Though it’s not the best song on Space Jam’s soundtrack—that’s “Hit ‘Em High (The Monstar’s Anthem)”—the title track by Florida’s punctuation-defying Quad City DJ’s, is the best encapsulation of the movie’s mid-’90s spirit. It’s corny, it’s fun, it’s got a roaring crowd introducing a drum machine beat. It is, decades later, the essence of Space Jam.
Now, ahead of the sequel’s release, The Ringer has looked back at how the 1996 movie ended up hiring the group to make Miami bass the eternal reference point for cartoon basketball players. At the time, Quad City DJ’s were riding a wave of popularity with “C’mon And Ride It (The Train).” The track followed in 2 Live Crew’s wake (and the success of a single from their own previous group, 95 South) during that stretch of the ‘90s when classic Miami bass was still a force in mainstream hip-hop.
Quad City DJ’s Johnny “Jay Ski” McGowan, JeLana LaFleur, and Nathaniel “C.C. Lemonhead” Orange were already doing well when they were approached by Big Beat Records’ Craig Kallman about the movie he was working on “with [Warner Bros.] cartoons and Michael Jordan.” After being convinced that this was a project worth pursuing, Jay Ski said “that not only would [Quad City DJ’s] contribute a track, but it would need to be the title track,” just in case the movie did end up being as big of a hit as Kallman predicted.
Jay Ski only balked a bit during the process when he was first shown in-progress, green screen-heavy Space Jam footage that he thought looked “pretty cheesy.” Still, he, LaFleur, and C.C. Lemonhead wrote the song and, after a Gary Glitter sample was very understandably pulled, it went on to become an integral part of the movie’s success. Warner Bros. had Quad City DJ’s perform the song live “in front of the theater for multiple premiere screenings,” a highlight of a career that’s never reached the same slamming, jamming heights again since.
“The planets aligned and it took off,” Jay Ski says, tossing in a solid space metaphor. “[The track] sealed us in the history books as that group that made those fun records.”
Read the entire article over at The Ringer.
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