Flip the Sample #3: AZ, Kid Cudi & More
I’ve mentioned that flipping samples is fun before, right? Alright I’ve definitely brought that up. We got a few more connections drawn out below, including some 90’s East Coast rap (of course), some young guns blowing up in the hip-hop world, and a bit of those impactful rock classics.
But let’s also take a look at why this is so fun. What does sample flipping — something so prevalent and successful in art — mean for listeners, users, and creators? Sample flipping, or collaboration, reveals amazing things about the powerful virtue that human connection can have, or maybe should have, when artists are creating new final products from older materials.
Let’s get it started with the baddest lyrical connection that possibly ever came together during the height of clever rap:
AZ & NaS — “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Murder (Homocide)” (1995) (Prod. by D.R. Period)
The O’Jays — “Cry Together” (1978)
Man, AZ, nobody noticed you. Nobody gave a shit. AZ, you are truly slept on. I’m sure there’s good reasoning behind it. (Editor’s note: there’s really not. AZ’s career makes no sense to me. He should’ve been way bigger. I still get heated about this shit.) Regardless, I respect your music so much. Dude has a mind like a Princeton grad.
On another note, Nas again??? Yup, Nas again. Escobar season never ends over here.
My excitement with this sample is more obscure. I don’t fully understand it. It’s probably the absolutely mind-blowing lyrical destruction by AZ and Nas that really makes me excited.
I haven’t been able to draw a strong ‘same message/same theme’ connection between “Mo Murder” and “Cry Together,” as I have with other samples. Perhaps it’s the “we are not alone, it’s hard out here for all of us” motif.
I’ll let y’all play with this. Tell us what you think. I need help understanding it. I’ve said what I can from this sample. Good ol’ Benjamin Franklin had the savvy ass line, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter.” Smart dude. I’m going to have to take his advice on this one.
Lord Finesse — “Hip 2 Da Game” (1995) (Prod. by Lord Finesse)
Mac Miller — “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza” (2011) (Prod. by Lord Finesse)
Chance the Rapper — “Brain Cells” (2012) (Prod. by Peter Cottontale)
Oscar Peterson — “Dream of You” (1971)
Shoutout to my brother from another mother @Kam_Ron45 for helping me with this one. That’s one of the beauties of humanity in my eyes. Having meaningful connections, learning from others, having others help us, just being around other people. My friend’s input helped me think through this one. It’s all about finding a way to kindly tell each other what we think. Our human connections help us grow. Don’t hold each other back, peoples. Help each other grow. That’s the same perspective I use to understand sampling.
So, Lord Finesse made a classic beat for “Hip 2 Da Game” in 1995, which Mac Miller used in 2011, and which Chance The Rapper flipped in 2012. This particular sample is very interesting because you can compare and contrast the eras of each artist, their backgrounds, their lifestyles, and their position in their careers. It’s got a lot of societal contrasts that are interesting to reveal through music. Let’s get into it.
“Hip 2 Da Game” is a frustrated Lord Finesse telling us that “ain’t a damn thing changed” after being on hiatus for nearly four years at the time. He’s saying that he’s still the hottest out there and has been for yeeeeears, despite never getting his recognition. But you know what? He doesn’t care, yo. No matter what, he ain’t bugging out. He’s proud.
However, fast forward sixteen years to when an up-and-coming Mac Miller uses Finesse’s beat for “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza,” puts it on a free mixtape, and BLOWS UP. And then BLAM. Finesse drops a $10 million lawsuit on Mac and DatPiff (It would later be settled out of court). It’s always very fucking sad to see this type of legal action because it’s the kind of shit that holds people back. It scares artists. It makes people have to be too ‘careful’. We’re slowing down evolution, G!
I’m not well versed with Mac Miller’s music, but he shows off his lyrical talent on “Frozen Pizza.” It’s fire, granted that he’s rapping about his dipshit teenage lifestyle with a confidence like “yeah I’m going to be a mainstream rap king.” His last bar — “But many more songs to make cousin, so why the fuck you buggin’” — had to piss Lord Finesse off. Like, did you not hear my track first, Mac? I’m out here creating classics and getting no recognition and you’re going to disregard that completely? Not only disregard it but throw it in my face? A white kid from Pennsylvania takes my beat, which got me very little mainstream recognition even though I WANTED IT, and blows the fuck up? Lawsuit ensues. Just a theory, I don’t know enough about either Mac Miller nor Lord Finesse to be fully confident in it, but there’s something there. There’s a dance behind sampling. It has to be done with good intentions, or in a well thought out environment.
Unfortunately we had to spend time talking about the legal battles and dark arts that surround sampling and collaboration (FUCK an evil, money-loving lawyer!!!!). But really, it’s a very important aspect of sampling and collaboration that we have to pay attention to. More to come on that, but back to the jams.
“Brain Cells,” well it’s a beauty. I love the musical composition. Peter Cottontale grabbed the Lord Finesse beat, played with it, and added his own jazziness to it. It’s got that spacey feel to it, always keeping the one-two guitar beat as the main track and in unison with a simple kick-drum. Maybe that simplicity helps us engage with the lyrics better. And it’s full of occasional piano riffs in the background that just HAPPEN to work perfectly in line with what Chance is saying. And the organ (1:28), it comes in right when it feels like Chance is running out of energy. The compliment between the lyricist and the producer is evident and strong. This is definitely my favorite beat out of all three. And I like the lyrics even more.
Chance The Rapper, young in his career, wanted to prove to the world that he could rap like anyone out there. Oh, Mac Miller crushed that beat? Watch what I can do. Chance claims that’s the reason he used that sample. And he GOES OFF. Like a fucking kamikaze. He drives straight into the track, telling us a lot about his personality (“but I’ma let the bull pass like a matador”), background (“remember the days of Chan-man and the Skeeter man?”), thought process (“Here’s a tab of acid for your ear. You’re the plastic. I’m the passion and the magic in the air”….hahahaha), qualms (“you foolies is a conflict that is kinda crucial”), loves (“I could write a fuckin’ book, non-kamasutral”). Give this track some time and energy. We get a very real look into an intelligent young artist.
Okay, quick break. I want to leave you readers with one last piece of my mind. This is what I want from all of this flipping and from us as people, really. This is really kind of like a prayer:
These musical connections get me turned up, man. I mean that. Music moves me emotionally and bio-physically. I can feel my heart beat faster or slower, my mood changes, or I’ll get the chills from really good musical moments (Shoutout to live music).
Well made music, like many arts, is an awe of humanity. The amount of time, energy, thought, and collaboration that can go into music is admirable. We’re bringing light to musical moments that deserve recognition — we connect with them in some way and appreciate the art within them.
I really hope to create a quality — or at least a well-thought out and composed — column to represent, in some way, the work that these artists put in. I want to be careful, like the carefully chosen samples these artists work with. I want to be on point. I want to make my words important. Because if all of this slips away, and this is the last Flip the Sample out there, the last thing I want you to remember is basic ass music bragging about some apple bottom jeans with the boots with tha fur.
This prayer is a direct call to minimizing the distractions or garbage music we are confronted with. Decide what moves you, what you like, what you don’t like, and let the bullshit disperse itself. Let it minimize itself. I mean, have you ever heard some shit so real about our modern-day society? Probably.
Let me reiterate, though, to each their own. I respect that full-heartedly. Taking that into account, I really hope that we can all be aware and push music that moves each of us beyond the heart. That powerful music from the soul that you can feel. But I know there’s readers out there that feel the message behind this prayer. So I don’t worry about the way music is handled in our contemporary society. I enjoy doing this so much because I know there’s people out there in the world that also make this prayer on the daily. There’s people working their asses off every single day creating beautiful art, beautiful moments, and carefully thought out musical connections. If I’ve ever been on the receiving end of amazing music, I just gotta say I appreciate the love you put into your craft yo.
Now back to the jams. I got one last one for y’all. Let’s compare and contrast these two:
Kid Cudi — “The Prayer” (2008) (Prod. by Plain Pat)
Band of Horses — “The Funeral” (2006)
“The Funeral” is a strong ass song. It’s been given its high acclaim. It’s a simple song with a simple guitar progression that fits in right along with the melancholy feeling and lyrics. That’s most of it. I didn’t run into it until after I heard Plain Pat play around with the sample (that’s all goodie by the way don’t be ashamed of that).
Sidenote and shoutout: The A Kid Named Cudi tape is absolute musical gold. I’m not going to apologize about this, but Cudi, your music after that is so weak. It just doesn’t click with me. It’s like you were trying SOooo fuckin’ hard. I can’t feel it. A Kid Name Cudi, though? I salute you and your team brother.
Do me a solid, friends. Go play Kid Cudi and Plain Pat’s track from the top again. Give that ‘prayer’ I wrote above another read from the top too. Read along and listen along. Take one minute for it.
Did I steal Kid Cudi’s lines? Should he sue me? Did I realize I was doing it? Did I do it on purpose? What was my purpose? Am I agreeing? Disagreeing? Does this mean I was influenced by Cudi’s lines?
My writing is a curated concoction of my experiences. The music I get to listen to, the words that are spoken to me, the things I read, the emotions that are passed on to me throughout my days, these all seep into my writing. There are lines all over my writing, and things I say on the daily (think people quoting movies) that are influenced by the work of other artists. We think, we connect, we sample, and reproduce. This is what painters, sculptors, scientists, dancers, and musicians have done for centuries, or millennia. We are not alone in a vacuum of thoughts. We are here with/for each other.
Alright well I’m going to follow Mark Twain’s advice again and try to keep my letter short. I think I’ve put too many words down. Wait, wasn’t it Benjamin Franklin’s advice? Yeah, it was Benjamin. Nahhh it was Blaise Pascal’s. Actually, I’m not too sure who said that savvy line first. But I connect with it.
Tell us about your favorite Flip the Sample. For us, there’s nothing better than diving deeper into the music that moves us.