The Renegade, or Renegade Master, takes on many shapes and forms, but that iconic vocal hook with the pitched up horn sequence is undeniable and bound to pack dancefloors around the world, as it has been doing for the past 20 something years.
I can still remember being a fresh 18 year old upstairs at Ric’s and hearing this classic for the first time as it boomed across the tiny dancefloor. Seconds later I was cutting shapes as hard as I could, yelling the lyrics back at the DJ alongside a crowd of like minded punters out for a good muzz.
The song was shazamed, and when I revisited it the next morning I was still impressed by how hard the drops hit without sacrificing any groove. And that vocal! Ugh what a great track. As is often the case with house music, I heard the remix before the original. In this instance, I was smitten by The Renegade (2013 Friend Within Refix) released on the Californian label Dirty Bird. Little did I know at the time, this was only a single reincarnation of a legendary track that has changed sound and shape over the last two decades as its traveled around the globe in the form of samples and remixes.
As I became increasingly obsessed with this song, I started finding all sorts of remixes and variations of the 2013 version I had originally heard. The Renegade became a squad classic that we would whip out at all the important events where a popping dance floor was required. We found bass house remixes, deep house remixes, and cut-n-shut versions that kept only the vocals intact. Years after discovering The Renegade and having played it hundreds of times in its various forms, I decided to find out more about this classic track and its origins in the history of house music.
Many consider the original track to be UK producer Wildchild’s 1995 release Renegade Master. This is the first iteration of the track that meets the criteria; Vocal Snippet (✔), Pitched up horn (✔), 4/4 kick and snare (✔). This release reached #11 on the UK charts and achieved resounding local success within the UK dance scene, placing Wildchild and Renegade Master as a front runner of the UK garage house movement.
“Back once again for the renegade master, D for Damager, power to the people;
Back once again for the renegade master, D for damager, with the ill behaviour”
Where did these lyrics come from and whose voice was shouting them? They are such singable lyrics that even a virgin crowd will be chanting along after only hearing the intro.
The two men responsible for this chant are the Hip Hop artist A.D.O.R and his producer Marley Marl, AKA the granddaddy of the east coast boom bap scene. The track One for the Trouble dropped in 1994, a period when Hip Hop was reaching global acclaim and artists like Marley Marl were taking the genre to new heights. A.D.O.R is spitting on the track, and in the tradition of MCing expands his acronymic name to give us the vocal clip that we know and love.
Back once again with the ill behaviour, can you feel it?
Nothing can save ya’
It’s the A for ally, D for damager
O for out of here, R for the renegade master
Of all I survey
Checkin’ straight out the slum, so no roads to [?]
Just sexual, exceptional
And to let you know, that my flow is like, dope
I got a mad mad style of frustration
Just another product of the anger in the nation
Now I get paid for my jazzy sensation
And I drop bombs, for my generation
Peace to the crews from New York to LA
Power to the people that struggle everyday
Those familiar with Marl will recognise his work as fundamental to the east coast hip hop scene, and as the pedigree in original boom-bap culture. I never expected that The Renegade would have roots in Hip Hop, but as it turns out the vocals aren’t the only thing borrowed across genres.
Wildchild takes other samples from the world of hip hop, this time snatching that rising, pitched up horn sequence from the track Funky Child by the New York crew, Lords of the Underground (1993). Even the baseline is sampled from Hip Hop; Del The Funky Homosapien’s track Eye Examination (1992) lends itself to the groove and nestles nicely between Wildchilds own kick/snare drum sequence. Although the baseline is sped up in Renegade Master, it’s easily recognisable in the dub influenced reggae-esque west coast music produced by Del in the early 90’s. Again, house has borrowed from hip hop to reinvent its sound, equipping Renegade Master with the three iconic components that make the track instantly recognisable in only a few beats.
Combining these three hip hop tracks over a house beat, Wildchild created something entirely new and took on a fresh sound with great success. Affirming this solid status was Fatboy Slim’s 1998 remix Renegade Master (Fatboy Slim Old Skool Edit) which featured jungle breaks and a more edit-heavy mix. Fatboy Slim’s mix surpassed the original in popularity, rising to #3 on the UK billboard chart. Fatboy Slim was blowing up in ‘98 after the successful release of his studio albums Better Living Through Chemistry and the now widely regarded classic, You’ve Come a Long Way Baby. His exposure pushed Renegade Master beyond the UK and into the hands of DJ’s all around the world, taking it back full circle to the clubs in America where the song’s various components had originated.
The 2013 Friend Within refix still rings true as the version I love the most. It’s my nostalgia for that track which first introduced me to house music and associated memories of my early years clubbing that make it sound all the sweeter to my ear. I’m impressed by a song that can span multiple generations, and think its the sign of a solid concept if it can be reinvented to stay relevant without losing the unique parts which make it so special. This track is a perfect example of why I love sampling, and how it can connect people and scenes across the world and various genres. Those hip hop samples that made Renegade Master would likely have never been conceived if it were not for the influence of other genres like jazz and funk. Marley Marl sampled 4 other songs in the making of One for the Trouble (you can find out for yourself which ones) and Del The Funky Homosapien’s baseline is essentially just a funk lick played over breaks. I guess my point is that everything is inspired by something else, and a lot of the tracks we know and love are the end result of many influences we’re not always privy to. Sampling offers us infinite possibilities for re imagination and allows for traditions in art to stay relevant through the ages while paying homage and maintaining a connection to the roots of our crafts. The Renegade is only a single example of this phenomenon, but one that is dear to my heart. I will continue to be impressed by the track, and will proudly drop what I’m doing when I hear that horn riser, in order to throw down with the renegade master.