Intensities in Ten Suburbs

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Take Five: Unorthodox Sample Sources

Posted by Andrew Unterberger on January 29, 2007

A representative sample of the latest wonders rocking The Good Dr.’s world.

I was listening to Herb Alpert’s 1979 classic disco instrumental “Rise” with a friend of mine recently and when it got to the song’s bass-heavy break, a disappointing revelation dawned on him. “Oh, this is the beat from ‘Hypnotize!’ That’s too bad…I thought they came up with that on their own.” Such reactions are not uncommon to hearing the sample sources of popular hip-hop or dance beats, especially from people who are mostly rock fans, and still hold some stock in notions of artistic originality.

And it’s not an unreasonable position to take, especially for songs that borrow indiscrimately from the hooks to previous hits and don’t do much to make their new beats distinct form the original. But people from all schools of thought have to recognize that there’s a world of difference in Kanye West taking the unforgettable horn hook from Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” a hook just about every soul fan or commercial TV watcher is intimately familiar with, and snip it pretty much wholesale and unaltered for the hook to a similarly-themed new single, and Kanye West taking a vocal snatch from the very end of Luther Vandross’s draggy and largely forgotten “A House is Not a Home” and creating the highly-tailored beat for a fantastic #1 single that simultaneously pays tribute to the song it samples. And it’s the samples from the latter school of thought that mostly interest me.

With that in mind, I’ve been on a huge kick lately of downloading the sample sources of songs I know and love, a sort of reverse-cratedigging procedure. Sample source sites like The Great Samples Database and The Breaks are largely incomplete, but are still thoroughly invaluable for such research. Here are five of the more interesting examples I’ve recently come across (and be sure to expect more posts on this in the upcoming weeks. as I’ve only scratched the surface thusfar).

Supertramp – “Crime of the Century: Just Blaze is really the king when it comes to twisting obscure, non-obvious sample sources into breathtaking hip-hop beats. He shows off here by taking the piano outro to a pre-Breakfast in America Supertramp album title cut, which seems too slow and unfocused to work as any sort of beat foundation, and cutting it up to the point where only the tone of the original is recognizable, using it as the basis for the hook to Fabolous’s 2004 top ten hit “Breathe,” a song so good it almost gave possibly the least talented man in hip-hop street cred.

Seals & CroftsSweet Green Fields: I don’t know what’s more impressive, that producers Buddha and Shamello recognized that the bongo (?) drum intro to this Seals & Crofts album track would make for a good hip-hop beat, or that they must have actually listened to a Seals & Crofts album to have gleaned this. That’s dedication to your craft. Anyway, luckily for us, they did, and out of it came Busta Rhymes’ bizarro 1997 hip-hop classic “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See“. Also worth noting–the amelodic, proto-electronic and not particularly good Galt MacDermot instrumental “Space,” which some enterprising soul thought to twist into another one of Busta’s biggest hits.

Randy Weston – “In Memory Of: The propulsvie breakbeat and throbbing one-note bass line of this Randy Weston (who apparently was some great African jazz musician, I’d never heard of him before, but this song is definitely all right) tune was brilliantly restructured by Prodigy mastermind Maxim (I assume, anyway) for the equally pulsating and energetic beat to the group’s infamous 1998 club killer “Smack My Bitch Up“. Also worth noting: the group’s ingenious pilfering of the distorted flute hook to Johnny Pate’s “You’re Starting Too Fast” for their underrated (in this country, anyway) ’94 anthem “Voodoo People

The Undisputed Truth – “(I Know) I’m Losing You“: The sample here is less elemental than on the other songs, but almost as integral–The Undisputed Truth (known essentially for two things, their 1972 R&B hit “Smiling Faces Sometimes” and their mention in Kill Bill, Vol. 2) have the throwaway opening ad-libs from their Temptations cover sampled by Dr. Dre for the chilling “I CAN FEEL IT!” which opens his and Snoop Dogg’s “Deep Cover.” It’s not used for the song’s hook, but it sets the entire mood for the song, and its sparing use makes Dre’s sample spot all the more impressive.

Chicago – “Street Player: Yes, that Chicago. Seemingly the least-sampleable band in history, apparently Chicago, like everyone else, released a much-forgotten about disco album in 1979, led off by the surprisingly bangin’ horn-laden “Street Player.” Apparently DJ Kenny “Dope” Gonzales is a big enough Cetera nut to have heard this non-hit, and formed his 1995 dance classic “The Bomb (These Sounds Flow Into My Mind)” around it under alias The Bucketheads. And still, The Beach Boys’ disco re-recording of “Here Come the Night” languishes in obscurity. Where’s the justice?

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3 Responses to “Take Five: Unorthodox Sample Sources”

  1. Joe said

    Gentle Giant – “Funny Ways”

  2. Whoa, very cool. That Herb Alpert tune also yielded the main sample for a house tune called “Sunrise” by Solaris on Guidance Recordings. Basically, all they did was loop it and filter it up and down… and I thought it was so transcendent.

  3. galaxy said

    For better and worse, Samsung’s to get galaxy that off my chest.

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