DJ/producer Mr. Len may be renowned as one third of “fun-crushing” NYC hip-hop heroes Company Flow, but his fine solo work’s humor and commentary slyly inject fun in his left field funk. Len’s latest instrumental opus, The Marvels of Yestermorrow (High Water Music), is no exception. Satirizing modern life’s tech-driven attention deficit, Yestermorrow merges 1940s Looney Tunes cartoon accents with dark futurism and wonderful song titles like “Automated Love Hole.” No better occasion then, to hit up Lenstradamas for a discussion of his favorite sample flips.
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1. The Outsidaz - "Rain or Shine" (Proceed, 1998)
Sample Source: Brenda Russell – “A Little Bit of Love” (A&M, 1979)
Mr. Len: Yeah it was used by Big Pun for “Still Not a Player,” but this was first and it was grimy! They caught the last bars right before the drums come in so the bass plays just a bit. It’s slightly slower and forces the “somebody farted” face.
2. Casual - "I Didn't Mean To" (Jive, 1994)
Sample Source: Kool & The Gang – “Blowin’ With the Wind” (De-Lite, 1972)
Mr. Len: The trumpet is used in the chorus and accents the reverse bass like they knew he was going to use it. I’ve listened to that Kool & The Gang album so many times and always get so caught up listening to the song I forget to think about how to use it. The way it’s EQ’d so that the music behind the trumpet is almost non existent…. maaaan, listen.
3. Ice Cube - "My Summer Vacation" (Priority, 1991)
Producer: The Boogie Men
Sample Source: George Clinton – “Atomic Dog” (Capitol, 1982)
Mr. Len: This is the meaning of a “CHOP”! All the elements of “Atomic Dog” are there but it’s so not that record anymore. The panting hats and keys are there but now they sound eerie. The bass was made for cars, and this song doubled it. This is one of those songs that I try to outdo in my own head when I make beats. The most gangsta story on this record.. even more so than the one where Cube gets shot. Turning a party record into a crime tale? GENIUS.
4. The Juggaknots - "Clear Blue Skies" (Fondle 'Em, 1996)
Producer: The Juggaknots
Sample Source: The Meters – “Stormy” (Josie, 1969)
Mr. Len: I am just jealous of this. “Stormy” is already an emotional song. These dudes went and added more headnod and racial anger. Using “Stormy” was most apropos, this is the perfect storm. The sample is sped up just enough that you don’t lose the feeling of The Meters’ record but keeps a slow enough tempo that every single word of the lyrics is heard and understood. Then they sprinkle in Caron Wheeler… I’m just jealous.
5. K.M.D. - "Gasface Refill" (Elektra, 1990)
Sample Source: Eddie Harris – “Get Down With It” (Atlantic, 1977)
Mr. Len: They changed the swing of this record and I’m not mad at all (which is obvious because I’m listing it as one of my favorites). Listening to Eddie Harris I never would have thought to go that direction with the song. It’s got a b-boy hard nod to it. The drums are killer in this, to the point it makes the piano sound softer. It keeps a bit of the jazziness but not to the point where it becomes an US3 joint.
6. Kurious - "Tear Shit Up" (Hoppoh, 1994)
Producer: The Beatnuts
Sample Source: Donny Hathaway – “Bossa Nova” (Atlantic, 1972)
Mr. Len: “Bossa Nova” from the Come Back Charleston Blue soundtrack has always been one of my favorite songs. This sample flip is nothing short of banging! They worked the shit out of it too. Filtered, added bass to it to change the bounce of the sample…and then THE DRUMS!! The drums are chopped nicely as well. I’m guessing they took it from “Bonita Applebum” but the way digging was done then, I don’t want to assume. Three cheers for the CM/mob.
7. De La Soul - "Can U Keep a Secret" (Tommy Boy, 1989)
Producer: Prince Paul
Sample Source: New Birth – “Got to Get a Knutt” (RCA, 1972)
Mr. Len: This was the first sample I truly recognized that I had in my collection growing up. I was so impressed that they decided to use anything [from] this song. There’s a LOT happening in that New Birth record. I’d still be fighting with myself over what to use from it. The voice at the end of the horn sample doesn’t standout so there’s no distraction from the whispering. (Yeah kids, De La whispered on records in the late ’80s). I’ve known Prince Paul for years now and for some reason I have never asked about this song/skit/interlude.
8. Ski Beatz ft. Mos Def - "24 Hour Karate School" (Bluroc, 2010)
Producers: Ski Beatz, Apple Juice Kid
Sample Source: Eddie Bo – “Hook and Sling Pt. 1″ (Scram, 1969)
Mr. Len: CHOPPED!!! WOWZERS!!! This song makes me happy every time I play it. And seeing as how I’m one of three people who are known to “Funcrush” that’s saying a lot. Ski is just having fun with the Eddie Bo joint. Little loop here… vocal stab there… and, oh wait, is it time for the verse? Take this 808, vocal sample, and horns! Hearing him use this record was like riding on a jet ski, you can’t frown at all!
9. Portishead - "All Mine" (Go! Beat, 1997)
Producers: Adrian Utley, Beth Gibbons, Dave McDonald, Geoff Barrow
Sample Source: Isaac Hayes – “Walk On By” (Enterprise, 1969)
Mr. Len: This by far is my favorite usage of “Walk On By.” It rides that line of obvious jack and, “Are you sure?” The production around it can lead your mind to think that maybe they recreated it. But your ears know better. The drum fill gives it away but you nod yourself back into the drums and sounds around the sample.
10. Armand Van Helden ft. Roland Clark - "Flowerz" (Armed, 1999)
Producer: Armand Van Helden
Sample Source: Donald Byrd – “Think Twice” (Blue Note, 1975)
Mr. Len: Yeah, I know it ain’t hip hop.. but I’m saying!! This was a great flip. Changed the timing altogether but somehow kept the soul and groove. The piano flutter reminds you exactly what you’re listening to. The filtering on this song is phenomenal.