Flip the Sample: Method Man, Kanye, Nas & More
One of the dopest things about hip-hop is the intricate relationship the genre has with sampling other music in order to compose new songs. Sampling and hip-hop are married. It’s fun because it gives you light into the direct influences of a producer. It gives you clues as to how the composer was thinking when creating a piece, and strengthens the connection between the artist and the listener.
More than anything though, it brings questions to mind. Why did Dan the Automator sample this? Is it the sound that he’s moved by? Is it the energy the sample brings to life? Or does he agree with the theme of that song? Is he co-signing the message behind the original? It makes you look at the beat through a finer lens. It can help you understand music better. The listener can create hypotheses and made up fantasies, really, about why this song was sampled. Man this shit is fun to do!
This is the introductory piece to a column, called Flip the Sample, that explores this intricate relationship between hip-hop songs and the tracks that gave them life. We will pay homage to dope songs and look at the original samples used in producing them. We want to shine light into the creative process of some of the artists we enjoy. Have fun with it peeps.
Sample: Method Man f. Mary J. Blige – “I’ll Be There For You / You’re All I Need To Get By” (1995)
Producer: Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and Poke & Tone (The Trackmasters)
Original: Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “You’re All I Need To Get By” (1968)
Here we have Method Man’s most romantic lyrical composition. He samples Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need To Get By”. It’s a love letter to his main girl. Cute and all, but this is still fuckin’ Meth. You can still feel that cold, rottweiler flow throughout.
In Method Man’s version, at the 14-second mark, we get a vocal sample from Biggie’s “Me & My Bitch”: “lie together, cry together, I swear to God I hope we fuckin’ die together…” (editor’s note: I’m sure Diddy being the producer of the track had a lot to do with the choice of Biggie sample) Right away Meth tells us this is his rendition of “Me & My Bitch,” a ballad to his queen. This string of samples is interesting because of that. All three of them run off of the same theme. They’re making an honest, direct, and contextually chivalrous pact to their women.
How do they each do it? Well that’s what makes flipping samples interesting. Same theme but each with their own character. We can feel out how each of these artists think by listening to their interpretation of the same idea. What’s dope is that they’re conscious of it too; they picked the sample. Jay-Z ended up getting in on the fun with this one by dropping “All I Need” in 2001. On the song, he references the artists that created the original, as well as the sample:
“And all… I… need is a chick to hold a jammy like Meth and Mary/ like Marvin and Tammi”
– Hov knows what’s up.
Sample: John Legend f. Rick Ross – “Who Do We Think We Are” (2013)
Producer: Bink!, Tozer, Kanye West, Twilite Tone & Nana Kwabena
Original: Jean Knight – “Mr. Big Stuff” (1971)
John Legend put this one together as an ode to luxurious living, but more so a call to living in the moment. Do BIG things and do them like you mean it. Kanye wrote it with him. Rick Ross has his part. So yeah. They mean it when they’re saying live big. The main sample here is Jean Knight’s hit “Mr. Big Stuff”.
Right from the beginning we get the infamous “Oh, oh yeah” from “Mr. Big Stuff.” But this sample flip feels a little different. It’s as if Legend and West are responding directly to what Jean Knight has to say about Mr. Big Stuff. They heard what she had to say, sampled her sound, and responded.
Kanye West – “Bound 2” (2013)
Producer: Kanye West, Che Pope, Eric Danchick, Goldstein, No ID & Mike Dean
Original(s): Ponderosa Twins Plus One – “Bound” (1971), Brenda Lee – “Sweet Nothings” (1960)
One of my favorites from Yeezus. The production is excellent, it bounces around with different energy and full of interesting sounds. On top of that, toss on classic ‘Ye speaking on one of his most intimate topics: relationships. I enjoy hearing him talking through his women issues.
The two main samples are fucking awesome. Ponderosa Twins Plus One’s “Bound” and Brenda Lee’s “Sweet Nothings.”
The main sound from “Bound 2” comes mostly from “Bound,” a classic sound of the 70’s. The sound from the trumpet in “Bound 2” is actually one of the kid’s voices in “Bound.” So dope. That sample is where the infamous, “Bound to falling in looooove” hook also comes from.
The second sample, which makes things even more interesting, is where we get the “Uh huh honey.” This sample is gold. A song about relationships released in 1960 sampled in a song about relationships from 2013. The contrast is too fun.
Tupac – “Dopefiend’s Diner” (Unreleased)
Producer: Big D The Impossible
Original: Susan Vega – “Tom’s Diner” (1987)
This one is really interesting. It’s Tupac’s version of Susan Vega’s “Tom’s Diner.” It’s almost like a remix, but now we’re starting to get into semantics aren’t we? The contrast in this sample flip speaks directly to how changing perspectives can reveal similarities and differences between people out there in the streets everyday. Check it out.
On the one hand we have a seemingly plain, simple story. There’s a girl in a Manahattan diner. She tells us what she sees. It all seems pretty innocent, but we all know there’s an emotional frustration in the undertone. Then we have Tupac in the ghetto. He tells us what he sees. Quite the opposite, innocence is non-existent. The emotional frustration is blatant, in your face, and heavy. The songs have their big differences, but at the root it’s the same emotion being expressed. There’s something very powerful about “Tom’s Diner,” man. This song has been sampled and remixed like crazy. It’s everywhere. So many different genres, artists, and contexts. When I first heard it, I connected. There’s something about that beat that connects with people generally.
Nas – “Get Down” (2002)
Producer: Nas & Salaam Remi
Original: James Brown – “The Boss” (1973)
Chills. This is an all time favorite (editor’s note: mine too!). The first time I heard “Get Down,” I had a new favorite song (it’s my favorite song OK). The way this beat walks the listener through Nas’ real-life epic narrative is magical. Seriously though, the beat — made up heavily of James Brown’s “The Boss” rhythm and structure — is like a leisurely walk through your streets on a Saturday, dapping your people, reflecting on the adventures and misadventures of the past week. It’s as if… you’re The Boss.
Tell us about your favorite Flip the Sample. For us, there’s nothing better than diving deeper into the music that moves us.