Triggerman – The Loop That Changed Hip-Hop Forever

Beyonce’s “Renaissance” is an early front-runner for the album of the year, and has garnered acclaim from music critics and fans alike for its tributes to the pioneers in dance, funk, house, and disco music. With all those inspirations it’s no wonder there’s some real treats for sample-lovers woven throughout its 16 tracks—from Donna Summer’s disco classic “I Feel Love” to Memphis legend Tommy Wright III’s “Still Pimpin.” One of the samples included on the album is particularly notable, and not for its rarity—in fact it’s quite the opposite. It’s one of the most sampled songs of all time, and on “Church Girl,” Beyonce, The Dream, No I.D. and Stuart White have added yet another chapter to the extensive and ever-evolving story of The Triggerman.

@jarredjermaine Beyonce ‘Renaissance’ samples & interpolations including Kelis, Donna Summer, Robin S, Right Said Fred, etc #beyonce #renaissance #kelis #donnasummer #robins #album #sample #samples #sampled ♬ BREAK MY SOUL – Beyoncé

The Triggerman Loop originates from the song “Drag Rap,” a 1986 single by New York City group The Showboys. The song made an initial splash in New York thanks to a co-sign from prominent DJ Mr. Magic, but was pretty much a flop otherwise. The Showboys carried on with their lives, with not the slightest clue that in the coming years their track would change the course of hip-hop forever.

In the days before the Internet and services like Nielsen Soundscan, it was almost impossible for artists to trace the impact their song was having. So we may never know exactly how “Drag Rap” made it to Memphis, but that’s where the song had its first breakout success thanks to local DJ Spanish Fly. It’s also where the song became widely referred to as “Triggerman.” Fly included the track on his mixtapes and sampled it in a few of his own productions. Fans identified with the intricate lyrics and hard-hitting beat, and before long the song became the soundtrack to the city’s signature dance move, the “gangsta walk.”

This era was the genesis of the Memphis sound; which provided a foundation for the hugely influential genres of trap, crunk and phonk; and in turn spawned the incredible careers of iconic Memphis emcees like 8Ball & MJG, Project Pat, Three 6 Mafia, and newer rappers like NLE Choppa, Blac Youngsta and Young Dolph.

Even further south, the Triggerman was charting another path in New Orleans. It was there that MC T. Tucker and DJ Irv lifted heavily from the instrumental version of the song for their 1992 track “Where Dey At?” which is widely considered to be the first ever New Orleans Bounce song. The signature one-bar xylophone flourish which can be heard at the beginning of “Drag Rap” has cemented itself as one of the foundational elements of the New Orleans sound, and as such has been sampled countless times in songs by everyone from Master P to Lil B, Chris Brown to Drake, 21 Savage to Lupe Fiasco, and many, many more. As Big Freedia says in her book God Save the Queen Diva!: “If it has the Triggerman beat, it’s Bounce!”

The dark side to this story is that The Showboys say they made just $2,500 from the track, and haven’t received any royalties, despite its widespread usage and insurmountable cultural impact. While it unfortunately hasn’t been financially lucrative for the artists, “Drag Rap (Triggerman)” has earned its place alongside The Winstons’ “Amen, Brother” and James Brown’s “Funky Drummer ” as one of the most influential samples in music history. So next time you’re questioning the impact one of your songs could have, remember this little loop and the way it changed hip-hop forever.