#SampleSnitch-You are who you sample: Isley Brothers to UGK
If a rapper who produces is selecting the same artist to sample over the course of their career you start to see the connection. The latest example is Kanye West and Nina Simone (http://www.vinylmeplease.com/magazine/kanye-west-sings-blues/ great in depth article on that) the two share that kind of driving-off-a-cliff-but-surviving genius. In the case of UGK it becomes apparent that they made their bones on Isley Brothers samples.
The debut full length studio album from UGK is called Too Hard to Swallow and features three Isley Brothers pulls: Summer Breeze as the co-foundation for Tell Me Something Good, Between The Sheets two years before Biggie used it on Cramping My Style, and I Turned You On for I’m So Bad. UGK were a fearless revelation with songs like Cocaine in the Back of the Ride and Pocket Full of Stones scaling back the horrorcore of early Geto Boys in a way that made them more frightening…cause Pimp didn’t sound like he was writing fiction and Bun didn’t sound like he let his feelings get in the way of anything.
Four years later UGK put out one of hip hop’s flawless treasures in Ridin’ Dirty. Being from Maine I didn’t hear it in 1996, I went into the Army and got stationed at Ft. Hood Texas. That is when I rode in my first Cadillac and when my friend played me One Day for the first time. He hit repeat twice until it soaked our bones. Instead of the ball busting ferocity and relentless aggression One Day is a step back appreciation of the finite nature of our life. Bun B trips through childhood, lost friends, sin, prison all with the assured linguistics and breathe control of a king. Pimp at about a minute and thirty left in the song does one of his trademark shockingly honest admissions “My man Bobo just lost his baby in a house fire/and when I got on my knees that night to pray/I asked God ‘Why you let these killas live and take my homeboy’s son away?’/ Man if you got kids, show em you love em cause God just might call em home,” It is heart stopping. I used to go to cook outs in Texas (or later in my duty station in Korea) and put this song on just to watch everyone stop & turn their attention to it. You have to.
You have to because of Ronald Isley’s magnificently fragile voice chiming in from the last song on their 1974 album Live It Up. The song is called Ain’t I Been Good to You and the album is important because it is in the sweet spot of The Isley format: dance banger-slow jam-mid-tempo-funk then repeat. The other reason One Day can’t be ignored is because of Ernie and Marvin Isley. Marvin’s bass is just monstrous and Ernie is credited on the album with “percussion, drums, acoustic guitar, electric guitar” the rhythm section is all time electric making it damn near impossible not to groove. For those who don’t know Pimp had a big hand (along with the legendary N.O. Joe) with producing all UGK music. He knew that Ronald’s voice would give you pause just like he knew Ernie and Marvin’s groove would keep you nodding your head. UGK created music that wasn’t for the club or the backpack, rider music for car speakers, for moments like the first time I heard it. They couldn’t have done it without the Isley bump and none of them would have a problem saying that.
The Isley Brothers original:
The UGK version:
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Tagged Aint I Been Good To You, Bun-B, Ernie Isley, funk, Geto Boys, Isley Brothers, Marvin Isley, One Day, Pimp C, Ronald Isley, Sample Snitch, UGK, Underground Kingz
Mixtape Review-I Am King by Trae The Truth
The sound most affiliated with Houston hip hop is the one we all remember from Mike Jones (and Paul Wall). The gleeful gold grilled riding music that Drake has brought back into every stereo. A lot of the country knows the name DJ Screw but wasn’t around Texas during his height when slowed down 2pac songs played in grocery stores and croaked from car windows. Even fewer recall that horrorcore hip hop originated in Houston with The Geto Boys.
It seems only fitting that the same guy who socked Mike Jones in the face at the height of his fame now steps into the spotlight with the darkest Houston project in years. I Am King is 20 tracks long (with 6 unnecessary skits) and largely the product of Trae the Truth’s relentless guest verse grind. He has smashed tracks with everyone in the industry which is why he can make an event mixtape like I Am King that features: TI, Young Jeezy, Diddy, Meek Mill, B.O.B., Lupe Fiasco, Krayzie Bone, Da Brat, Big Krit, Jadakiss, Snoop Dogg, and a Floyd Mayweather personal reference interlude.
My book on Trae previous to this was that he could ALWAYS give you a fantastic verse but his mixtapes were freestyle hodgepodges largely unorganized and hard to listen too. If you’ve never heard Trae he has a voice like a dying robotic Clint Eastwood and it becomes grating after a while. I Am King threw the book out. On Stay Trill(Bill Collector) it’s not just two of the catchiest artists of all time hookery (Roscoe Dash and Krayzie Bone) making the song stick in your brain. Trae starts his verse in a pleasant sway I had no idea was in his arsenal. By the time Roscoe jumps in the song is already awesome. Trae also navigates a League of Starz air horn/hand clap ratchet beat without feeling like he’s challenged himself at all.
The hits on I Am King really hit. The first real song Hold Up features Young Jeezy Diddy and TI and bangs just as hard as it should. No matter who shows up the vibe never changes. Trae is keeping both eyes open carefully searching for disloyalty and lacing raspy warnings over old school Rick Ross feeling thick hardcore instrumentals. I Am King ,in a few words, is hip hop heavy metal. It has exceptions like the sparkling Old School where things turn quite playalistic. Trae not only macks many women but exercises till he gets a cramp which feels like a very pimpish thing to do. Snoop shows up and vibes out with a good verse. The contemplative(Big Krit assisted) I Believe also breaks the heavyness.
Meek Mill destroys his Ride With Me verse but coming off Dreamchasers 3 we should have anticipated that. I Am King is more than proof that Trae is the truth or can rap his ass off in any number of situations. It’s the mixtape I always used to snicker that he couldn’t make. Houston is full of talented underachievers with the skill to create music at the very highest level. They never get there. Trae The Truth absolutely did and the entire time he yelled I AM KING so all I could do was nod. Well Played.
Stream or download I Am King below:
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Tagged DJ Screw, Dreamchasers 3, Geto Boys, Horrorcore, Houston hip hop, I Am King, Meek Mill, Mike Jones facepunch, mixtape reviews, Roscoe Dash, Trae The Truth, Young Jeezy