J.B. Moore

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High school students doing biographical research are always delighted to find a good movie on a particular subject. In the case of J.B. Moore, producer and pioneer in the science of rap music, the flick…
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High school students doing biographical research are always delighted to find a good movie on a particular subject. In the case of J.B. Moore, producer and pioneer in the science of rap music, the flick to catch is Krush Groove, although Moore himself may not have been totally pleased about his depiction therein. What the credit of "producer" means is unbelievably varied in the music business; some producers simply go out and fetch tuna sandwiches at an appropriate moment, while others create the entire album, playing every instrument. Moore, who was born born Johnny B. Moore but should not be confused with the Chicago blues guitarist of the same name, simply put up the green which allowed the first recordings of Queens rapper Kurtis Blow to be released. Blow's "These Are the Breaks" was considered one of the first and most important singles in the rap genre, meaning Moore' grubstake was in some ways the equivalent of the guy who paid for the first set of picks and shovels used to open up the lucrative Gold Hill mine in Colorado. Subsequently, Moore tried to write more hits for and with Blow, but with no luck; one of these titles, "It's Gettin' Hot," proved to a hit hip-hop subject when another set of performers took a stab at it circa the summer of 2003.

As is also typical with the music business, productions of Moore which only limped commercially turned out to be historically important. "If I Ruled the World," for example, was supposedly the first time both a drum machine and a sampler were used on a rap record. The development defies many commonly held aesthetic insights, for example the idea that nobody from the world of music journalism contributes to innovation. Moore and his partner Robert Ford were a pair of ambitious writers for Billboard when they caught Blow, a former Soul Train emcee, doing his nightclub act. They managed to sign Blow to a major label, yet another first in the rap genre, resulting in a situation where Moore no longer had to put up his own cash. The idea that innovations in popular music forms such as rap come about only through a clever combination of poverty and desperation also literally gets a rap on the head here: it was the record company's investment that allowed the producers to buy the sampling equipment in the first place, at that point only available for a quarter-of-a- million dollars.

The early Blow catalog has continued to nurture Moore as the decades passed, particularly when commercial artists such as the Next cough up moolah for publishing rights in order to utilize samples. As with many key moments in performers' careers, Moore's rap connection also obscures quite a diverse past as a musician, beginning as a bassist with folk-rockers in the East Village of New York City. His association with topical performers of the period such as Phil Ochs may have helped hone the keen ear for social issues that made "These Are the Breaks" so utterly compelling. Moore was drafted, a development that would have horrified Ochs, and spent more than two years in the Army, a good chunk of it in Vietnam.

From there, Moore became re-involved in civilian life and the arts as a financial backer for summer stock in Rapid City, SD -- hardly the standard image for someone who would become involved in rap. He began acting; in the '70s, Moore was in a rock band called Kilroy, and he was a limousine driver back in New York City, where he also slaved in a record store. Then he spent five years at Billboard, where he met Ford, with whom he shared an acumen in sensing the importance of rap. In the '80s some journalists compared them with various historic songwriting teams. Moore's rap attracted attention from Hollywood and he wound up working on material with both Rodney Dangerfield and Dan Aykroyd.