For producers that are unafraid to sample, they take a lot of pride in sample selection. Not only does flipping a sample show the producer’s proficiency in the art of beat making, but it also gives insight into their personal taste of music outside of hip-hop. Having the uncanny ability to dig into rare music and find gems that have been lost to the world is in itself enough to propel beat smiths into the stuff of legends. Additionally using a sample that has been unused says a lot about the producer’s knowledge and awareness of other hip-hop around him. So as a listener, when I hear the same sample used in different songs, it either says to me that the two producers are completely unaware of each other’s music, or that one truly loved the original track so much that they wanted to make a beat out of it no matter who else had already done it. It’s also a legit way to compare producers. Just like having Nas and Jay-Z on the same track will always spark the conversation of who’s better, knowing that both Pete Rock and DJ Premier sampled Ahmad Jamal’s “I Love Music” will start a similar debate. While comparing beats from different periods in time is a little unfair due to progress in technology, the conversation gets really interesting when the same sample is used by two different producers in the same year. Last month we discussed this phenomenon when Big K.R.I.T. utilized the same samples as tracks from the Bay Area’s Moe Green and Davinci. I really appreciated the conversation that that piece started so we’re back at it again, with some of the usual suspects.
Before we get into it, let me say one time, this conversation will be infinitely better with your input, so get at us and leave a comment. That goes to the other writers at ZIF as well!
Round 1: Big K.R.I.T. vs. Black Spade
In this case, Mississippi’s Big K.R.I.T. is back again, with another song off his monstrous K.R.I.T. Wuz Here project which is still available for free download here, and has recently been chopped and screwed by legendary Swisha House DJ Michael “5000” Watts here. Last month he went up against Moe Green and Davinci, but this time with the assistance of Curren$y and Smoke DZA, he’s looking at St. Louis’s Black Spade, who recently released his own free project Build and Destroy, which can be found here .
Sample: The sample comes from legendary Jazz drummer Billy Cobham’s 1974 album Crosswinds. So take some time to vibe out to “Heather” first, and then see what the producers have chosen to do with it.
Lyrics: This is the only track today that features a singer, so Black Spade definitely deserves credit for including Coultrain in the mix. His sound fits the mood of the beat well. In terms of Spade’s bars, I like the content a lot. It’s personal, thoughtful, questioning, observant, and nostalgic. We need more content like this, and the fact that he chose to do it all in one verse allows him to touch on so much. Unfortunately his technical ability as an MC isn’t on top display. His delivery and rhyme patterns are nothing beyond straight forward.
Beat: After a little research I found out that Stoneyrock is another name Black Spade uses when he produces. In any case, this probably isn’t the best example of his production abilities. The sample selection is obviously ill and fits the mood of the track perfectly, but he doesn’t do much beyond reorganize the sample. There aren’t really drums or any other added elements.
Lyrics: First of all, when you have a line up like this, you know it’s going to be hard to top. These are three MC’s that have been grinding ridiculously hard over the past year or two to great acclaim, and although they have started to gain recognition, they are all early enough in their careers to have that hunger that hip-hop fans crave to hear translated into music. In this case they go in about their all star MC abilities using football imagery throughout. It sounds kind of typical and unoriginal, but for some reason when mixed with the melancholiness of the beat it doesn’t come off as arrogant and played out. Instead it gives the sense that they are aware of their talents and kind of worried that they will never reach the success that they deserve. WINNER
Beat: K.R.I.T. is an incredibly diverse producer. While at times his music exudes pride in his southern routes, on other tracks like “No Wheaties” he’s able to provide listeners with a soundscape that is devoid of regional associations. In this case, everything is done simply: the sample is allowed to play rather than getting really chopped up and the drums don’t change much or overpower the music. Yet the end result sounds cohesive and tasteful. The organization of the sample is great as well. The sax fits perfectly for the chorus is reminiscent of Pete Rock. I also am really feeling the way the drums start in the very beginning of the track. Overall, this has a lot of replay value. WINNER