Washington DC DJ, producer and radio jock Gene Finley, AKA Doug Lazy, wasn’t well known by the house or hip-hop scenes in 1989, a year that would subsequently witness him breaking serious ground with smokin’ hip-house fusion Let It Roll. In a matter of weeks, thanks to that hit 12”, Doug Lazy was a global sensation at the cutting edge of dance music’s global revolution.
‘Let It Roll’ originated in the bowels of the local radio station where Finley presented as ‘Mean Green’. Finley, a major supporter of the nascent hip-house sound tearing through New York and Chicago via artists including Tyree Cooper and Mantronix, was working one evening on a drum loop from the latter’s hit record ‘King Of The Beats’ for one of his on air MCs to talk over. Upon airing said ‘bell loop’, another MC entered the studio to enquire what it was and told Finley several listeners were calling in to find out. With the show over, an inspired Finley quickly set to work on finessing the loop further by tying it to a house beat. The foundations of ‘Let It Roll’ were in place.
Charles Dixon, another mix DJ at the station, encouraged Finley to now work his sketch into a fully-fledged vinyl lick. He introduced Finley to Vaughan Mason, the multi-instrumentalist founder of Big Apple house group Raze who had already landed major house anthems ‘Jack The Groove’ and ‘Break 4 Love’ and was currently living in DC. Together Finley and Mason would produce an all-time dancefloor anthem. Incorporating further, sharp samples from Marshall Jefferson (and On The House – ‘Move Your Body’), Big Daddy Kane (‘Set It Off’) and M/A/R/R/S (‘Pump Up The Volume’), as well as Finley’s own, distinctive rap, ‘Let It Roll’ catalysed the early success of hip-house and widened its audience to an unprecedented extent.
The plaudits were coming. Recorded at Mason’s studio and released initially via his own Grove St imprint, ‘Let It Roll’ topped the US Billboard ‘Hot Dance Music/Club Play’ chart. It was subsequently licensed internationally to Atlantic after which it soared into the UK’s national Top 30 and promptly sold out for weeks and weeks at specialist UK dance stores. Meanwhile, the cut was garnering sustained attention across Europe. ‘Let It Roll’ became a ‘must have’ for any self-respecting club DJ on either side of the ‘Pond’ and, in turn, a treasured entry within the annals of house music history.
‘Let It Roll’ earned a re-release in 2002 on Trevor Mac’s Jalapeno Records label, backed by punchy remixes from the likes of Soul Of A Man and Skeewiff, but Lazy’s original dope vision remains the key one. Lazy would collaborate with Raze again on 1991 single ‘Bass Power’, whilst enjoying his own solo follow-up success courtesy of ‘H.O.U.S.E’ and ‘Let The Rhythm Pump’ – further Billboard chart-toppers. He also contributed vocals to ‘Little’ Louie Vega and Marc Anthony’s seminal ‘Ride On The Rhythm’ and released an album, Doug Lazy Gettin’ Crazy, through Atlantic. Many years later, in 2008, Lazy appeared alongside Seamus Haji on Big Love release ‘Head To Toe’ but will always be best remembered for that stunning hip-house debut in 1989 – seriously on a roll....
Words: Ben Lovett
Defected presents For The Love of House Volume 9 is out now on Defected Records - order from iTunes