Nestled at #4 on the Beatport Top 100 – and a comfortable #1 on the Electro House chart – Tiësto & DallasK’s “Show Me,” pairs abruptly clipped riffs of air-horn tonality with one of pop music’s all-time great warning sounds: the gritty saxophone riff that kicks off the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band’s “Darkest Light,” from 1974, which is one of the most-sampled horn parts of the past thirty years.
The Lafayette Afro-Rock Band was formed in 1970 on Long Island as the Bobby Boyd Congress, named for their original singer. They moved to Paris, gigging and recording as Ice, and became the house band at Parisound Studios, a recording facility run by Pierre Jaubert. According to this 2011 interview with Jaubert: “In France we use complicated names, so The Lafayette Afro-Rock band, that name was kind of complicated. So I invented that and registered the name immediately. It was a group that did not exist. So when you ask me how you found [the] Lafayette [Afro-Rock Band]? There was no such group as [the] Lafayette Afro-Rock Band. I had to invent them.”
However it happened, the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band put their name on two albums (and two more as Ice) under Jaubert’s supervision, and “Darkest Light” appeared on the second, Malik. The five-note sax opening is above all mutable – it sounds great in any number of settings.
The first of those new settings made a lot of people sit up straight: Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, hip-hop’s most heavily acclaimed album, its Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, for good reason (listen to its opening track, “Bring the Noise”). There, production team The Bomb Squad blueprinted a number of tactics that still resonate in rap and beyond, such as the short interstitial instrumental, the most commanding of which was “Show ’Em Whatcha Got,” on which the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band’s sax sounds like a call to arms.
The sax popped up all over hip-hop in the years immediately following, from Kid Capri’s “The Apollo” in 1991 to Ice Cube’s title song for 1995’s Friday, his first movie as a co-writer. But aside from the 1999 release of the Lafayette Afro-Rock Band compilation Darkest Light on Strut, the most visible/audible resurfacing of “Darkest Light” in the ’90s came via a pair of new jack swing hits from 1992. Both N2Deep’s “Back to the Hotel” and Wreckx-n-Effect’s “Rump Shaker” took that stentorian sax part and turned it lascivious.
The last high-profile use of “Darkest Light” came a decade ago, when Jay-Z used it on “Show Me What You Got,” from 2006’s comeback Kingdom Come. There, producer Just Blaze paired it with another well-known horn loop, from the title track of Johnny Pate’s 1973 Shaft in Africa soundtrack. Even that wasn’t the first instance of a producer joining samples of those particular tracks, as Billboard pointed out: “Philadelphia old-school rap outfit Tuff Crew did it on the 1989 track ‘Soul Food.’ But while Jay-Z and Tuff Crew borrow the same sax sample from ‘Darkest Light,’ ‘Soul Food’ uses the drum elements from ‘Shaft in Africa’ rather than the horns.”
The horns are most certainly what Tiësto & DallasK use on their track. “Show Me” utilizes the horn sample to center the work, rather than sex it up (ala N2Deep and Wreckx-n-Effect) or its commanding feel (a la Public Enemy). Here it works more as a nod to those tracks — or really to old-school hip-hop in general — and to ground the bouncing central synth riff that makes up the song’s real center.
As for the producer behind “Darkest Light,” Jaubert sounded resigned in the interview. “I’ve [always] had people sampling my music,” he said. “Hundreds and hundreds of people. There’s not much you can do. They don’t sample now, they steal. You know? It’s still the same thing, but now we don’t make any money. At least when they were sampling we could always call the lawyer and make a few dollars, but now this is over.”