The birth of our underground brand, Factory 93, not only brought on an adrenaline rush reminiscent of the renegade warehouse-era of raving—on which Insomniac was founded—but it also had us thinking back to all the people, places and parties that made this whole operation possible. With that came a burning desire to crack open our collection and dust off the classic records we couldn’t live without. Through our From the Crates series, we’re breaking out seminal and obscure cuts alike, imparting some knowledge in the process.
There was a time when electronic music had no face. The Chemical Brothers gave it one—two, actually. Forerunners to EDM, in March 1997, the British duo released “Block Rockin’ Beats,” the lead-up single to their second album, Dig Your Own Hole. The bombastic track—identified by the lifted vocal of Schoolly D shouting, “Back with another one of those block rockin’ beats!” and a slinky re-imagination of the bassline from 23 Skidoo’s “Coup”—went straight to #1 in the UK.
Stateside, it was the rallying cry for the buzzy trend of the time, electronica, with Tom Rowlands and Ed Simons of the Chemical Brothers as its flag bearers. The two’s unerring feel for key samples, funky breaks, techno sensibility, and hip-hop know-how arranged within a traditional song structure made them the archetypal electronic music songwriters. The deeply complex yet deceptively simple “Block Rockin’ Beats” was nominated for multiple awards internationally and walked away with the Grammy for Best Rock Instrumental Performance.
It’s a favorite among many in the Chemical Brothers’ standard-bearing live set. And to this day, fists are involuntarily pumped in the air, pounding down at exactly the same time, when Schoolly commands: “BEATS!”