Cosmo Baker is widely renowned as one of the greatest, most party-rockin’-est disk jockey dudes on the planet – a magician on the mix and master of varied genres (hip-hop, soul, disco, reggae, electronic, younameit) capable of igniting any soiree with, as King Curtis used ta call it, instant groove. Originally from Philly, and a friend and colleague of such similarly music-minded Illadelphians as ?uestlove and Rich Medina, Lord Cos has ruled NYC for most of the past decade as a member of one of Gotham’s most beloved and successful DJ collectives, The Rub. These days he rocks dolo, splitting time between his Brooklyn rest and the rest of the globe, which he seemingly never stops touring. He’s crazy busy. But not too busy to bless us with a diverse, thoughtfully composed, and thought-provoking list of some of his all-time favorite sample flips.
HIT UP THE THUMBNAILS ABOVE TO CHECK OUT COSMO’S FAVORITE SAMPLE FLIPS
Talib Kweli "Get By" (Rawkus, 2002)
PRODUCER: Kanye West
SAMPLE SOURCES: Nina Simone – “Sinnerman” (Phillips, 1965); Love – “Doggone” (Blue Thumb, 1969)
Cosmo Baker: Sample based music in hip-hop these days is hardly de rigueur, either because of the contemporary sonic landscape, or for the more practical reason of the cost of sample clearances. But love him or hate him, one has to admit that Kanye West has done a tremendous job in keeping sampling fresh and of the time. Dude has such a tremendous ear for catching just the right part of a song to totally recreate it in his own way. Forget about him being a superstar for a moment, because dude is such a genius of a rap producer, and for that reason I had to include him on my list. I thought of focusing on his technique of speeding up old soul songs (a la the incredible “Down & Out” by Cam’Ron) but instead had to bring it with his flips for Talib Kweli’s “Get By.” By speeding up an already fast song – Nina Simone’s epic “Sinnerman” – and chopping the piano vamp in the middle of the song, combined with the underlaying sixteenth note hand claps, dude made a hell of a club banger. And I’ve always been a fan of using vocals as instrumentation so throwing in Nina’s scat outro in the mix definitely adds spice to the stew. All these ingredients, and add a nice little chop of possibly my all-time drum break, Love’s “Doggone” (‘Ye was really into this break for a hot minute) and you have Talib’s finest, most timeless record.
Biz Markie - "This Is Something For The Radio" (Cold Chillin', 1988)
PRODUCER: Marley Marl
SAMPLE SOURCE: Prince – Under The Cherry Moon (“Planet Rock” Interlude) (1986)
Cosmo Baker: Forget everything you heard, because if it weren’t for Marley Marl, none of this sample shit would be what it was. Marley is Top Five hip-hop producers of all time for me, and he was light years ahead by using really obscure samples, flipping and chopping things like a mad scientist. He single-handedly was the guy who pioneered so many classic breaks and beats into the oeuvre that is hip-hop. And on top of that he was never scared to search for grooves in unconventional places. Case in point, the sample that he flipped for Biz Markie’s “This Is Something For The Radio.” Now for the longest time I had no idea where the source of this sample was, always thinking that it was just some studio magic replaying just some thoughts and ideas in their heads. But then one night I was watching Prince’s Under The Cherry Moon and there’s one moment in the film at a garden reception where a woman gets up on the bandstand and says, “Let’s get this party rocking.” She then proceeds to sit behind the drum kit and BOOM, the instantly recognizable groove for “Radio” is there, as she plays a rendition of “Planet Rock.” Sheer genius, and not the only example of a producer sampling from a film (a quiet, personal nod to Fatboy Slim), but to me definitely the best.
Phat Kat - "Don't Nobody Care About Us" (House Shoes, 1999)
PRODUCER: J Dilla
SAMPLE SOURCE: The Camarata Contemporary Chamber Group – “Affolements Grantiques” (Deram, 1970)
Cosmo Baker: When I first was asked to do this piece I seriously had the toughest time actually not making every single choice of mine a Dilla record. Again, it’s easy for me to say that he is definitely Top 5 on the list of hip-hop producers (and probably my favorite to rock the mic.) And within the late great genius’s catalog there are so many things to choose from. By default I think I was going to choose his flip of The Singers Unlimited “Claire” ’cause it’s the most genius flip of all-time IMO but I also thought that was kind of a no-brainer. I thought of choosing his flip of Herbie Hancock’s “Come Running To Me” – which Dilla used for “Get Dis Money” – ’cause it’s an amazing example of his uncanny knack of completely reinventing sounds, as well as his penchant for sampling things with weird bar structure and time signature. But, being the hard ass that I am I had to go for something out the box. The beat that he made for Phat Kat’s “Don’t Nobody Care About Us” is one of my all-time faves, and when I found the sample source I was beside myself. Now my brother Walker always was the one to put me up on really strange Moog records and shit along the lines of Tomita and Wendy Carlos. Being that I am a huge fan of the composer Erik Satie I copped a record by The Camarata Contemporary Chamber Group and halfway through the record I came across the revelation that is “Affolements Grantiques.” Dilla took a fast 3/4 waltz with a beautiful and emotional sounding synthesizer and chopped it into ribbons, adding a slight delay on the sample that allowed it to breathe in the 4/4, and also to let a sublime undertone of strings seep through towards the end. Seriously, you hear the sample source and you say to yourself “OF COURSE” that needs to be sampled. But chances are you probably wouldn’t have said that if you didn’t hear his interpretation first. That’s probably one of the greatest testaments to the genius of dude.
Daft Punk - "One More Time"
PRODUCER: Daft Punk
SAMPLE SOURCE: Eddie Johns – “More Spell On You” (Disques Président, 1979)
Cosmo Baker: I’m into dance music just as much as I am into rap music, and obviously dance and house music for so many years was just as much a sample-driven form of music as rap. A great era of sample-based house music was the mid 90s French House invasion, lead at the vanguard by Daft Punk. These guys were so creative and smart in both what they chose to use, and how they were able to use it to create some of the greatest dance records of all time. One of my favorite songs by them is duh, obviously “One More Time.” It’s such an epic record, it may as well be considered the National Anthem for The Planet Earth. Both the members of Daft Punk have a pretty rich musical pedigree, and in particular in Thomas Bangalter’s case his father was one of the members of the relatively obscure disco group “The Gibson Brothers.” So it never surprised me that these guys had pretty serious disco and funk crates. But whereas most of the stuff that they sampled for their records was either straight loops or really fine chops, what they did with “One More Time” was completely out the pocket. Using the rare “More Spell On You” by Eddie Johns, a pretty cheesy Euro disco tune, these dudes found some really crazy chopping points to create their own triumphant sounding tune out of it. Add in some Romanthony vocals and you have a tune for the ages. Such a sick chopping example though, for real. Who ever said The French aren’t funky?
Public Enemy - "Brothers Gonna Work It Out" (Def Jam, 1990)
PRODUCER: The Bomb Squad
SAMPLE SOURCES: James Brown – “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” (King, 1970); Prince & the Revolution – “Let’s Go Crazy” (Warner Bros., 1984)
Cosmo Baker: Pete Rock, RZA, Marley Marl, Preemo, Dilla, Erick Sermon – there are so many legends that deserve to be on this list, and in fact each one of these legends probably deserves their own list. But I can’t talk about legendary producers of rap without mentioning The Bomb Squad. Those who know, know. And those who don’t know really should check themselves. Again, like Marley Marl, these Brothers From Strong Island were never scared to use unconventional sources to get their samples from, and also like Marley they’re a great example of producers that helped bridge the gap between the ’80s “Golden Era” sound and the sound of the ’90s, for what rap would eventually become. And in doing their own thing, they created their own unique fingerprint in music – you heard a Bomb Squad production and you knew who it was immediately. There were so many P.E. songs to choose from that would illustrate my point but I decided to go with “Brothers Gonna Work It Out” for a few reasons. First, the insanely delicate chop of the intro to James Brown’s “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved” is just mind-blowing. You can’t even really tell what it is, but once you realize the source it is immediately clear, and that small fragment running throughout the record just kind of acts as the oil to the machine. Throw in a really odd chop of guitar shred from the outro of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and you have a song that is wailing like only the Bomb Squad could make. The sound of organized noise, the sound of Armageddon, the distinct and beautiful sound of The Bomb Squad.
Earth People - "Dance" (Underworld, 1990)
PRODUCER: Pal Joey
SAMPLE SOURCE: Carl Bean – “I Was Born This Way” (Instrumental) (Motown, 1977)
Cosmo Baker: Continuing on in the dance music lane, next up is Earth People’s underground NYC house music anthem “Dance.” Earth People was just another side project for the legendarily unsung production hero Pal Joey. Now I spoke a little about Joey as well as the significance of the Carl Bean song here in my “Cosmo’s Crates” column on the Fool’s Gold blog, but I never actually spoke about the genius that is the actual chop used for the record. Now understand that Pal Joey comes from the old-school where it was cool to be into hip-hop and also cool to be into house music. And Joey is a perfect example of the type of guy who produces house music like it’s hip-hop. A great example of this production is the classic “Hot Music” under the guise of Soho. Both J. Rocc and Muro spoke about the genius of that flip, and his flip for “Dance” isn’t that much of a departure to me. It takes some sort of mad genius to wade deep into the lush orchestration of Carl Bean’s “I Was Born This Way” – THE INSTRUMENTAL – and then find this one short little quarter bar and say “Yes, this one part here looped will be a massive groove.” And it is, for when it’s looped the song takes on a whole new life of its own. To me this is the genius of Pal Joey, his ability to see the intricacy in the simplicity.
Fugees - "Ready Or Not" (Ruffhouse, 1996)
PRODUCER: Wyclef Jean
SAMPLE SOURCE: Enya – “Boadicea” (BBC, 1987)
Cosmo Baker: Again, this isn’t a chop at all but rather something that I find to be an incredibly unique usage of a non-conventional sample. Like I mentioned before about Dilla in his using of the Singers Unlimited sample and the Herbie Hancock sample, I love when people take vocals and make music from them. A great example is Kanye’s using Otis Redding’s scat vamp in “Try A Little Tenderness” for “Otis” cause that shit is banging. Also, honorable mention to Moodswingaz for using a small Joni Mitchell & Charles Mingus vocal interlude for their song “The Blessing” (shout out to P.M. Dawn!) Anyway, give it up to Wyclef Jean for figuring out that looping an ethereal vocal line from an Enya song would make a big rap hit. Now I’m just waiting for someone to find a way of sampling Elizabeth Frasier from Cocteau Twins.
Jay-Z - "1-900-Hustler" (Roc-A-Fella, 2000)
SAMPLE SOURCE: Ten Wheel Drive ft. Genya Ravan – “Ain’t Gonna Happen” (Polydor, 1969)
Cosmo Baker: You think of the big names in sample-based hip-hop of the 21st Century and you always think Kanye West and Just Blaze. I love both these dudes and think they’re geniuses, but truth be told there’s a name that really never gets the respect that he’s due – the criminally underrated Bink. Honestly, out of that stretch of Jay-Z albums from the late ’90s to the early 2000s that helped solidify Hova’s legacy, the Bink tracks are really some of my favorites. The Philly-slang driven crime drama “1-900-Hustler” is probably my favorite out of all of them. Bink used “Ain’t Gonna Happen” by New Jersey white boy blues/jazz outfit “Ten Wheel Drive.” Bink puts that bitch on 45 (“so I can dance to it”) and breaks it up into several different parts of dramatic horn stabs and shrieking vocals from Genya Ravan. But there are also all sorts of smaller 32-note chops up in the mix that completely reform the sample itself into this drawn out noise. Really sick and intricate, and really well thought out musically.
Pépé Bradock & The Grand Brûlé's Choir - "Deep Burnt" (Kif, 1999)
PRODUCER: Pépé Bradock
SAMPLE SOURCE: Freddie Hubbard ft. Al Jarreau – “Little Sunflower” (Columbia, 1979)
Cosmo Baker: Another great French dance record based around a sample, Pépé Bradock’s “Deep Burnt” is a sublime work of art. Coming at the end of the ’90s he followed in the footsteps of Daft Punk, Cassius, Falcon and a whole slew of other producers that helped create a signature sound of a movement. With his biggest hit, Bradock sampled the introductory strings from Freddie Hubbard’s smooth jazz number “Little Sunflower.” It’s such a beautiful moment of a kind of tepid song (a great example of the marvel of sampling – creating something great from the not so much) and I can only wonder what he must have been thinking when he got struck by the inspiration to use it. I mean, I could kind of walk down the street all day every day with this sound just looping in my head. But Bradock really took it to the next level, allowing this sample that’s loosely devoid of time signature structure and fit it within a romping 4/4 rhythm. On top of that, he works the sample through filter after filter and oscillation, layering it with these perfect clav stabs, and lets the sample ride and grow over the course of 11 minutes. Truly a masterpiece!
Heavy D & The Boyz - "Blue Funk" (Uptown, 1992)
PRODUCER: Pete Rock
SAMPLE SOURCE: Lou Donaldson – “Pot Belly” (Blue Note, 1970)
Cosmo Baker: I realize that on my list I don’t have any of the greats like RZA, Erick Sermon, Quik, Preemo, Organized Noize, Large Professor, Prince Paul… yeah I know, I know. In fact it feels weird not to have any song by The Boogie Men up on my list, considering they are responsible for the greatest produced rap album of all time, Ice Cube’s Death Certificate. However, there’s absolutely no way that I can complete this list without mention of Mount Vernon’s own Pete Rock. Pete is kind of like your favorite producer’s favorite producer, and is a guy who is definitely still relevant in today’s rap game. Straight up, it’s almost impossible to calculate the influence Pete’s production has had on my own sound and ear, and it’s just as impossible to pick just one song from him that is a perfect encapsulation of how he uses samples. I’m going with his “Blue Funk” from the LP of the same name from his cousin Heavy D (a great producer in his own right, RIP.) Pete used the oft-used Lou Donaldson jazz break “Pot Belly” to devastating effect. The sample had been used by A Tribe Called Quest and Ice Cube among others, but Pete flipped this one like crazy. Using a quarter bar loop of a Ted Dunbar guitar lick, he layered it with the recognizable B3 organ stabs, along with his signature echoed horns. This is one of my favorite samples and Pete really killed it on this one.
BONUS HONORARY SAMPLE FLIP: Steely Dan - "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" (ABC, 1974)
PRODUCER: Gary Katz
SOURCE: Horace Silver – “Song For My Father” (Blue Note, 1963)
Cosmo Baker: Now I ran this by The Chairman and I’m not really sure how this fits into the whole sample flipping series, but for some reason I wanted to give this a nod. Perennial “too cool for school” Fagen & Becker decided to tip their hats to the great Horace Silver by directly lifting the opening notes of his “Song For My Father” for their AM gold dad-rock smash “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number.” Not it’s not a sample per se, but definitely one of the earliest examples of direct interpolation of one song into another. I like the way they flipped that!