The Anatomy of a Remix
like that Kevin Bacon game for crate-diggers
Much of hip hop production is sample-based, meaning producers sample original breaks from older records. This process is a definitive hip hop aesthetic, and vehemently defended by DJ’s and producers. A few years ago Z-Trip released a t-shirt that reads, “Sampling Laws Are Killing Music”.
A result of the sampling process is an obscured lineage in hip hop production credits. For example, the song “You ain’t heard nuttin’ yet” by Heavy D and the Boyz samples Grover Washington Jr.’s “Mr. Magic”. Bob James was the executive producer of that particular Grover Washington album, so we have three different musicians spanning nearly two decades that should receive credit for “You ain’t heard nuttin’ yet”.
I’ve compiled a list of my top 3 songs with similarly obscure lineage, and I’ve dissected each one so you too can sound like a record junkie at your next social function. Enjoy!
Every time I drop this track at a party, someone approaches and asks, “Who is this?” I’ve tried to explain the full background of the song but folks usually back away slowly like, “Damn homie…” Regardless, this track is hot fi-ya, and the credit obviously starts with the White Stripes, who rode this single to the top of the charts in 2004. Nostalgia 77 and Alice Russell covered the track in 2007, replacing the minimalist bass-line with a jazzy, moaning soundscape. Nostalgia 77 recently released a collection of remixes, where we find the Grant Phabao version in all of its awesome reggae glory. Lordamercy!
Like some kind of musical bizarro world, we now have bands covering songs compiled of samples from even older bands. The Lefties Soul Connection is a modern funk outfit from Amsterdam, and they play a mean psychedelic funk version of DJ Shadow’s “Organ Donor”. I know of two sample sources for the original Shadow track, including Supersister’s “Judy Goes on Holiday” and Giorgio’s “Tears”. Both of those are abstract rock songs released in 1972, which were manipulated into an instrumental hip hop anthem in 1996. The Lefties’ version came out this year, and is available on 7-inch with an equally nice Meters cover on the B-side.
This is the first track on Red Astaire’s outstanding full-length, Nuggets for the Needy. Certainly less complicated than the other two songs in this list, this is more of a straightforward remix effort. He uses the vocals from D’Angelo’s “Left and Right” and gets extra daps for including the Method Man and Redman verses. The vocals are then laced over the most versatile coolie-high production I’ve heard in a minute. This song works equally well in the club at 1 am and in your headphones at 2 pm. You can blast this in the whip, or you can play it while you seduce your lover. I can’t identify the sample source for the Red Astaire edit, but this track is so catchy you won’t have time to nerd out and dissect it.