Staying proudly boom-bap in these days of TrapDM requires some chutzpah, certainly. But more importantly it requires talent – at least if you’re doing it right. Toronto-born and -bred Marco Polo (né Marco Bruno) is one such skilled beatsmith , having produced the likes of Masta Ace, Large Professor, Boot Camp Click, KRS-One, Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli and many others as both a freelancer and for acclaimed projects under his own name like 2007’s Port Authority . With PA2: The Director’s Cut forthcoming, we asked the Canadian export/Brooklyn transplant to direct us towards his all-time favorite sample flips.
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10. Scarface ft. Trey Songz - "Girl You Know" (Rap-A-Lot, 2007)
Sample Source: Lenny Williams – “‘Cause I Love You” (ABC, 1978)
Marco Polo: Without hesitation I could compile a top 10 of just Nottz flips. He is not human. This is one of those beats that made me say, “Goddammit, Nottz!!!” and shake my head at my inferior skills [ laughs ]. It’s that good. A sample that’s been rinsed so many times. This guy Nottz officially put that sample/song into retirement. The way he chopped it is bananas. His drums are signature and knock in all the right ways. Basslines? Nottz might be the bassline king. Kanye also had a successful use of the same song but Nottz gets the undisputed gold medal in my humble opinion.
9. Rasco ft. Charli 2na - "Sweet Science" (Coup D'État, 2003)
Producer: Jake One
Sample Source: Novi Singers – “Torpedo” (Polskie Nagrania Muza, 1970)
Marco Polo: I’ve performed four times in Poland. Each time a different city. I never knew how much good music was out that way. As I got deeper into collecting Polish music I stumbled across this Novi Singers album. I always loved the original joint and Jake hooked it up perfect. So funky. His drum work hooked up with the sample has made this a timeless joint for me. Plus it is a perfect example of thinking outside the typical genres or places in the world to look for music. Look EVERYWHERE! I love this song and will never think of sampling it because Jake did it justice. Props to Jake, another producer who I could compose a top 10 list for.
8. Mr. Roam - "The System" (Choice Cut, 2006)
Producer: Mr. Attic
Sample Source: Alpha Ralpha – “Lagune Ouest” (Warner Bros., 1977)
Marco Polo: Being Canadian I have to shout out producers from Toronto that inspired me coming up & Mr. Attic from Da Grassroots is one of them. Attic & Moss (another dope Canuck producer) are responsible for the beginnings of my record collection. I always remember my first dig with them and they put me onto so many cheap drum breaks which set off my early productions & collection. This Alpha Ralpha LP I still haven’t found an OG copy of but the interweb allowed me to hear it. It’s an obsure ’70s band from France. Plus the part Attic chopped was in the middle of the song which I always appreciate. Lazy producers peep the first 20 seconds and keep it moving if nothing grabs them. If the average listener only knew how much crap dedicated producers go thru to find that gem…. smh. Attic chopped the xylophones up nicely and the drums kick ass. There is a video for this joint too if you’ve never heard the song, I suggest you go take a listen. Props to Mr. Attic who I consider a legendary producer and vinyl head.
7. Common - "Resurrection (Extra P Remix)" (Relativity, 1995)
Producer: Large Professor
Sample Source: Spirit – “Ice” (Ode, 1969)
Marco Polo: Hard to pick one Large Professor sample because of his endless amount of classics. This one is special to me because I remember buying the Spirit album and finding the song he used for the “Resurrection” remix. Large messes with a lot of rock records. I remember my boy Skizz and I were in a record store in Williamsburg and ran into Large in the rock section. This is also an album that pops up a lot and isn’t expensive. I think it’s important for young producers to hit the dollar crates as much as ballin’ out on rare sh*t. I’ve based my whole career on this approach, haha, and seeing my idols do the same is dope. “Ice” is also a dope song period. Large caught the right parts, adding classic Extra P drums. Large Pro for president!
6. Company Flow - "Eight Steps to Perfection" (Official, 1996)
Sample Source: Smokey Robinson “Theme From Big Time” (Motown, 1977)
Marco Polo: For the longest time I thought El-P sampled The Warriors OST for that spaced out wah-wah guitar but I was wrong. But that’s what this joint felt like to me, very NY and dusty. The actual sample comes in at like 8 1/2 minutes in – proving once again you should always listen. A lot of the times it’s not about technical sh*t that moves me but the fact that producers, like El-P heard a random, open sound at the end of a song and turned into a goddamn anthem to my childhood. He slowed down the Harlem Underground drums which sounded filthy too. El-P loves slowing down breaks and I think he was using the EPS which has its own, dirty sound. This is a classic to me. Shouts to El-P “RUGGED LIKE RWANDA!!!!” – Bigg Jus.
5. Ghostface Killah - "One" (Razorsharp/Epic, 2000)
Producer: Ju Ju (The Beatnuts)
Sample Source: The Sweet Inspirations “You Roam When You Don’t Get It At Home” (Stax, 1973)
Marco Polo: My favorite song off Supreme Clientele . The way the loop/sample cuts off on “One” gets me every time. I know many producers spend a day or two on certain beats trying to make epic/classic shit when sometimes you just need 1-2 bars off a record, haha. This is a perfect example of minimal production at its finest. If you don’t acknowledge the art of executing simplicity you missed the boat. Ju found a hot loop and added the right elements to make it do what it do without getting in the way of it. Ju Ju also found a way to sonically fit onto a very Wu-Tang sounding album and arguably have the best joint on it. Great producers know how to combine their sound and an artists sound together. That, my friend, is a classic. Shouts to the good brothers, The Beatnuts!
4. Ghostface Killah - "The Forest" (Epic, 2001)
Producer: The Alchemist
Sample Source: The Imaginations – “Ballad of Methia” (20th Century, 1974)
Marco Polo: Good ol Al is a master of street anthems. Pretty much a loop but what a glorious loop. Al has a great ear for samples. I have this LP and I often listen to that joint but, Al did what I would of did, looooooooop it. I’ve caught a few things in my crates he’s used and its always bugged to see how we all hear shit differently. I also got the joint he used for Infamous Mobb “Mobb N*ggaz” and he killed that too. I need to make my own personal best of Alchemist playlist. I’m more into that hard NYC sh*t then anything else so his sound always inspired me. This joint is nuts and Ghost was definitely the perfect person to get on it.
3. EPMD - "Chill" (RAL/Def Jam, 1992)
Producer: Erick Sermon
Sample Source: Foreigner – “Street Thunder” (Atlantic, 1984)
Marco Polo: First off, Erick Sermon is in my top 5. He get’s criminally slept on. This is my favorite EPMD song of all-time. I had no idea where the hell the sample came from until my boy DJ Linx sent it to me. Foreigner? Whut the fuck. No rules, baby! Haha, so classic. Slowed the shit down. The added ESG “UFO” which sounds good anytime/anywhere, EVER. The slowed D.O.C. vocals saying “YEAHHHHHH HA HA……” Dirty drums that slap you across the face. This comes on and I instantly lose my sh*t. *Shameless Plug* I re-did a version of this beat and put Das EFX on it for my upcoming, free Newport Authority 2 album. Hopefully Erick approves if he hears it.
2. Blaq Poet - "2 To The Stomach" (Fastlife, 2004)
Producer: DJ Premier
Sample Source: Major Harris – “Laid Back Love” (WMOT, 1976)
Marco Polo: Yeah, I’m going a little further into Preem’s catalog only because I read up all the other sample flips lists so I want my shit to be different. Nonetheless, this is riot inducing type production. DJ Premier is the chop emperor and the drum king. This beat demonstrates both. He took 3-4 pieces of those sax-a-ma-phones – (c) Homer Simpson – which really don’t sound so sinister on the original and made some filth for Blaq Poet to yell on. What the hell is better then this? Another reason Preem is the man is because he’ll pick 2-3 pieces of some shit on its own that most people would skip over BUT when he hooks it up, then adds his signature drums, bounce, funk… game over people, bow down to the king of the chop. He also has this eerie, steady string sound in there that he uses in other beats to fill up space. Love it. That’s what makes a classic producer to me. Having those little signature sounds and using them in numerous beats. establishing “a sound” used to be mandatory. Standing out in the crowd was a goal, now it’s bite city.
1. Raekwon ft. Nas & Ghostface Killah - "Verbal Intercourse" (Loud, 1995)
Sample Source: The Emotions – “If You Think It (You May As Well Do It)” (Volt, 1971)
Marco Polo: Listening to the sample by itself you hear The Emotions talking over it – which [means] most dudes would throw in the towel on and keep it moving. RZA said fuck it and chopped it up into pieces. RZA is the master of sloppy, off beat programming. but really, it’s ON in the right ways. Feeling >>>>> technical, always. I love the change up in the beat too, or rather intro, before the sample comes in. RZA ignored all click tracks, metronomes, quantitizing rules and that’s what makes his shit so ill. WU-TANG!!!!