Tag Archives: Isley Brothers

#SampleSnitch-You are Who You Sample: Isley Brothers to UGK

#SampleSnitch-You are who you sample: Isley Brothers to UGK

by Dan-O

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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Sample Snitch-The Look of Love by Isaac Hayes: connecting Jay-z & Irv Gotti to Burt Bacharach

Sample Snitch-The Look of Love by Isaac Hayes: connecting Jay-z & Irv Gotti to Burt Bacharach

by Dan-O

Isaac Hayes is a goldmine if you get over how weird the situation is. This is the guy who wrote nearly all the important Stax records radio hits but nearly all of his important solo tracks are folk or pop songs we consider corny, given the Hayes treatment. The Hayes treatment means it was originally four minutes long and now its eleven minutes long with minutes upon minutes of Pet Sounds layered funk, shifting tempos and lyrics that just creep in and out of it. The Look of Love was originally written by Burt Bacharach while watching Ursula Andress in the 1967 Bond spoof Casino Royale. He gave the song to Dusty Springfield who nailed a breathy version that got her an Oscar nomination. This song became very important for R&B. The Delfonics did it on their 1968 album La La Means I Love You and The Four Tops did it a year later. Hayes took it on a year after that (1970).

From the first second to about one minute and forty eight seconds of the Hayes version…that’s the guts of Can I Live, possibly Jay’s lyrical high point on Reasonable Doubt (a fun thing to argue about). This is perfect for sampling. It’s no coincidence that Hayes, James Brown, P-Funk, and the Isley Brothers were most sampled in early rap. You could make the case that these were groups everyone listened to growing up and you’d be partially right. The other part is that all these acts worked on extending the song (wordlessly). James Brown had long stretches where he was just letting the band go off while he didn’t say anything. Those seconds are prime cut and paste moments for beat creation.

Obviously this isn’t anything Hayes had in mind. He was trying to prove that the song is bigger than itself. You can think that The Look of Love is cheesy because the words prove it but a song is so much more than the words. By the seventh minute you are so deep in guitar solo you don’t care if the song ends. It’s a city of musical elements with the groove carrying the torch through the center. Isaac Hayes made Dionne Warwick songs into Operas and Burt Bacharach songs so alive that they birthed Jay the way we know him; because he wouldn’t be who he is now without that sample. If you think I’m editorializing find the Reasonable Doubt documentary and listen to Irv Gotti tell the story of him playing Jay the sample for the first time. He had the look of love alright.

Check out the Hayes Look of Love

Now listen to the Jay-z version