Friday, December 19, 2008

Samples of the Year 2008

"18 for '08"

A Tribe Called Quest - "I Left My Wallet In El Segundo (Vampire Mix)"
Sampled for: "A Milli" by Lil Wayne & ...EVERYONE!)
If you break down Bangladesh’s “A Milli” beat, the structuring is really quite simple. You’ve got your bass and one of two snares: one sounds like a traditional drum sample, the other a snap/crack sound effect. Like I said, simple, right? Yes, with exception – a HUGE exception – to this gem of a vocal sample! Some might call this sample selection the dig of the year based on the pure fact that it’s so incredibly obscure, neatly tucked away into an often unheard remix track. The funniest part about this whole +scenario+ – pun intended – is hearing a Tribe sample used on a Weezy track! Everyone hopped on this track throughout the last half of ’08 – and for good cause. This beat is a certified banger! Now I wonder, did Wayne and his label really have to pay up $700-thou’ for the sample?
Bill Conti - "Redemption (Theme from Rocky II)"
Sampled for: "Whatever You Like" by T.I.
Full disclosure: I’m not much of a Rocky fan. I’ve only seen the one with Ivan Drago, for obvious reasons of course (“I must break you!”). So when I first heard “Whatever You Like”, I thought it was an original composition! Produced by New York-native/Florida-bound Jim Jonsin, “Whatever You Like” was one of a handful of ’08 tracks that drew influence from the sounds of the ‘80’s, particularly with Giorgio Moroder-esque synthesizers. The addition of Tip’s Southern touch made this track sizzle.
Billy Paul - "Let the Dollar Circulate"
Sampled for: "Circulate" by Young Jeezy
Throughout the year, it wasn’t too common to hear soulful gems of this caliber being sampled on such mainstream albums as Young Jeezy’s The Recession. It’s worth noting that both J Dilla and 9th Wonder sampled this Billy Paul gem before producer Don Cannon got his hands on, but that’s not to say that this version doesn’t deserve its props. In a year of severe economic uncertainty, the usage of this sample was beyond fitting, not to mention the fact that it held together the thesis for Jeezy’s album. And I have a confession to make: in 2008, I officially became something of a Young Jeezy fan. After much deliberation, of course! This beat – and his energetic performance on it – helped me reach the final verdict. As long as Jeezy continues to rock out on soul samples like this, I’ll continue to listen.
David Axelrod - "Holy Thursday"
Sampled for: "Dr. Carter" by Lil Wayne
Borrowing from the theme of Jay-Z’s “1-900-Hustler” – at least that’s how I view it – Weezy (w)rapped circles around this great instrumental. Truth be told, the beat itself is just about nothing more than a looped sample, but hey, I ain’t complaining – the track is hot! The crazy part about it all is that the beat was created by Swizz Beatz (I assumed it was Just Blaze or Kanye). In a year when another David Axelrod put in some serious work, listening to this sample is somehow all the more satisfying.
Dusty Springfield - "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me"
Sampled for: "Last of a Dying Breed" by Ludacris (featuring Lil Wayne)
Dusty Springfield isn’t much of a common sample source for hip hop producers, but she (and famed British record producer Johnny Franz) hooked up a powerful introductory section on “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me”, a track which would be prominently flipped by Wyldfyer on Luda’s Theater of the Mind forty-three years later. If you’ve never heard of Wyldfyer by name before, you’ve definitely heard his work on the boards. How can you forget the brilliant, Godfather-sampling wondrousness of Nas’ and Jay-Z’s 2006 collabo “Black Republican”? There seems to be a pattern here, as Wyldfyer sure knows how to pick some triumphant horn samples; this Dusty record was no exception. Let’s see what other great tag-team duo Wyldfyer can draw on his next hit!
Eumir Deodato - "San Juan Sunset"
Sampled for: "Paris, Tokyo" by Lupe Fiasco
Yeah, I know, this track came out in December 2007, on Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool. Fair enough. But “Paris, Tokyo” was released as a single in April of ’08, so “ha!” Produced by Lupe’s frequent soundboard collaborator Soundtrakk, “Paris, Tokyo” reminded many hip hop fans – myself included – of the Tribe vibes of the early ‘90’s. Certainly, this jazzy sample by musical genius Eumir Deodato hit the spot for many critics who felt that Lupe had been disrespectful to Tip and Co. for messing up some cover vocals at a live performance. I guess Q-Tip’s inclusion on the “Paris, Tokyo” remix killed all that noise. If you pay close attention to this sample, especially throughout its second half, you’ll notice Deodato’s Brazilian roots and influence. Great sample, great use of a sample!
M.I.A. - "Paper Planes"
Sampled for: "Swagga Like Us" by T.I. (featuring Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lil Wayne & ...EVERYONE!)
2008 was a big year for vocal samples used as hooks, and M.I.A. “Paper Planes” was probably the year’s most identifiable one of them all! I always wonder if “Paper Planes” would have gotten such a buzz if the film Pineapple Express hadn’t played the heck out of it in its marketing campaign. “Paper Planes” actually came out back in 2007, on M.I.A.’s Kala, and it received some moderate play (along with an excellent remix by Diplo featuring Bun B and Rich Boy). And then… WHAM! “Paper Planes” reached a new audience in 2008 – and hip hop never looked back. Produced by Kanye West, “Swagga Like Us” was the perfect backdrop for the fusion of four hip hop heavyweights: West, T.I., Lil Wayne and Jay-Z. I’m inclined to say that “A Milli” was the most-freestyled-on-instrumental of 2008; but if it wasn’t “A Milli”, “Swagga Like Us” certainly wins the gold.
Masta Ace - "Jeep Ass Niguh"
Sampled for: "Drivin' Down the Block (Low End Theory)" by Kidz in the Hall
Yes, yes, yes: another vocal sample! If you weren’t boppin’ your head to Kidz in the Hall’s “Drivin Down the Block (Low End Theory)” this year, you must have been wearing a neck brace, or somethin’… This track – and its excellent west coast remix – was great for the production, yes, but the vocal sample of Masta Ace spitting these catchy lines was the icing on the cake: “Drivin’ down the block, like what else should a brotha do/ It’s Saturday, it’s Saturday, the heat might smother you/ … Low End Theory tape, and/ Bass crazy kickin’ and…/”. Kudos to producer Double-O for giving one of the illest emcees in the game some well-deserved shine.
O-Zone - "Dragostea Din Tei"
Sampled for: "Live Your Life" by T.I. (featuring Rihanna)
I’ll be honest with you: this sample annoys the bejeezus out of me! The first time I heard this beat, I thought that producer Just Blaze had lost his mind. But +Some How, Some Way+ – again, pun intended(!) – Justin Blazini pulled it off! Hearing Rihanna emulate the original sample vocals was well worth it! Like I said before, I don’t really think much of this sample. But I commend Just Blaze for being a bit daring with his choice, and it paid off; literally! “Live Your Life”, the single, went Platinum! Get ya +Paper+, Tip!
Patrick Doyle - "Kissing in the Rain"
Sampled for: "Robocop" by Kanye West
Whether you liked it or not, 2008 was the year that Kanye West exerted the influence of his inner-emo. But you might be surprised to learn that Kanye actually first sampled this Patrick Doyle track several years ago, before settling on “Robocop”. The sample itself is pretty powerful, as is the passionate scene it accompanies in Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 film Great Expectations, starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow. 808s & Heartbreak featured very few samples on it, but “Robocop” was one of the tracks that did. Surprise, surprise, it was also one of my favorite songs from the album.
Run-D.M.C. - "Dumb Girl"
Sampled for: "Jockin' Jay-Z (Dope Boy Fresh)" by Jay-Z
If you listened to “Jockin’ Jay-Z (Dope Boy Fresh)” and didn’t recognize Run’s vocals, I’ve got bad news for you: your hip hop license has hereby been revoked! Go listen to Raising Hell a few times and get back to me. Pronto! Though Kanye West produced this Hov’ track, I’m not 100% sure if it was his idea to use Run’s lines. Whatever the case may be, it was definitely a clever choice! Regardless of the fact that Run’s saying “J.C.” and not “Jay-Z”, this hook is very convincing. Hence all the people who Googled: “What’s teh sample on Jockin’ Jay-Z?” That’s right… “teh”!
Run-D.M.C. - "King of Rock"
Sampled for: "Till I Retire" by Pete Rock
Now that I think of it, maybe Yeezy was jockin’ Pete Rock! Hey, it would explain part of Kanye’s verse on Slum Village’s “Selfish”. I digress! “Till I Retire” was one of my favorite tracks from early-’08, and this Run-D.M.C. vocal sample helped make it a memorable one. It wasn’t used as prominently (nor as repetitively) as other tracks from the year, but “King of Rock” helped send a clear message to all the haters that Pete will always be Pete. “I advise y’all rap dudes better get on your grind!”
Santogold - "Shove It" (featuring Spank Rock)
Sampled for: "Brooklyn (Go Hard)" by Jay-Z (featuring Santogold)
Santogold was everywhere this year, so this introductory line on “Shove It” was bound to be (1) discovered by a hip hop producer with a good ear for vocal samples, and (2) flipped on some banger by a Brooklyn emcee. Enter: S. Carter. Another keen delivery by RocStar Kanye West, “Brooklyn (Go Hard)” features the boom-bap aggressiveness of the mid’90’s style while managing to forge a connection with music’s contemporary state, thanks to the sample and guest appearance by the genre-blender herself, Santogold.
The Beatles - "Eleanor Rigby"
Sampled for: "Dope Boys" by The Game (featuring Travis Barker)
How did Interscope – or 1500 or Nothin' and DJ Quik – think they could get away with this one? If you listen real close to certain portions of “Dope Boys”, you’ll recognize a sped-up sample of a line from The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”, sung by Paul McCartney. I don’t really understand the reason for including this line, nor do I comprehend the fact that there is no sample information in the liner notes to LAX. I would assume that a Beatles sample costs some serious coin. I’ve also included this classic because there’s a certain underground track that came out this year which incorporates the tune of “Eleanor Rigby”. The song I’m talking about contains the name of a certain right-wing television host in its title. Feel me? The song actually samples a cover version of “Eleanor Rigby”, but you’re not getting any more info outta me. I made a promise to the producer. :D
The Friends of Distinction - "And I Love Him"
Sampled for: "Maybach Music" by Rick Ross (featuring Jay-Z)
Saw what you will about Officer Rawls and the L he took this year with his C.O. cover-up “scandal”: “Maybach Music” was catchy! Produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, a group which subsequently dished out the finest beats on Trilla, “Maybach Music” is another example of a masterfully-executed sample in an era where less and less major label albums follow this historic practice. (You might be thinking: Another Beatles track? Sorta. “And I Love Him” by The Friends of Distinction is a semi-cover of The Beatles’ “And I Love Her”.)
The Jackson 5 - "Dancing Machine"
Sampled for: "Move" by Q-Tip
In more ways than one, 2008 was a year in which many of the genre’s veterans made something of a comeback. Q-Tip undoubtedly led the pack with his solid release, The Renaissance. The entire album has some top-notch production, but “Move” just takes the cake. The sole J Dilla-produced track on the album (aside from “Feva”, a bonus track on the UK edition), “Move” is a perfect party joint. And you’ve gotta get some Dilla in the spot, right? It’s great to hear how the late James Yancey can continue to have such a lasting impact on hip hop.
The Whatnauts - "Message from a Black Man"
Sampled for: "You Can't Stop Us Now" by Nas (featuring Eban Thomas of The Stylistics & The Last Poets)
Sampled for: "You Can't Stop Me Now" by RZA (featuring Inspectah Deck)
In a year in which race meant more than ever to an abundance of people in the United States, it was nice to hear the re-emergence of this soul gem by The Whatnauts. You may have heard various versions of this track, most notably by groups and artists such as The Spinners, The Heptones, The Temptations, and more. (Big props to whoever can name the first artist to record this track!) “Message from a Black Man” has been sampled several times over, by artists like Necro, Mos Def and MF DOOM. Oh, and how can I forget? Afrika Bambaataa flipped this track for the classic “Renegades of Funk”. To hear the (re-)interpretations of this song by legends like Nas, RZA and Inspectah Deck is definitely a rewarding experience. The hardest part is choosing which of the two versions is better. Hmm…
Véronique Sanson - "Une Nuit Sur Son Épaule"
Sampled for: "History" by Jay-Z (featuring Tony Williams)
If I recall correctly, Hip Hop Is Read was the first site to both identify and post the sample for Jay-Z’s “History”. So how could I forget this track? Featuring a sample by French singer-songwriter Véronique Sanson, Kanye West reminded me, once again, why I can never give up hope on his capabilities as a music producer – regardless of genre! Speaking of hope, it’s tough to conclude as to whether or not “History” was intended as a celebratory anthem for Barack Obama’s victory. But being that this year seems to be wrapping itself up on a considerably positive note (I’m almost done with college; I voted for the first time in a presidential election; my candidate won), it seems fitting that it would be a victory chant. “We made history.” Why do I always end up mixing hip hop and politics? ;-D
That’s the end of our list for 2008! I’m sure I missed a whole bunch of great samples that were used throughout the year, so feel free to throw some titles and leave your feedback in the comments section! And don't forget to click the link below to “acquire” The Tape Deck Volume #34: The Samples of the Year. :D

As always, don’t forget to… TURN IT UP!!