Hip Hop wouldn’t be what it is without the bass guitar. Since the earliest, sample-driven days of hip hop, the bass guitar has been a crucial part of hip hop’s evolution. From veteran effects pedal-hogging luminaries like Pino Palladino to contemporary producer-musicians like Brady Watt, let’s dive into the world of the most important bassists in hip hop.
Strangely enough, Doug Wimbish is mostly famous for being the bassist for the rock band Living Colour. But if you’re a hip hop head who grew up in the ‘80s, you might know Wimbish from the incredible bass lines on songs by groups like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Sugarhill Gang, and other pioneering names in rap. Known for collecting MXR effects pedals, which supplies his variety of funky, furious tones, Wimbish is without a doubt one of the most influential living bassists that still play actively today. No other old school bassist deserves being first on this list.
MCA aka Adam Yauch
Much like his fellow rap-rock pioneers from the legendary Beastie Boys, Adam Yauch, also known as MCA, is a celebrated rapper and underrated instrumentalist. Over the course of eight studio albums, the band was at the forefront of the beautiful, violent clash between punk rock and hip hop – to the buzz of MCA’s aggressive, fuzz pedal-driven bass tone. The man effortlessly combined elements of punk, funk, classic rock, and hip hop, and he did it all while also being one of the greatest emcees in history.
In the world of rock, Pino Palladino is famous for having played bass for The Who, John Mayer, BB King, and even Nine Inch Nails. However, those who’ve followed The Soulquarians in the ‘90s know Palladino as the bass player behind Erykah Badu’s ‘Mama’s Gun’ and D’Angelo’s ‘Voodoo’ – two of the most significant albums from the peak era of boom bap, both instrumental to the birth of neo soul. Armed with the Emma Electronic Discumbobulator V2 filter pedal, Palladino has only worked with a handful of rappers. Be that as it may, his legendary old school filtered tone and style continues to be highly influential in the worlds of hip hop, soul, and R&B.
Chip Searin is mostly famous for being the bassist who reworked the bass breaks from Chic’s “Good Times” so they could be used to record 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang. After the dust settled from the legal threats and controversies that followed the sampling, both songs enjoyed commercial success, and Shearin’s work became one of the most sampled bass lines in history. Shearin himself eventually went on to be a session bassist for the likes of Janet Jackson, Faith Evans, and Christina Aguilera. And today, “Rapper’s Delight” is still widely regarded as the first hip hop record ever.
You might not have heard the name before, but Brady Watt has worked with a variety of established and emerging talents in the game. From emcees like Bishop Nehru and Talib Kweli to Murs and The Grouch from the Living Legends crew, Watt has lent not just his bass playing but also his production chops to a growing chunk of contemporary hip hop. And out of all the prominent, young-ish bassists actively making records today, Watt is arguably the most underrated. If you haven’t already done so, check out his Bass & Bars series in which he jams with different rappers.
These five are of course not the only hip hop bass guitarists you need to know about. While they’re arguably the most important, genre-hopping, pedal-hogging, and well-established bassists in the game, hip hop is a continuously evolving genre and will continue to produce countless other instrumentalists who will have an even bigger impact on the future of hip hop.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Weekly Rap Gods.