The Woo-Hah!!–ing of the Age of Aquarius

‘Hair’ Composer’s Tangled, Spangled, and Spaghettied Beats Let the Sunshine Into Hip-Hop

Padilla grabbed a few hundred copies and began distributing them to New York record stores. He also dragged producers like Lord Finesse to Galt's house. MacDermot's rare grooves were being traded like samizdat among a select few converts, among them Rashad Smith, who snatched Woman Is Sweeter's "Space" as the main sample for "Woo-Hah!! Got You All in Check." "They called me saying that they wanted to use my song 'Space,' and I said, 'I didn't write it,' " says MacDermot. "I had forgotten about it!" "Woo-Hah!!" 's manic, lost-in-the-funhouse vibe is a far cry from "Space" 's Sun Ra at Happy Hour wooziness, but MacDermot feels it. "I loved the energy and humor," he says. "The chord progressions are very far-out, and that's what they locked into."

MacDermot may have been content to collect royalties and let his records float around in their original incarnation were it not for a 19-year-old Vanderbilt University student and record collector named Eothen Alapatt. He got wind of MacDermot's buried treasure, and decided to do a little exhuming. "The thing about Galt is that recording was almost a rote thing for him," says Alapatt, who now divides his workload between MacDermot and the L.A.-based underground hip-hop label Stone's Throw. "I started cataloguing the records, keeping track of the acetates and the masters, and there were, like, hundreds of tracks that no one had ever heard."

Alapatt made deals with a few distribution companies and put together last year's Up From the Basement Unreleased Tracks, Volume One, an anthology of unreleased tracks that has been used as a sample salt lick by countless DJs. Last April in Nashville, Alapatt produced a tribute concert featuring MacDermot, a couple of old sidemen, and turntablist supplicants like Peanut Butter Wolf and the Invisibl Skrtch Piklz's Shortkut. The show, which drew over 1000 fans, can be heard on Galt MacDermot With "Pretty" Purdie and "Bad" Bascomb Live in Nashville, recently released on Kilmarnock.

The secret grandfather of rap music?
photo: Sylvia Plachy
The secret grandfather of rap music?

"It's great that my stuff is being picked up by these hip-hoppers, 'cause those guys are allowing rhythm to come back," says MacDermot. "Disco kinda killed rhythm for a while there in the '70s, and rap brought it back. To me, that's what music's all about."

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