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
Bonus: Souls of Mischief – 93 ‘Til Infinity
If you didn’t already recognize, Billy Cobham’s “Heather” has already been classically sampled. Without going into extreme detail, “93 ‘Til Infinity” is a song that has been tremendously important to me throughout my life. Just listening to the first bars immediately brings up memories and imagery of growing up. I don’t care if someone does unfathomable things to “Heather” and puts a once in a lifetime group of MC’s on the track, for me, nothing will top the original usage of the sample. Even though there is nothing deep about “93 ‘Til Infinity”, sometimes words can’t describe what a song has meant to you, and this is one of those cases.
Main Event – Davinci vs. Dee Goodz
Last month I thought Davinci took Big K.R.I.T. on both beat and lyrics, so that’s why he get’s the main event treatment today. This time he’s back with another track off of The Day The Turf Stood Still which is still available for free download here. His new competitor is Nashville’s Dee Goodz, who’s critically acclaimed ConGRADulations tape is also available for free download here.
Sample: Moving away from the ethereal and ambient sounds of “Heather”, this time the sample comes from Southern Soul singer O.V. Wright. For fans of hard driving soul, “A Nickel and A Nail” is all you can ask for. Peep it, and then check out what hip-hop has done to it over the years.
Lyrics: Dee Goodz comes with a track about women taking a man’s hard earned cash. There are some good punchlines in there attached with a lot of cultural references which I definitely appreciate, and Goodz sounds as comfortable on the instrumental as a lot of commercially popular MC’s would. I’m also really feeling the chorus. My only problem with the bars is that they’re way too akin to “Gold Digger”. I just can’t vibe off the “18 years” and “prenup” portions of the second verse. Biting (or borrowing from, if you want to be polite) one of the most played out songs of our generation is not a good look at all.
Beat: Having a generic name like M.T. makes it pretty impossible for someone to look you up, but in this case whether I know the background on the producer or not, the beat speaks for itself. This shit knocks something serious. M.T. neglects to utilize Wright’s extremely powerful vocals which when listening to the original track would seem like a major mistake, but the end product isn’t missing a thing. The slowed down horns have a great effect, the drums pound hard, and the added synth elements give it a really big and full sound. It’s undeniably dope. WINNER
Lyrics: This time around, Davinci brings you insight into what it’s like for a broke person willing do anything to get some cash. It’s far from new territory, but the Fillmore native executes well. Rather than just have a few random verses that touch on the subject, the whole song has a progression: beginning, middle, end. I also like how he incorporates the vocal sample at the end of a few of his verses. And although the verses are pretty short, they are all solid, and he deserves credit for having four, which is pretty unorthodox. It was hard to decide between these two vocal performances, but Dee Goodz’ desire to sound like Kanye in my opinion gives Davinci the edge for doing his own thing. WINNER
Beat: Big D gets a lot of credit for his instrumental. It fully takes advantage of O.V. Wright’s commanding voice, and utilizes a lot of different elements from the original sample. It also includes a bridge, which is less frequent in hip-hop than it should be. The only downside to it is that the drums just don’t hit loud enough. With the tempo and energy involved in the beat he crafted, if the drums really vibrated through you it would make a really big difference.
Bonus: This track has also been sampled by two producers that you are undoubtably familiar with.
The first was by The RZA in ’98 on Shyheim and Hell Raiza’s “Co-Defendant” off of The Wu-Tang Killa Bees’ The Swarm.
The other was by The Alchemist on Prodigy’s “Nickel And A Nail” off of their 2007 collaboration album Return Of The Mac.
Who came illest? Let me know.