Tag Archives: Underground Kingz

#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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