magazine February, 2000
NILE RODGERS 25th Anniversary

Nicking Nile

Prolific Rodgers' riffs and rhymes
have provided inspiration-and
sound foundations-for countless
borrowers and followers.

If sampling has replaced imitation as music's sincerest form of flattery, then Nile Rodgers must feel lavishly complimented indeed. Riffs fashoined by Rodgers and his late bass-playing collegue, Bernard Edwards - the twin engines driving that Rolls-Royce of disco acts, Chic-have cropped up in a vast variety of records over the last quarter-century.

The pillaging of Chic is not just a recent phenomenon, although the practise is certainly alive and well. Gettin' jiggy would be unimaginable without the underpinning of Rodgers liquid guitar syncopation from Sister Sledge's 1979 disco classic "He's the greatest dancer" (Will Smith also employed Chic's "Good Times" for a companion track to "Gettin' Jiggy Wit It" on the "Big Willie Style" album. "Its All Good,") And, when the Notorious B.I.G., Puff Daddy and Mase detailed the relationship between wealth and inner peace on "Mo Money, Mo Problems," they used the Rodgers/Edwards composed Diana Ross anthem "I'm Coming Out" as the musical foundation.

But hip-hop artists have found a treasure trove in the Chic catalog from the beginning. The first rap hit, 1979's "Rappers Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang, bears a Rodgers/Edwards co-writing credit, since it's entire musical structure is composed of Chic's then-recent hit "Good Times." That launched a trend that encompasses such hits as A Tribe Called Quest's remixed 1990 version of "Bonita Appleburn" and Monie Love's 1991 "It's A Shame," originally based on the Spinners hit of the samed title but remixed to score bigger by incorporating the same "Greatest Dancer" riff used by Smith. Pharcyde, the Lost Boyz, MC Lyte, the Def Squad and many more rappers have also plundered Nile sources.

Such expeditions have not been restricted to hip-hoppers. Naturally, swarms of dance acts borrowed the basic Chic sound. Change (whose vocalists included Luther Vandross and Jocelyn Brown) based a five year hit career on Rodgers/Edwards variations. Inner City's techno-dance landmark "Good Life" is a direct descendant of "Good Times." Latter-day Kool & The Gang hits, such as "Fresh" and "Tonight" are indebted to Chic riffs, and Odyssey, Indeep, Young & Company and Narada Michael Walden all made withdrawals from the Chic sound banks.

Reggae and dancehall practitioners have also been influenced-particularly by "Why" a reggae-inflected tune Rodgers and Edwards wrote for Carly Simon in 1982. And anyone who hears Queens 1980 charttopper "Another One Bites The Dust" can't help but detect the strong similarity between it's bassline and that good old "Good Times" riff.

Strangely, straight cover versions of Rodgers/Edwards material, while not unknown, have gone largely unheard. There are a few versions of "I Want Your Love" (Mariah Carey, discoverer, Brenda K. Starr, ex-Frankie Goes To Hollywood second banana Paul Rutherford), a few disco medleys incorporating Chic tunes and, perhaps most memorable, a striking version of the Chic ballad "At Last I'm Free" by British avant-gardist Robert Wyatt. But when it comes to sampling, borrowing or outright robbery, Rodgers and Edwards rank with James Brown and George Clinton in the source-material elite.