ZZ Top Covers DJ DMD’s 25 Lighters (Part Deuce)

Quickly, for those who don’t know, ZZ Top is a rock n roll band from Houston, Texas. They formed in 1969. The group consists of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard. Their sound is deeply rooted in rhythm and blues. ZZ has released 15 studio albums and has sold over 50 million albums worldwide. In 2004 the band was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their new album, La Futura embodies the single Gotsta Get Paid, a reworking of the classic Houston rap song 25 Lighters, by DJ DMD featuring Fat Pat and Lil Keke. 

In this informative article from Classic Rock Magazine, author Scott Rowley tells us that Billy Gibbons first heard 25 Lighters in 1996. In 1983 Gibbons bought into Houston’s legendary studios, Gold Star Sound Services/Foam Box Recordings, the home of psychedelic rock pioneers Sir Douglas Quintet, Red Krayola, and Roky Erickson. In the 90’s, the studio also became the home of Houston’s burgeoning rap scene.[1] While visiting the studio, Gibbons’ long time engineers Joe Hardy and GL “Mane” Moon, played Gibbons a track by DJ DMD featuring Lil Keke and Fat Pat, called 25 Lighters.  The line, “I got 25 lighters on my dresser, yessir, I gotsa get paid,” affected Gibbons. He explained “I became fixated with this ‘hypnotic chronicle of the toil of a ghetto hustler and I was determined to use it as the basis for something ZZ Top could record.”[2]

Subsequently, the song was “chopped and screwed” by DJ Screw. In this article, according to Ben Ratliff of the New York Times, in the late ‘90s Gibbons spent time around DJ Screw because both shared Moon as their engineer. At this point, it is quite possible Gibbons heard the screwed version as well.  Anyone who bangs screw knows that hearing the screwed version of a song, in addition to the original, laminates the composition in the listeners head.

14 years later, Gibbons, Hardy and Moon, inspired by DJ Screw and Lightnin’ Hopkins reworked 25 Lighters into a vibrant new song. Gibbons describes the song as “a combination of hip-hop and the blues of Lightnin’ Hopkins, a homage to these heroes of the Houston ghetto.” According to Rowley, in a recent interview Gibbons told The Hollywood Reporter: “Since the very beginning, we have been inspired and influenced by the musical and cultural eccentricities that have emanated from Houston’s ghetto…We fully acknowledge this as we continue to pay tribute to those known as ‘the heroes of the Houston ghetto.’” Gibbons is making sure that everyone is paid and credited for their contributions to Gotsta Get Paid. The original 25 Lighters featuring Fat Pat[3]and Lil Keke, is credited to Dorie Dorsey (aka DJ DMD), Kyle West (composer, producer) and Albert Brown III (aka Al B Sure! – singer, performer, and cousin of West).


-Droopy (@droopydood)

[1] The organic evolution of Gold Star Sound Services/ Foam Box Recordings from a psychedelic rock studio to a promethazine fueled rap studio was the only appropriate trajectory.

[2] Here in Rowley’s article he inserted a “-“followed by another suggested meaning to 25 Lighters; “a reference to the street drug dealer’s practice of using the empty shells of Bic lighters to stash their cocaine.”

[3] In this old interview DJ Screw reminisces about Fat Pat. He mentions a time right before Pat’s death, where both were chilling and Pat asks Screw, “You think niggas will feel my album?” Screw responded, “Yea man, everybody gon be bumpin yo shit.” Now in 2012 it is good to see ZZ Top performing their take on 25 Lighters in Copenhagen.

Tags: , , , , , , ,