SIX ESSENTIAL SAMPLES THAT FATHERED HIP HOP
As far as music goes, and the development of genre specific cultures, Hip-Hop is relatively a baby compared to the likes of Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, Rock, Classical etc. We don’t fully comprehend it most of the time but, this here love we called Hip-Hop is really only about +-46 years old (est. 1972-1973). The 70’s is arguably the most influential era in music history, well, primarily as far as Hip-Hop goes. This was pointed out by pioneer and fellow godfather of hip hop Grandmaster Flash in a very eye opening interview with Hot 97.
Sampling, though being somewhat enigmatic in the grander scheme of things, is actually the lifeblood of the craft. As far as the discipline of beat making and DJ’ing goes, sampling is a sacred practice. Is it stealing or borrowing? Well, neither really. General consensus points out the nature of sampling to be tribute orientated rather than plagiaristic. This was clarified by the extremely influential jazz pianist and arranger Bob James in an interview with Wax Poetics. He states:
“I’ve heard about other composers of my era who don’t like their work being sampled or touched—but I’ve never felt cheated. I mean, sampling gave my work a life of its own without me being in the creative process at all. I’m just a bystander watching it happen. It’s a bit strange. [laughs] But it is a good thing because of the exposure. In many instances, it led hip-hop listeners who’ve recognized certain samples to dive into my original works. And seeing how sampling isn’t just a passing fad, or that it was done in a novelty kind of manner, makes me extremely flattered.”
So, if we had to paint a picture, we could say sampling, through its many practices and forms (genres) became the midwife that aided in the birth of Hip-Hop. According to music journalist Steven Ivory, in 1973 while emceeing and DJ’ing at a party in the recreation room at Sedgwick Avenue, New York, Jamaican–American, Bronx native Clive Campbell aka DJ Kool Herc placed two copies of James Brown’s 1970 live double album Sex Machine on the turntables and ran an extended cut and mix of the drums breakdown from “Give It Up or Turnit a Loose”, which sparked the conception of hip hop. This moment of raw innovation introduced the world to the DJ’s most priced possession, the drum break, and as they say, the rest was history. Herc pointed out that the slang term “breaking” meant to be “excited” or “energetic”. So those responding in excitement and enthusiasm on the dance floor to Herc’s breaks were dubbed “break girls” and “break boys” or B-Boy’s and B-Girl’s. Grandmixer DXT, a veteran b-boy and later DJ closely affiliated with Kool Herc describes this growth in the dance style:
“…everybody would form a circle and the B-boys would go into the center. At first the dance was simple: touch your toes, hop, kick out your leg. Then some guy went down, spun around on all fours. Everybody said wow and went home to try to come up with something better.”
So, as we can see, there was a intensely spontaneous link between the perfect drum break and the b-boy/b-girl. There are many other tracks from the 70s into the 80s that further shaped the texture of hip hop, but I want to focus on some essential drum break samples. When hip hop was in its infant stages, finding the perfect beat was akin to a religious practice for DJ’s and early beat makers. So one could conclude that crate digging was not just a collector’s obsession like sea shells or sneakers, no, this was way deeper than that. Check out the Crate Diggers series on the Fuse TV YouTube channel, and you will soon realize how intense the connection is between the crate digger and the record. So yeah, lets get into this…
James Brown – Funky Drummer (Pt. 1 & 2)
Album: In the Jungle Groove
Original 7″ Release: 1970
Label: King Records
As soon as it kicks off many would think, ok, this sounds like a prototypical James Brown cut. Funky riffs and bass line laced with intermittent signature scream’s and holler’s. But woah wait a minute, Uncle James then directs the band, in iconic fashion to “give the drummer some of this funky soul”. And as soon as we count down to the 5:34 mark, and drummer Clyde Stubblefield is let go, well, lets just say, what follows is a Higgs-Boson moment, boom! musical atoms collide to form the perfect drum break!
According to Whosampled.com, this jawn was sampled a whopping 1518 times. Most notably in: Dr Dre’s “Let Me Ride”, twice by the Bomb Squad for Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” and “Rebel without a Pause”. It also can be traced to arguably one of DJ Premier’s best flips in Mos Def’s “Mathematics”, and one of LL Cool J’s heavily influential Marley Marl flipped hits “Mama Said Knock You Out”, among other classics. It is truly an iconic drum break which not only shaped drum programming ideas in hip hop, but solidified James Brown as both a Soul and Hip Hop legend.
Incredible Bongo Band – Apache
Album: Bongo Rock
Original Release: 1973
Label: Pride Records
I don’t think many people in New York knew who Michael Viner, Jerry Lordan or the Incredible Bongo Band were prior to 1973. But as soon as Herc era DJ’s and emcee’s discovered Apache, their names were forever etched into Hip Hop folklore. So much so that Sugar Hill Gang named their major hit after it. From then it pops up everywhere in the early to late 80s, MC Hammer’s “Turn this Mutha Out”, Young MC’s “Know How”, LL Cool J’s “You Cant Dance”, and Ultramagnetic MC’s “MCs Ultra” among others (it was sampled over 552 times). And most recently in 2003, multiple elements were used by Salaam Remi to craft Nas’ “Made You Look”. Truly an iconic (yes, I may abuse this word in this blog) drum break, with it being widely dubbed on many occasions as “hip-hop’s national anthem”.
The Honey Drippers – Impeach The President
7″ Single/Album: Impeach The President + Roy C’s Theme
Original Release: 1973
Label: Alaga Records
Soul was booming heavy in the 70s, hit after hit was being pressed and churned out. The airwaves were dominated by the likes of Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Billy Paul, The Temptations, Isaac Hayes, Teddy Pendergrass, Curtis Mayfield, Stylistics, Minnie Riperton, O’Jays, Gladys Knight and the Pips, we could go on. But as usual, when the airwaves are dominated by household names (and rightly so in that era), there will be gems that will be slept on along on the way. Impeach the President by Roy C & Jamaica High School (Queens, NY) student band The Honey Drippers being one of those rough diamonds. Though released in 1973, it will only take Marley Marl using the opening drum sequence to concoct the legendary Queensbridge anthem and Bridge Wars sparked hit, The Bridge by MC Shan way later in 1985 for the masses to finally appreciate it. Many crate diggers will let you know that having an original Alaga 7 inch pressing of this single is like having one of the infinity stones. Probably more so now in 2019 given the song’s strong message and America’s current political scope 😁 This opening drum break is the stuff of legends. It can be found in Nas “The Message” (and later “I Can”), Notorious B.I.G. “Unbelievable”, Eric B & Rakim’s “Eric B is President”, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince “My Buddy”, Eazy E “Eazy Duz It” etc. It was even caught in the middle of the Bridge Wars with BDP’s response to MC Shan “The Bridge is Over”. Basically a very influential drum break to say the least. It was sampled over 785 times.
Melvin Bliss – Synthetic Substitution
7″ Single/Album: Reward + Synthetic Substitution
Original Release: 1973
Label: Sunburst Records
This track started off as a throwaway B-side cut that failed to chart anywhere on its initial release. As a result of this, Opal Productions, the parent company of Sunburst records then collapsed. But, as soon as Ced-Gee of Ultramagnetic MC’s took the drum break to create Ego Trippin’ off their critically acclaimed debut Critical Beatdown, what was once a failure, became a success. Following the release of Ego Trippin’, this break, and other elements would go on to be sampled over 781 times. Most notably: Wu-Tang Clan “Bring Da Ruckus” & “Clan in da Front” off their classic debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), Naughty By Nature “O.P.P.”, Public Enemy “Dont Believe the Hype”, Gang Starr “DWYCK”, Ghostface Killah “Mighty Healthy”, just to name a few. Given the circumstances, truly a classic case of “the rose that grew from the concrete”.
Bob James – Nautilus
Original Release: 1974
Label: CTI Records
Musically speaking, I was raised on 4 core genre’s, Gospel, Soul, Jazz and Hip Hop, and in lots of cases I couldn’t tell which one I love more than the other. Though Hip Hop and Jazz get lots of my attention, like those with more than one kid would understand (I have only one kid though, anyway). So, when I peeped articles on the importance of Bob James within Hip Hop it really excited me, primarily for the fact that I was raised on Fourplay banging on my dad’s pioneer speakers, with my big brother and cousins cracking hip hop with equal intensity on those same speakers during my primary school years. Nautilis is considered by Bob James as, merely another apart of his debut CTI Records release “One”. Off the album, Feel Like Making Love, In the Garden and Night on Bald Mountain got more airplay, but it was the bass line, hook and riff of Nautilus that caught the attention of hip hop producers. Particularly on Slick Rick’s highly influential “Children’s Story”, Eric B. & Rakim’s “Follow the Leader”, Run-DMC’s “Beats to the Rhyme”, Main Source’ “Live at the Barbeque” (which introduced the world to the phenomenon we’ve come to know as Nas), Jeru the Damaja “My Mind Spray”, Pete Rock & CL Smooth “Sun Won’t Come Out”, we could literally go on and on. It is considered not just a key contributor to the foundations of hip hop, but one of the most sampled tracks in American music history. Following Nautilus, Bob James would have more of his work being sampled heavy throughout hip hop history. His experimental jazz take on Paul Simon’s “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” off his second CTI Records release “Two” being another standout. Just listen to the opening drum break and you will get it 😉
Chic – Good Times
Original Release: 1979
Label: Atlantic Records
For this one, there is no even need for any technical discourse. As soon as anybody gets their first taste of that bass line, only one track comes to mind, RAPPER’S DELIGHT! This one does not come without controversy though. Sylvia Robinson was behind the boards when Rapper’s Delight was being recorded, and she had a quickly assembled band recreate Good Times for 15 minutes straight while Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike and Master Gee of Sugar Hill Gang drop bars over it. Most notably with Hank spitting bitten bars from Cold Crush Brothers member Grandmaster Caz’ rhyme book. To add to that, Chic’s front man Nile Rodgers and bassist Bernard Edwards sued Sylvia Robinson and Sugar Hill Records for copyright infringement, but a settlement was however reached for Rodgers and Edwards to receive songwriter credits. Nile Rodgers pointed out that he liked the song, they just wanted proper credit and compensation. The single sold over 2 million copies in the United States, grossing $3.5 million for Sugar Hill Records. So with that said, without Good Times, we probably would never get to hear…
I said a hip hop the hippie the hippie
To the hip hip hop and you don’t stop
The rock it to the bang bang boogie
Say up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie, the beat
Written by: Jay Seth