You've heard that weirdly warped, extended exhalation "AAAAHHHH... FRESSSSSSHHHHH!" approximately 18 million times in hiphop tracks and turntablist routines. You're totally over it by now. But its origin story is fascinating.
Reading Dave Tompkins' excellent, idiosyncratic history of the vocoder, How to Wreck a Nice Beach, I discovered that the infinitely sampled words came from a man named Roger Trilling, who said, "Ah, that stuff is really fresh!" through a vocoder, simply on a lark. The utterance appeared at the end of Besides/Fab Five Freddy's "Change the Beat," which was produced by Bill Laswell in 1982 for Celluloid Records.
Here's an excerpt from Tompkins' book, to flesh out the story:
According to Laswell, "Fresh" was the voice of his de facto manager, Roger Trilling, who happened to be in the studio in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that evening. "No one would believe you if you told them," says Laswell. "I don't think Freddy even knows that." Earlier that day, Trilling auditioned some Laswell tracks for Bruce Lundvall, then head of Elektra. "Bruce was about as country club as it gets," says Trilling. "A very Minnesota kind of character. He would put his feet up on his desk and his hands behind his head, and if he liked the song, he'd say, 'This stuff is really fresh.'" Later that night at the studio, delirious and ready to go home, Trilling would quote Lundvall through the vocoder. "[Bruce] didn't know that 'fresh' was in hip-hop currency at the time. I don't even think we thought of it that way, either." One of the most cloned hip-hop noises was but an imitation itself, mistaken for someone else indisguise, imitating the imitator on the A-side but replicated by a machine. Just some late-night filler. A way out of the studio.
"I'd like to say I'm the master of all time and space," says Trilling. "But that's just me imitating the whitest of all record executives."
Oh, the irony...