where this was made. Any help out there?

    @Dookie, I gotta admit that tantalizing as this is, I’m not yet convinced that it’s a reference to the Zunguzung tune. I mean, if it is, it’s a pretty bad one — maybe the offest yet. If so, that makes it a fine example of how creative an echo can be. I’d love to see/hear any evidence that otherwise links this to the phrase. Can someone ID the rapper? (I’ll see what I can track down.) Thanks!

  • 67. w&w  |  August 22nd, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Also, I’ve got to thank friend&colleague Pat Burke for pulling out a pretty subtle reference to “Zunguzung” in LOTNS’s classic single, “PTA“:

    Don’t ask me why I’m persuaded that this is a likely instance while the Bollywood one above seems improbable to me. I’m mainly working from sound here, though obviously Busta & co would have been well acquainted with the melody.

  • 68. wayneandwax  |  December 21st, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    Seems I’ve turned up yet another instance of the riff appearing in a Sublime song. I guess Bradley Nowell really fancied the tune. See ~2:19 in “STP”:

  • 69. wayneandwax  |  December 28th, 2011 at 9:30 am

    And thx to El Canyonazo for bringing this remix of the Yellowman original to my attn —

    Zunguzung (Lance Herbstrong Remix) by Lance Herbstrong

  • 70. » I&hellip  |  February 10th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    […] seemed like a fun task, especially given how much I love tracing patterns across different repertories. But after a few days of intense humming along to myself and attempting to trigger things in the […]

  • 71. » S&hellip  |  March 19th, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    […] course, Yellowman’s earworm par excellence, at least for this happy host, is the ol’ zunguzung meme. I can’t seem to go long without encountering another iteration. In fact, I came across two […]

  • 72. “Everyone I listen &hellip  |  April 9th, 2012 at 9:04 am

    […] want a more detailed mapping of a particular reggae meme’s journey through hip hop, check out Wayne Marshall’s fantastic essay on the subject, which demonstrates that even when contemporary artists think they are paying homage by imitating […]

  • 73. Birdseed  |  June 6th, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    One more instance of minor significance in the large Jamaican field:

    1995: Bounty Killer – Cellular Phone (major structural element from 0:52 onwards)

  • 74. wayneandwax  |  June 7th, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Thanks for the submission, Johan, though I have to confess that I’m doubtful about this one. The melody doesn’t jump out at me as it does on other uses, and I suspect that if there’s any connection it all, it’s that both descending riffs — the one Yellow uses, and slightly similar one Bounty uses here — might be said to belong to a broader dancehall-deejay melodic repertory rather than that Bounty is evoking the ol zungugung.

    To get a little wonky about it, here’s what Peter Manuel and I wrote in our “Riddim Method” article:

    …DJs from the late 1970s to the early 1990s tended to voice in simple
    two- or three-note melodies or even virtual ‘reciting tones’, such as are shown in
    Examples 2a, 2b, 2c, and the slightly wider-ranged 2d. These tunes easily cohere with
    the sorts of chordal ostinatos common in most reggae riddims, which typically
    alternate a major tonic chord with ii, IV, V or XVII.

  • 75. Birdseed  |  June 7th, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Hmmm. Yes, that was my first (well, second) reaction too, not quite it. But the different repetitions are subtly different, and I would say the first iteration, the line that ends in “Romance”, is closer to zunguzungu. Still, a different end note, so let’s scratch it. :) Will keep brining the borderlines too if I find them. :)

  • 76. JJ  |  September 15th, 2012 at 5:14 am

    I Don’t have another instance, but I am ecstatic that this exists. I never realized that something so simple as Yellowman chanting sounds has such a strong influence in hip hop and beyond.

  • 77. w&w  |  October 30th, 2012 at 10:31 am

    Just keeping up with the latest (re)discoveries. First, from 1996, a song by Captain Barkey called “Go Go Wine” that they’ve been playing on the local Caribbean radio station (Big City 101.3) since his recent murder. Wouldn’t have stumbled across this one otherwise —

    Also, more recently recorded, see Tifa’s “Matey Wine” on last year’s Contra riddim:

    I also heard a zunguzung reference in an unreleased Poirier track the other night (“Party Party” featuring Marky Lyrical) when he played in Boston. He trusts me it’ll see the light of day eventually. For now, just adding it to this ever-growing array of appearances…

  • 78. w&w  |  November 26th, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Thanks to Daniel Thorn for bringing yet another late 90s NYC hip-hop instance to my attention. In this case, CRU’s “Pronto” (1997), it pops up rather randomly and somewhat unexplained, following a reference to boxer Riddick Bowe and coming before an assertion that Wu-Tang’s “Method Man” is the rapper’s favorite song. Perhaps it just goes to show how easily inserted the phrase had become at that time — not to mention how it stands as a general marker of New York hip-hop. Hear it right around the 0:42 mark:

  • 79. KRS-One | Dizzy Official&hellip  |  January 9th, 2013 at 1:29 am

    […] ^ Marshall, Wayne: Follow Me Now: The Zigzagging Zunguzung Meme, April 2007. […]

  • 80. Chimino  |  January 26th, 2013 at 10:45 am

    The riddim name is “Diseases”, sometimes called “Mad Mad”. It didn’t originate with Yellowman, but with Studio One in 1967 and the Alton Ellis tune “Mad Mad”. It was later reversioned for Michigan & Smiley’s “Diseases”, and soon after Yellowman.
    Most of the reggae tracks which use the riddim can be found here:

  • 81. wayneandwax  |  January 26th, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Chimino. Please see comments #24 and #25, as we’ve been over this before.

  • 82. Birdseeding  |  March 11th, 2013 at 6:04 am

    Just released yesterday, explicit reference in the intro:

  • 83. wayneandwax  |  March 11th, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Birdseed does it again! Nice ears, Johan. Thanks, as always, for keeping an ear out for me.

  • 84. » A&hellip  |  April 10th, 2013 at 12:50 am

    […] attention since I first started listening for that catchy likkle tune and, with the publication of this piece back in 2007, enlisting others to lend me their […]

  • 85. wayneandwax  |  April 11th, 2013 at 2:11 pm

    Thanks to Noriko Manabe (& Marvin Sterling) for bringing yet another instance to my attention — and finally one from beyond the Americas & Europe. Japanese reggae artist Rankin Taxi’s “You Can’t See It, and You Can’t Smell It Either” — a little reggae-propelled post-Fukushima commentary — invokes the phrase beginning around 3:17–

  • 86. wayneandwax  |  July 23rd, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    And here’s another — brand new out of UK but inna throwback jungle style:

  • 87. wayneandwax  |  August 20th, 2013 at 11:12 am

    I keep forgetting to add this one to the pile — a classic slice of raggamuffin hip-hop via Canada! (see 1:30ish)

  • 88. “Hearing Raggamuffi&hellip  |  October 2nd, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    […] these tracks bequeathed to the genre all manner of reggae references, among them the well-worn “zunguzung meme” (which inevitably rears its familiar head in our mix). As we move forward, we move outward, […]

  • 89. » Z&hellip  |  November 8th, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    […] tune. As you all know, the melody from “Zunguzungunguzunguzeng” — aka “the Zigzagging Zunguzung meme” — has traveled widely. And I’ve been on the case ever since I first began […]

  • 90. » C&hellip  |  January 6th, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    […] up the heavy ragga vibes, I was happily surprised to hear yet another instance of that ol’ zunguzung tune suddenly rear its head as Rev. Baddoo’s “Bop Scuche” comes into the mix. I […]


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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