There is no genre of music that embraces competition as openly as hip-hop. Diss songs, battles, and bragging rights all add an exciting element to the world of rap that doesn’t exist in other scenes. In the spirit of that competition, we’ve decided to dig into one of our favorite samples and pit seven rappers against each other to decide who did it best.
Hit “next” or click the pictures to read on…
The Sample: Lee Mason & His Orchestra – “Shady Blues”
This is a rare groove. No one really knows much about Lee Mason & His Orchestra, and 1971’s “Shady Blues” seems to be their only track. This tune in particular was re-released in the UK (and at one time was being sold for over $200, primarily due to it’s popularity for crate digging hip-hop producers) and attributed to British composer Pete Moore (possibly to throw off nimble diggers from the scent.)
Outside of the confusion, this is a sample-based producer’s dream. A slow, funky bassline, an instantly charming flute solo bit, the awesome horns… all over those drums? We imagine a skilled producer could chop this one up seven ways to Sunday, but the thought has been just leaving the main part of the beginning of this track well enough alone, aside from speeding up or adding in some fills before the next set of bars. Get familiar with this gem before proceeding…
7. Asher Roth – “Muddy Swim Trunks”
Taken from his Seared Foie Gras with Quince and Cranberry mixtape, Roth kicks this off with, “One day, I’m going to say something really impressive.” Not to say he’s never kicked an impressive rhyme, but this track wasn’t his peak. The “Shady Blues” use makes sense – you can imagine he spent hours in a dark dorm room, headphones and hoodie on, nodding to this while nursing a 40. Or a blunt. Smooth track from Ash, but this one’s at No. 7.
6. 50 Cent ft. Tony Yayo & Lloyd Banks – “Southside”
50‘s run with these G-Unit mixtapes helped shape the way people got their name in the playing field. Rappers stopped having to make demo tapes and could just do a tape of spitting over established instrumentals. Whoever grabbed this instrumental made a good decision, although the combination of 50, Yayo, and Banks all talking that same song and dance over such a classic sample feels a little unfitting.
5. Sean Price – “Figure Four”
We’ve got love for Price. Dude’s a staple in the underground scene, and has reinvented himself from just being a respected member of the Duck Down fam with Heltah Skeltah to using his given name and hitting a status among MCs today of a grown man who doesn’t give any fucks about the mainstream or those in it.
We’ve heard him spit better, and almost wish he’d come up with some kind of hook or something for this one. Regardless, it makes sense for a seasoned vet to relax on this one and kick why he’s relevant.
4. Jay Electronica – “Googly Eyes”
Jay Elec may not release much music, but there’s a reason why he’s so respected by those who are familiar. “Googly Eyes” hasn’t been released, but he’s spit this at a number of shows over the last couple of years, and this clip is probably the best example of the power Electronica can wield in his element (skip to 1:13 for the actual performance).
For as long as Jay has been around, he’s still a mystery and an enigma even to dedicated fans/followers of his. “Googly Eyes” is slower than the other versions you hear (although this take is truer to the original “Shady Blues”), which makes sense for the tone of the rhyme, which finds Jay breaking down a message he received on MySpace from a female.
3. Dom O Briggs – “Better Than You”
This is the track that sparked this post; while rocking to Briggs‘ A Gemini’s Tale mixtape, we noticed he credited this track as a Ski Beatz production, but we knew we’d heard others flip this, sparking us to then hit the Googlephone and dig deeper.
Dom’s an MC that definitely knows how to craft a grip of punches in his tracks, and “Shady Blues” must have had Briggs spazzing on his notepad, as he kicks a batch of witty bars and sharp references, and he molds his delivery perfectly to fit the “Shady Blues” vibe.
2. Pace Won – “I Declare War”
And here’s the Ski Beatz-produced banger that Dom O flipped on “Better Than You.” Pace is part of the Outsidaz crew out of Jersey (whom you heard on the Fugees album The Score), a unit that Eminem was cool with, explaining his cameo in the official video. This initially dropped in 1998 as a promo on Ruffhouse, and got another pressing or two before emerging on Pace’s Won album from 2002.
Ski’s flip was sly, as he not only looped up the meatiest part of the original, but added a couple of scratches, parts where the sound fades out and other great diversions. We also love that, aside from the ways he spiced up the beat like that, he didn’t do anything crazy like adding wack drums or other outside sounds. Let the perfection of the sample live. This might go down as one of Pace’s best songs ever, and a lot of that is thanks to the way Ski freaked that sample.
1. Lootpack ft. Quasimoto – “Answers”
Seasoned sample heads had to know this was going to be #1 on this list. It’s almost unfair for anyone to go up against Madlib. It’s amazing how this feels less like a loop than Ski’s rendition. You almost wish the rhymes were wilder, but that’s not only part of Lootpack’s charm, and also made us that much more impressed when Madlib started linking with capable MCs like DOOM. It flows perfectly and matches the entire aesthetic of the Lootpack, Stones Throw (at least at the time) and, ultimately, Madlib as one of today’s most revered and respected producers.