Flip the Sample #2: J. Cole, Kanye, Outkast, and More
We’re back with the second edition of Flip the Sample. Peep the first one here. This time around we’ve got some more love songs, contemporary rap classics, some more Kanye — we even get all philosophical on the samples. Wait, what am I doing? Just go have fun with it.
First up, a crowd of bad-ass unique artists all playing around with a classic jam.
J. Cole f. Brandon Hines – “Dreams” (2009) (Prod. by J. Cole)
Kanye West f. GLC & Paul Wall – “Drive Slow” (2005) (Prod. by Kanye West)
Tupac – “Shorty Wanna Be a Thug” (1996) (Prod. by Johnny J)
Eminem f. Swifty, Bizarre & Fuzz – “No One’s Iller” (1997) (Prod. by DJ Head)
Hank Crawford – “Wildflower” (1973)
What’s that saxophone singing to us about in “Wildfire,” man? It’s gotta be all about his girl. I mean, the only lyrics we really get are something like, “She’s a lady, she’s a charm.” But that sax is SINGNG, whew. Hank Crawford crushed it for us. He goes high, he moves quick, he slows it down, there’s powerful energy in his sax.
It’s so interesting to me how producers sometimes pick a minimal, background sound off of the ‘original’ sample and turn it into a major sound within the new song — check out around the 1:23 mark of Crawford’s “Wildflower.” The backbone in that transition is that simple one-two piano beat that we also hear right at the beginning. It disappears when the sax first comes into play, makes its way back in at 1:23, and leaves us again.
Then in J. Cole’s “Dreams” that beat is there from the first beat drop and keeps us engaged throughout the entire track. It doesn’t really go away except for during the hook. Cole turned it into the major sound. Why? Maybe it helps highlight the vocals better. It keeps us bopping our heads while Cole tells us about his Wildf… I mean his dream girl.
Did you also catch that saxophone sample Cole adds in at 0:56, 1:08, 1:25, and scattered throughout his jam? Read: I’m sampling “Wildflower” yo, not just Kanye’s “Drive Slow.” He potentially wants us to draw a connection between “Wildflower” and his own jam, instead of with Kanye’s jam.
It’s important to do your research yo, because after I ran into “Wildflower,” which was about two years after I heard “Dreams,” every time that sax sample hit in “Dreams” I got the mo-fucking chills. Knowing about “Wildflower” made me enjoy, maybe even understand, “Dreams” way better. This game is fun.
“Drive Slow” is a jam in and of itself. It’s my favorite Kanye West song. It always puts a calm over me. That’s part of the beauty of samples; they don’t all have to have the same type of ‘value’. Get from them what you will.
Unlike “Dreams,” I see “Drive Slow” as an antithesis to “Wildflower” (Did Ye do the same thing with Jean Knight’s “Mr. Big Stuff?” You’re so confrontational Ye…). I figure that ‘Ye took the message behind “Wildflower” and was like…. nah man be careful with these wildflowers.
Same with Tupac. He was like nah man, shorty wanna be a thug… and he’s only 16?!?!?! . Maybe a mix of both? Just my hypothesis. What I get from Kanye’s verse (the first verse in “Drive Slow”) is this:
Put me on with these hoes homie, he told me, ‘Don’t rush to get grown. Drive slow, homie. Drive slow… whispers: drive slow homie.’
As far as Paul Wall & GLC go, well, the ‘be careful’ ethos are in there but they’re more so just ripping the track apart, showing to the world the heat that they each have. They got on a feature with Kanye. They probably didn’t want to worry about some underlying message. They were about to be put on a global stage. They had to highlight their well-rounded skills. GLC, for instance, was probably like, yeah I can talk about women, but…
I got my custom kicks, I got my Jesus chain, my canaries is gleamin’ through my angel wings, they see me and hoes acting like they seen a king…
With that mean lean, smokin’ on the finest Cali green, my wood grain oak, I’m riding on Vogues, my cylinder quiet, like tip-toes…
Ahhhh. Good stuff GLC. He’s got my favorite verse on this song. However, I enjoy the J. Cole/Hank Crawford connection the most.
First of all, we need to talk about the absolute magical composition that is “Wildflower.” Play it from the top. Right from the beginning it’s gold. It starts out with the (now iconic) one-two beat on the keys right in-sync with the calming hymn in the background. Together they slow you down and it all kind of sits with you well. And then out of nowhere, really, there’s that sexy ass saxophone entrance right at the 16-second mark. That shit throws you back on your chair. Tosses your head back. Your eyes roll to the back of your fucking head. Like what is this saxophone going to say?! I’m listening, you got my attention brother. And the sax starts talking… and does not stop until that fade out at the end.
Crawford absolutely crushed it on this jam. Those high notes he hits (like at 0:54, 2:19-2:23, 2:53-2:56, 3:01-3:04) are perfect. That introductory riff at the beginning (0:27-0:44) sets up the overall melancholy-but-we-still-positive mood so well. That solo he plays right in the middle of the track, around 1:28-1:40, it’s like the sax is in the heart of his speech right there.
Crawford guides this song with the sax like a powerful leader. And what about when he changes it up on us, my gawwwd. We think we know what’s coming right around 2:34. “Oh, he’s just repeating the same riff from before, oh I know what’s about to happen.”
But then NAHHHHHH. He goes left when we’re certain he’s going right. Whew. Fire. That’ll stick with you.
It’s the whole composition too. His partners are riding right along the entire time, complementing the saxophone beautifully. I mean those trumpets?! When they come up screaming, co-signing with the sax like, “Yeah sax I get you!! Me too!!” at 1:41 (first time they ‘respond’) 1:53, 2:20, 2:30, and 3:02, for example. That back and forth talking is so dope, so relatable. The other instruments really have their parts, you can tell they truly have a purpose in the jam. Check out that bass line at 1:24 or the guitar riff at 2:07, both coming in to complement the (tired) sax. These instruments are working like a teeeeeam!
And that nostalgic final fade out… that’s gotta make a comeback. You can change the settings on iTunes to fade out of songs if you’re into that ‘ish like ya boy.
So anyways, I like the connection between “Wildflower” and “Dreams” because I kinda get to know J. Cole better through the context of the purpose of the sample. I see how he manages, thinks, and moves through some troubles. That insight, whether accurate or not, engages me more, makes me listen more, and subsequently makes me enjoy his other jams more as well. Dope Stuff.
Shoutout to all the free and gentle flowers out there, growing wild.
Bonus shoutout to all the Infinite-freaks and die-hards out there. Nothing wrong with getting stuck in an era, yo. Because fuck the lil’ boy and his fucking paper route. Stab your abdomen with a handcrafted pocket-knife and steal your ant-acid. Ugh. Because no-one, no-one is iller than us. NEXT.
(Editor’s note: does anybody write more excitedly than Santi does, like, in the history of people? I love it.)
Outkast – “Jazzy Belle” (1996) (Prod. by Organized Noize)
Lil Wayne – “Pussy Money Weed” (2007) (Prod. by Jim Jonsin)
Lamont Dozier – “Prelude & Rose” (1974)
Another romantic montage. Man, I’m just a lover huh? Do I only catch samples in songs about love? I mean I do love love, love. But maybe it’s also that men feel more comfortable co-signing another man when that man puts their own raw emotions out there on a song like that. Like, “hey, Outkast ain’t soft so I’m not either okay!” (0:38 of “Jazzy Belle”: ‘…them folks might think you soft for talking like that. Man FUCK them n***** I’m going off and coming right back like boomerangs when you throw em…’) Real recognize Real.
The “PMW” & “Jazzy Belle” connection is a straightforward one. Jim Jonsin basically re-made Outkast’s song, gave it to Wayne, and it came together. This is when I pick sides. This is when I can’t help but see quality, gravitate towards it, and end up more energized by the creative process of one versus the other.
This is why Organized Noize deserves more praise for “Jazzy Belle” than Jonsin does for “PMW.” Organized Noize created a JAM. They were moved by Lamont Dozier’s original jam, “Prelude & Rose.” This is where sampling is more obscure, less direct, and way more personal. They flipped it around, chopped it up, and came out with the beauty that is “Jazzy Belle.”
I mean, tell me you don’t feel it too when “Prelude” transitions around 1:03-1:15 and then the beat drops again at 1:21. “From the corneeeeer… of the streets I found heeeer…..” I certainly feel it. Jazzy stuff, no pun intended. Calidad, baby. Calidad.