Brooklyn’s finest is one of the globe’s greatest party-people-pleasin’ turntable technicians, as anyone who’s attended his renowned Stevie Wonder, or Prince vs. Michael Jackson tribute parties, or enjoyed his uniformly excellent mix compilations can attest. What folks tend to forget, however, is that Spinna’s also a tremendously well-rounded producer, whose repertoire includes underground hip-hop, R&B, and house classics. We caught up with this master craftsman to ask him what his 10 favorite sample-based production flips are – any genre, any style.
1. Black Star - "Little Brother" (MCA, 2000)
PRODUCER: J Dilla
SAMPLE SOURCE: Roy Ayers Ubiquity – “Ain’t Got Time” (Polydor, 1971)
DJ Spinna: My number one is the J Dilla production of Black Star’s “Little Brother” – one of the craziest flips of all time. And I’ve come to realize even more how crazy it is when I re-created it. It took me about three hours to figure out what Dilla did. But I wanted to do an instrumental for [the song] because there is no instrumental that exists unless you have the original beat tape that it was on. I was also curious about the parts that Dilla took to sample from the Roy Ayers song because Roy Ayers is singing all over that record and there’s hardly any break.
Dilla sampled parts from the very beginning to almost the middle of the song – anywhere he could take an open piece. Even the intro where Roy Ayers says, “Now listen” – that’s part of the loop. So I recreated it, man, and realized it’s really clever. It’s only an 8-bar loop but you think it’s longer just from all the pieces that he put together. I wanted to re-create the instrumental in time for Dilla’s birthday anniversary and play it at the “Donuts Are Forever” party last February, which I did at the very end of the night. That was my mission.
2. Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth - "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" (Elektra, 1992)
PRODUCER: Pete Rock
SAMPLE SOURCE: Tom Scott – “Today” (Impulse, 1967)
DJ Spinna: There are so many mysteries behind who did this beat, or who conceptualized the beat. There were rumors that Large Pro had the disks. What I understand is that Large Professor had the [Tom Scott] record and told Pete about it. And then Pete flipped the Tom Scott record. When you really sit back and listen to the instrumental of ["They Reminisce"], you hear so much: the way the James Brown “Say It Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud” drums were flipped, the naked bass line from the Tom Scott record, the use of the vocals (the “baa-baa-baa-baaaa”), and the way the horn floats in and out throughout the verse. Sort of like how the horns were floating in and out of his “Shut Em Down” remix. I gotta say that those records were inspirations to me. Because Pete Rock basically fathered a style. A lot of people from that era that were making records had horns floating in and out on their records. It’s hard to say who was the first one to do it because I know Large Pro was doing that too. But I’d say Pete Rock mastered it.
3. 2Pac ft. Shock G & Money B - "I Get Around" (Interscope, 1993)
PRODUCER: D-Flow Production Squad (Shock G, Gary Katz, DJ JZ)
SAMPLE SOURCE: Zapp – “Computer Love” (Warner Bros., 1985)
DJ Spinna: I’ve gotta give credit to Shock G because on “I Get Around” his use of “Computer Love” was pretty sick. He was always good for taking pieces of songs to sample. Other cats would use whole bars and loops. But Shock G was great in that a lot of his productions found him taking little pieces and extending them with live piano instrumentation. Like playing chords, almost basically taking the sample and making it part of his own composition. Here, he used a piece of the “Computer Love” verse, the part where it goes, “You know I been around.” You can hear the background vocal, the talk box. So it’s real clever. He’s actually using what other cats wouldn’t even think of using – a piece of the verse with the vocals in it.
4. Horace Brown - "Taste Your Love" (Uptown, 1994)
PRODUCER: Dave “Jam” Hall
SAMPLE SOURCE: Grover Washington Jr. – “Lock It In the Pocket” (Motown, 1977)
DJ Spinna: One of my all time favorite ’90s R&B joints. I always thought the record was dope because right out the gate I knew what the sample was. It’s a record I used years ago, and Premier also used it – a Grover Washington, Jr. sample. When Dave “Jam” Hall flipped it he was one of the first dudes to have a loop going through a machine to pitch change it. I don’t know what he used to do that, but I know back then a lot of people were using the Yamaha RX-1000. A lot of people used to run their samples through that machine and you were able to pitch things way down or way up without affecting the tempo. And a lot of the records coming from the Uptown camp during that period for like Mary J. Blige were made using that method.
5. Armand Van Helden ft. Roland Clark - "Flowerz" (Armed, 1999)
PRODUCER: Armand Van Helden
SAMPLE SOURCE: Donald Byrd – “Think Twice” (Blue Note, 1975)
DJ Spinna: Donald Byrd “Think Twice” sped up. The uniqueness of this is that it came out at a time when a lot of people weren’t really sampling in house anymore. And there was a hip-hop method to the production because the sample was also filtered. There’s a part in the song when it breaks down to where it’s just a bass line rocking with a kick and a hi-hat. It’s really filtered, and when it picks back up again the sample opens back up. It’s one of Armand’s biggest soulful records.
6. Group Home - "Supa Star" (Payday, 1994) / "Supa Dupa Star (June 1994 Demo Version)" (Payday, 1995)
PRODUCER: DJ Premier
SAMPLE SOURCE: Cameo – “Hangin’ Downtown” (Atlanta Artists, 1984)
DJ Spinna: Premier is the undisputed champ of flips. He’ll take a record that nobody cares about, would never buy, and kill it. Not to say the Cameo album with this song is garbage because it’s got classic cuts on there. But his use of “Hangin’ Downtown” – the intro to that song – is not something that I think anyone would have thought to use, especially in the manner that he used it. It’s just genius, man. Premier has that inner era that’s just unstoppable and untouchable. Nobody can mess with him when it comes to chops and flips. He killed that. And with the alternate mix “Supa Dupa Star” – even more so. Very creative to think that he could revisit the sample and figure out another way to use it.
7. Soul II Soul - "Jazzie's Groove" (Virgin, 1989)
PRODUCER: Jazzie B
SAMPLE SOURCE: Beau Dollar – “Who Knows” (King, 1970)
DJ Spinna: For years I always thought the bass line in this was played live. I didn’t know what that was. That came out at the time before the digging craze had really taken effect in New York. Before the record shows and cats were really going crazy trying to find James Brown records or breaks. When I found this Beau Dollar 45 I was actually in college at the time in Binghamton, and I felt I was really lucky because it was one of James Brown’s real low key pieces. I don’t know too many people who have it.
When I realized this is what they used for “Jazzie’s Groove” I was really blown away for two reasons: 1) Because it was a James Brown production, and 2) The fact that these guys in the UK, Jazzie B and his team, would actually pull something like that out was kind of unheard of for the time, for R&B to have that kind of vibe. We’re talking like ’89. To have samples on that real obscure level mixed in with their productions? That was like the beginning of that whole craze. It’s very hip-hop.
8. Sunburst Band - "Garden of Love" (Z, 1999)
PRODUCER: Joey Negro
SAMPLE SOURCE: Kay-Gees – “Find a Friend (Conclusion)” (De-Lite, 1976)
DJ Spinna: The Sunburst Band is Dave Lee, a/k/a Joey Negro’s, sort of studio band out of the UK. I always knew there was a sample in “Garden of Love,” but I discovered this one by accident. I was going through the Kay-Gees’ Find a Friend album that has the popular break-beat on it just looking for samples outside of the break and I discovered the sample for this house record. And what I thought was really clever was how Joey put it on 45 and chopped it up to kind of fit the beat. It’s absolutely a hip-hop technique – and another clever reproduction of a soul record used in an ingenious manner for a house record. And what I’ve come to realize over time is Joey has an affinity for hip-hop on the soulful side of the spectrum. A lot of his music is sample based. He does house, but he also does down-tempo, mid-tempo funk soul kind of stuff. He’s actually an avid record collector into rare grooves, rare funk and soul.
9. Amerie - "Hate 2 Love U" (Sony, 2007)
PRODUCER: Chris & Drop
SAMPLE SOURCE: Kool & the Gang – “Give It Up” (De-Lite, 1969)
DJ Spinna: This Kool & the Gang song is a record that has been sampled before. And most of the time when people use it they’ll either take the drum break and loop it and put other grooves on it. Or they’ll loop the bridge that horn bridge. But what these guys did was chop it up. They pieced it together in a way that spreads the beat out a little bit, creating more anticipation. It creates a little anxiety on the dance floor. It leaves you hoping, starving for something else to happen because there’s so much space. It’s a good tension, a little bit of drama.
10. Slum Village - "Players" (Donut Boy, 1996)
PRODUCER: J Dilla
SAMPLE SOURCE: Singers Unlimited – “Clair” (MPS, 1974)
DJ Spinna: I gotta go back to Dilla. He’s one of the most incredible sample flippers of our lifetime. “Players” by Slum Village is unique because of the way it creates a play on words. The choice of sample was absolutely incredible, unique, and genius. The song is called “Players,” the song is about being a player. But the name of the song sampled is “Clair.” Dilla took the Singers Unlimited version of “Clair” and slowed it down beyond the turntable’s pitch capacity. So he obviously slowed it down in the drum machine. It gives you the illusion when played back that they’re saying “Player” in the way its incorporated with the theme of the song. But it’s not saying “Player,” it’s saying “Clair.” When that was unearthed it blew everybody away. That’s when people began looking like Dilla like, okay, this is a dude cut from a different cloth for sure. There was nothing like that before its time.