A-Trak is one of the most accomplished DJs on the planet – a gentleman who won the 1997 DMC World Championships at the tender age of 15, performed extensively with the Skratch Piklz, was hand-picked by Kanye West to be his tour DJ, and now regularly headlines festivals in countries we’ve only experienced via repeats of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations. He’s also the co-founder (along with Nick Catchdubs) of Fool’s Gold, the record label that’s formalized his commitment to club music in all its varied forms – from everyone’s favorite frighteningly unhinged rapper, Danny Brown, to Trizzy’s own “Dirty South Dance Remixes” and productions for the likes of Kid Sister, and Duck Sauce, his partnership with Armand Van Helden (peep the Biz doll’s cameo in their “Barbra Streisand” video). But personally we just enjoy the fact that the guy provided zigga-ziggas on recordings by our favorite ’90s Montreal indie rap act, Obscure Disorder, and once recorded a song for Stones Throw named after a character from The Simpsons. It was based solely on those credentials that we felt compelled to ask him for a list of his favorite sample flips.
10. Puff Daddy & The Family - “It’s All About The Benjamins” (Bad Boy promo, 1997)
PRODUCER: Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie
SAMPLE SOURCE: Love Unlimited – “I Did It For Love” (Unlimited Gold, 1976)
A-Trak: Definitely one of the best beats in hip-hop history. Slowing down a sample is much less common than speeding one up. The way D-Dot hooked it up was just perfect, every rapper dreams of getting a beat like “The Benjamins.” The Hitmen could do no wrong in that era. Note: I prefer the original version of the track that was on the white label [bootleg] with just the Lox and Puffy. That version didn’t have the Jackson 5 change-up. Also note: “stack chips like Hebrews.”
9. Eric Prydz - “Call On Me” (Data, 2004)
PRODUCER: Eric Prydz
SAMPLE SOURCE: Steve Winwood – “Valerie” (Island, 1987)
I feel like the art of sampling in house music is an overlooked topic. Eric Prydz is a Swedish producer who blew up with this track “Call On Me” in 2004. Sampling Steve Winwood is just so dope to me. A lot of house tracks tap into this feeling of escaping the rigors of life and getting this sort of release (pause), which is a continuation of disco topos of course. But rather than only sampling disco records, there’s some dope loops in early-80’s rock that have that same blue-collar feeling. Also, the sample actually says “Call on me, Valerie” but when it’s looped you’re tricked into only hearing “Call on me.”
8. Kazi - “A.V.E.R.A.G.E.” (Stones Throw, 2000)
SAMPLE SOURCE: Jimmy Scott – “I Wish I Knew” (Atlantic, 1970)
A personal favorite in Madlib’s catalog. In the early 2000’s Peanut Butter Wolf, Egon and Madlib all used to live at this house in Mt. Washington and I would stay there when I went to LA. It was always ill to walk into Madlib’s studio and see all his records lying around while he was making beat tapes. He used to record his beats into a digital 16-track – I think it was a Roland 1688, but I could be wrong. I would grab a beat CD and listen to his instrumentals, and then 6 months later they’d pop up on Madvillain or something like that. But anyway I digress, this Kazi beat is crazy and he chopped the hell out of the Jimmy Scott sample. Haunting!
7. Jay-Z - “Kingdom Come” (Roc-A-Fella, 2006)
PRODUCER: Just Blaze
SAMPLE SOURCE: Rick James – “Super Freak” (Motown, 1981)
I remember when this beat was just an instrumental on Just Blaze’s MySpace page, on some nerd-out “peep how I flipped Rick James” tip. And then Hov made it a serious song. What’s even doper about the final Jay-Z version is that Just layered these other vocal samples on top. He’s always been good at combining samples like that. It makes you forget a bit that this song is technically an MC Hammer sibling. Sidebar: I have the same birthday as MC Hammer.
6. Armand Van Helden - “U Don’t Know Me” (Armed, 1999)
PRODUCER: Armand Van Helden
SAMPLE SOURCE: Carrie Lucas – “Dance With You” (Solar, 1979)
This is one of those ideal loops that you wish to find once in your life. I remember liking this song when it came out even though I wasn’t listening to house music back in ’98, and years later here I am in a group with this guy. It’s all about the strings and the bassline with this one. Strings are always uplifting, and they also lend themselves to the sweep of a filter. Armand didn’t even have to do much to this sample, just some good drums and Duane Harden took it to church with the vocals.
5. Daft Punk - “Aerodynamic” (Virgin, 2001)
PRODUCER: Daft Punk
SAMPLE SOURCE: Sister Sledge – “Il Macquillage Lady” (Cotillion, 1982)
Let me just go ahead and state that Daft Punk’s Discovery album changed my life. Not only that, but it upped the ante for production and song value in dance music. It wasn’t just dancefloor tracks, it was a complete body of work that stands up next to the best albums. And the production got really advanced too. The way they chopped those hits and guitar parts is at the same time so intricate and so catchy, there’s even stacked guitar parts that harmonize. Combine that with the SP1200 grit and the classic Daft flanger, and you’ve got lightning in a bottle. Not to mention the unconventional song structure – church bells and a guitar solo? We’re not worthy.
4. A Tribe Called Quest “Find A Way” (Jive, 1998)
PRODUCER: The Ummah
SAMPLE SOURCE: Towa Tei “Technova” (Elektra, 1995)
Q-Tip and Dilla, masters at expanding the scope of what producers have sampled in hip-hop throughout their careers. Here they flipped a post-Deee-Lite Towa Tei vocal and took the Japanese words across the ocean into English flirting language. Pourquoi pas? The production is stellar on here too, with a deep bassline, sexy synth pads and the modern reincarnation of the “Make The Music With Your Mouth Biz” shakers. The East Coast hadn’t had handclaps this good since EPMD.
3. The Notorious B.I.G. - “Ten Crack Commandments” (Bad Boy, 1997)
PRODUCER: DJ Premier
SAMPLE SOURCE: Les McCann – “Vallarta” (ABC, 1977)
Premier beats were always so iconic that you became ultra-familiar with the samples, and then one day you’d hear the original source and it would be just a couple passing notes in the middle of a song and you’d respect him even more for noticing that section! I could easily do a Top 10 Sample Flips of just Premier. The “Ten Crack Commandments” beat speaks to me in particular because he scratched the sample and it make the scratching part of the production. It wasn’t a solo, it became an essential part of what the sample brought to the track.
2. Lil' Wayne - “A Milli” (Cash Money, 2008)
SAMPLE SOURCE: A Tribe Called Quest – “I Left My Wallet In El Segundo” (Vampire Mix) (Jive, 1990)
Bangladesh is an interesting producer. He doesn’t really belong to any particular style or era, but he’s had a steady stream of weirdo beats and when you think about it, a bunch of bonafide classics. This beat is a true stroke of genius. I mean, who thinks of sampling Phife Dawg’s voice like that? And those stripped down drums have been imitated a bunch since. This whole song is a testament to the fact that hip-hop is still uniquely creative after all these years.
1. Slum Village - “Raise It Up” (GoodVibe, 2000)
PRODUCER: J Dilla
SAMPLE SOURCE: Thomas Bangalter – “Extra Dry” (Roulé, 1998)
The second Slum Village album was full of creative sample flips. Dilla really was the master of honing in on the eeriness of a sample and making his beats sound otherworldly. This one is particularly interesting to me because he sampled Thomas Bangalter, who of course is ½ of Daft Punk, and at the time no rap producer was checking for electronic music like this. Also, traditionally in hip-hop you would sample older records and give them a new life, but “Extra Dry” was on Trax On Da Rocks 2 which came out in ’98, so just a year or two prior to the Slum song. That too was daring. I can’t help but wonder how Dilla stumbled across this song and whether being from Detroit, the mecca of techno, had anything to do with it. Whatever it was, this beat sounds like nothing else. The knock is crazy. And Dilla is still my favorite producer.