‘It Takes Two’ 101: Everything You Need to Know About Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock’s Classic
"I'm gonna rock right now / I'm Rob Base and I came to get down …"
It was one of the great introductions in hip-hop, coming as it did riding atop a sleek, head-nodding, foot-tapping groove and an iconic sample—a grunt and "Hoo!"—that just about everyone would try to copy in the coming years. No one would come close.
To this day, Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's "It Takes Two" is pretty much guaranteed to get any party started, regardless of who's at that party.
"You throw it on in a party, everybody dances. That's all I can say," Rob Base told The Boombox in a 2012 interview.
"It Takes Two" is a pop song, a street song and a pure hip-hop classic. It helped pave the way for the genre's mainstream acceptance and gave Rob Base the kind of profile and authority he still wields today, celebrating the track's 30th anniversary on stage, joined by some of the era's biggest hit makers, like Salt-N-Pepa and Coolio (sadly, DJ E-Z Rock cannot join him, having passed away in 2014).
We've broken down a few interesting facts about the classic track—from where it derived its sample, to its impact on hip-hop.
James Brown and space disco form its foundation
"It Takes Two"'s spoken intro ("Right about now, you're about to be possessed by …") is accompanied by a spooky, spacy sample from Galactic Force Band's track "Space Dust," from their 1978 album Spaced Out Disco, which featured disco-style covers of themes from Star Wars, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the like.
"It Takes Two"'s main hook, though, was sampled from Lyn Collins' 1972 single "Think (About It)," a track written and produced by James Brown, who also voiced the iconic holler in the track's breakdown. The funk jam has been sampled in literally thousands of songs, including Janet Jackson's "Alright," "Snoop Dogg's "Ain't No Fun (If the Homies Can't Have None," and the extended mix of Guy's "Teddy's Jam."
Givin' the drummer some
Questlove named "It Takes Two" No. 15 in his Top 50 Hip-Hop Songs of All Time (featured in Rolling Stone), calling out James Brown's drummer, John "Jabo" Starks for his work on "Think (About It)." Quest calls Starks' five breaks on "Think (About It)" "his magnum opus."
"[Brown's] holy ghost yelp almost threatens to upstage Starks' show," he notes, "but it's Starks' steady glide that gave R&B music its blueprint some 15 years after its release."
Teddy Riley produced a(nother) classic
New Jack Swing was coming into its own in the late '80s, and one of its creators and hottest producers was Teddy Riley. Riley had molded the sound around jams by Keith Sweat ("I Want Her"), Johnny Kemp ("Just Got Paid") and others, when he wasn't holding down the groove for his group Guy. He was, without question, one of the biggest names in R&B and hip-hop at that moment.
It was Teddy Riley who put together the instrumental track for "It Takes Two," and, according to Rolling Stone, "deployed a similar jump-up syncopation as the king of New Jack Swing."
Amazingly, somebody found a way to ruin it
"It Takes Two" seems elementally awesome, but Fatman Scoop found a way to make it sound horrible. In 2004 he released a single named "It Takes Scoop" that is comprised almost entirely of him running through a series of cliched call and response lines over the beats and chorus from "It Takes Two" and other excellent songs. He even dragged Grandmaster Melle Mel's classic "White Lines (Don't Do It)" into this mess. The worst part? He was rewarded with a Top 10 U.K. hit for his efforts.
People still love the groove
The continued appreciation for "It Takes Two" just shows the lasting power of both the street and the studio.
"I was a street rapper in the beginning," Base told The Boombox in 2012. "I used to do more of the hardcore thing … When we [made "It Takes Two"], I just wanted to do something different. … There were a few groups that were saying, 'Oh, you're selling out. You're this, you're that.' And I look at them now and they can't even get one show."
If "selling out" means making a hit whose influence can still be felt 30 years on, so be it. "It Takes Two" is more than just a dance floor filler, more than a staple of hip-hop radio or classic music video shows. It's the soundtrack for commercials, television shows such as My Name is Earl and even superhero movies including the upcoming Ant-Man and the Wasp.
No doubt about it: Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock came to get down in 1988, and their hit has been with us ever since.