Neil Drumming
February 13, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

You wouldn’t know it from listening to the radio, but the Beatles have a surprising number of fans in the rap world. Hip-hop artists have been hip to the Beatles ever since veteran MC KRS-One sang his ”Criminal Minded” to the tune of ”Hey Jude” in 1987. But these days, the Fab Four get props less for their eternal rock riffs than for their envelope-pushing recording ingenuity, which fundamentally changed the way pop artists think about making records. ”The studio-oriented s — – is what electronic-based or hip-hop producers are drawn to,” says experimental West Coast beat maker Nobody. ”Like ‘Tomorrow Never Knows.’ We all agree that’s, like, the first electronic song, because it’s all tape loops. It is kind of like the way people go about doing beats these days. They didn’t have a key change in the song.”

Producer and Roots drummer ?uestlove could easily lead an egghead seminar on the Beatles’ behind-the-board techniques. ”You have to understand the way they created these records,” he says. ”They had [only] four to eight tracks to work with. Technology wasn’t like it is today.” To those who consider the turntable a percussion instrument, the Beatles’ desire to test the limits of their equipment is thrilling. ”They would lay the music down, manipulate it, f — – with it, try to push it,” says Q-Tip, ”which is the hip-hop aesthetic.”

But as hip-hop matures and struggles to escape its stylistic conventions, the genre’s risk takers appreciate the Beatles’ innovation outside of the studio as well. ”They didn’t have one style,” says OutKast’s Andre 3000. ”You can hear their growth from when they were covering American rock & roll songs to writing their own songs, and then going off on their own trippy creations. I can identify with that.”

Hip-hop fusion fanatic Danger Mouse recently created a CD — titled The Grey Album — by mixing a cappella tracks from Jay-Z’s Black Album with samples from the Beatles’ White Album. He hopes that the Beatles’ daring sonic inventiveness will rub off on more of today’s rap superstars. ”What they decided to do with [adventurous music] hopefully will influence what hip-hop people do, now that [we have] pop in the palm of our hands.” You say you want a revolution…

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