No black legends were harmed in the making of this single: Barry White, whose 1976 song forms the dislocated spine of “You See The Trouble With Me” and whose vocal sample was meant as its centre, said no, and the job went to a rough soundalike. The track hit number one anyhow, which suggests it’s the idea and structure that’s driving this one, not Barry specifically. “Trouble” is built around a double peak – the sliced up vocal sample and its hints of disco backing, and the bouncy instrumental break that follows on its heels, a transfer across from the White song’s funk guitar.
In case we didn’t get the point, a cheering crowd hollers its approval of both of these – slightly louder on the instrumental break, if anything – which ought to be as annoying as a laugh track but actually helps give “Trouble” a rather sympathetic gloss. The jagged way the vocal is cut – and the wheezy way its sung – takes the rueful bonhomie of White and makes it into something a lot more laboured: this guy sounds out of breath, having to strain for every gasping line: “You! See!… trouble with me… can’t do nothin….”. It’s like he’s making a life-or-death effort just to do the record, and the thumping house breakdown comes as blessed relief.
With the crowd cheering him on, “You See The Trouble With Me” is like listening to music inspired by a weightlifting competition: the awful, grunting, wobbling heave as an athlete pushes beyond their personal best, and then the strut of triumph as they walk the stage afterwards. And of course once I’d started seeing Black Legend like that, rather than just another dance track that had bubbled up from European clubland on good fortune alone, I really got into it.