Malcolm McLaren mixes world music with hip-hop: Duck Rock

Malcolm McLaren with the Duck Rocker 1983 (

Malcolm McLaren with the Duck Rocker 1983


On May 27, 1983, Malcolm McLaren released his first solo album, a highly innovative album that brought hip-hop and world music together. As was the case with almost everything McLaren was involved with, this album was surrounded by controversy as well.

Malcolm McLaren

Malcolm Robert Andrew McLaren was born on January 22, 1946, in London. As a student he was politically engaged, but it wasn’t before long that he focused on music and fashion. See the article SEX, fashion, punk and Sex Pistols: 430 Kings Road, London about McLaren’s first steps around that time. Of course, McLaren is primarily known for his role as manager of The Sex Pistols (also see Never Mind The Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols). After the disbanding of The Sex Pistols, McLaren managed acts like Adam And The Ants and Bow Wow Wow.

Early 1980s McLaren moved to New York City, introducing him to hip-hop and African music. He came into contact with World’s Famous Supreme Team (hip-hop DJ’s, who pioneered with scratching a.o.). His contacts inspired McLaren to create an album. He asked Trevor Horn to produce it.

Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock (

Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock

Duck Rock

On May 27, 1983, Malcolm McLaren’s debut album was released, entitled Duck Rock. Recording sessions were held in Tennessee, New York, South Africa, London. Relatively new digital machines, like the Fairlight and the Linn drum machine, were intensively used during the album’s compilation.

McLaren heard (and saw) many thing he had never witnessed before, which he sensed would soon leave an indelible mark, including hip-hop, rap, African rhythms, but also other art forms like breakdance, electric boogie and graffiti.

The result is an album fed by collages, one of the first using so-called interludes in between songs. The listener travels from the Bronx in New York to Soweto, to the Caribbean, to Africa and via Kentucky and Tennessee back to New York. A journey around the world in 12 songs. A journey that introduced the Western audience to an experience they had never experienced before an a pop album.

Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock - Inner sleeve (1) (

Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock – Inner sleeve (1)

Album cover

Even the cover represented the musical diversity. McLaren once again proved to be in sync with the current times by giving the assignment for the design of the album cover to Nick Egan. Dondi White provided graffiti and Keith Haring made many illustrations. Ron West made the ghetto blaster pictured on the front cover, which was named Duck Rocker. Thus, the ghetto blaster effectively serves as the namesake of the album.

The album is dedicated to Harry McClintock, better known as Haywire Mac, a writer, poet and union organizer, who was born in 1884 and died in 1957.

Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock - Inner sleeve (2) (

Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock – Inner sleeve (2)


Of course there were some controversies. Besides the (understandable) accusation of cultural appropriation, the lack of credits for the South African musicians, like Mahlathini And The Mahotella Queens, was critiqued. The mbaqanga group The Boyoyo Boys sued McLaren for plagiarism in the song Double Dutch, as it resembled their song Puleng rather much. In the end a settlement was reached, but born Horn and McLaren kept their writing credits. By the way, the South-African musicians were very well paid for their work on the album.

The album is credited as a McLaren album, but in effect Duck Rock is the first The Art Of Noise (consisting of Trevor Horn and 3 musicians who cooperated on Duck Rock) album. The songs Buffalo Gals and World’s Famous should be credited to Malcolm McLaren & World’s Famous Supreme Team, Double Dutch to Malcolm McLaren & The Ebonettes, Soweto to Malcolm McLaren & The McLarenettes and Duck For The Oyster to Malcolm McLaren & The Main Hilltopper Man.

Even though Trevor Horn and Gary Langan did the most work, it has to be said that it was McLaren who had the ideas in the first place, McLaren who discovered the hip-hop artists, McLaren who selected the musicians he wanted to work with and McLaren who brough the artists, recording engineers, musicians and rappers together.

Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock - Ad (

Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock – Ad


When I heard (and saw!) Buffalo Gals for the first time, I had the same sensation I felt upon hearing Donna Summer’s I Feel Love or Grandmaster Flash’ The Message or New Order’s Blue Monday for the very first time. Something entirely different was happening, something innovative, the arrival of a new musical world, perhaps even the dawning of a new era.

The album is different and new, squared: scratching, rapping, drum machines and world music. It was all new in those days. Double Dutch is Paul Simon’s Graceland, but 3 years earlier. The album is highly eclectic, oftentimes meaning I love it. I like the diversity, different musical styles, and yet still sharing a common identity (in this case, the sublime production).

Duck Rock is an underrated masterpiece, one that pushed hip-hop to the front as a cultural outlet and introducing sampling to a large audience. McLaren himself: “This record is a masterpiece of pop culture. A true milestone in pop history”. It’s not a lie.

Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock - The Singles (

Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock – The Singles


No less than four singles were culled from the album:

  • Buffalo Gals
    (released on November 19, 1982)
  • Soweto
    (released on February 21, 1983)
  • Double Dutch
    (released on June 24, 1983)
  • Duck For The Oyster
    (released on December 10, 1983)
Malcolm McLaren - Duck Rock - Back cover (

Malcolm McLaren – Duck Rock – Back cover


All songs written by Trevor Horn and Malcolm McLaren, unless stated otherwise.

  • Obatala
  • Buffalo Gals (Anne Dudley, Trevor Horn, Malcolm McLaren)
  • Double Dutch
  • El San Juanera
  • Merengue
  • Punk It Up
  • Legba
  • Jive My Baby
  • Song For Chango
  • Soweto
  • World’s Famous (Anne Dudley, Malcolm McLaren)
  • Duck For The Oyster
Malcolm McLaren And World's Famous Team (

Malcolm McLaren And World’s Famous Team


  • Malcolm McLaren – figure caller, singer (also known as Talcy Malcy)
  • Sedivine the Mastermind – DJ, rapper (known as Divine)
  • Just Allah the Superstar – DJ, rapper (known as Justice)
  • Trevor Horn – beats
  • Anne Dudley – arranger, keyboards, string arrangements
  • Thomas Dolby – keyboards
  • Gary Langan – mouth harp
  • J.J. Jeczalik – synthesizer
  • David Birch – guitar
  • Luís Jardim – percussion
  • Mahlathini And The Mahotella Queens – vocals (uncredited)
  • Boyoyo Boys – musicians (uncredited)
  • Uncredited musicians – bass, background vocals
Malcolm McLaren And World's Famous Supreme Team - D'ya Like Scratchin' (

Malcolm McLaren And World’s Famous Supreme Team – D’ya Like Scratchin’

After Duck Rock

The 12-inch D’ya Like Scratchin’ by Malcolm McLaren And World’s Famous Supreme Team was released on the same day as the last regular single off Duck Rock, it consisted of 3 new songs and 2 remixes of Duck Rock songs.

During the recording of Duck Rock, The Art Of Noise was founded, who recorded their debut album, Into Battle With The Art Of Noise, simultaneously. That album was also released in 1983.

In 1984 McLaren released the beautiful single Madam Butterfly, a combination of electronic music and opera. The album Fans followed later that year. In 1985 the album Swamp Thing was released, followed by Waltz Darling in 1989, producing a great single hit with Something’s Jumpin’ in Your Shirt. The song Deep In Vogue introduced voguing and ball culture to a larger audience. Once again McLaren used his senses correctly. One year later Madonna released her Vogue. In 1994 McLaren released the concept album Paris, in 2005 followed by the last McLaren album Tranquilize.

In the meantime McLaren released singles and worked on films, musicals and television shows.

Malcolm McLaren passed away on April 8, 2010, he was 64 years old.

In closing

What’s your opinion on Malcolm McLaren’s solo outings and Duck Rock in particular? Let me know!

This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: Malcolm McLaren mixes world music with hip-hop: Duck Rock. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.

Compliments/remarks? Yes, please!