Monday, August 20, 2007

Top 10 Party Crashers: Sampler Smackdown Edition, pt. 1

I thought it'd be fun to write a post comparing songs that have been sampled to the songs they were sampled for. I'm sure it's been done before on other blogs and in magazines, but hopefully I can pull out some surprises and maybe even piss some people off (always the highest praise a blog can receive)--though I might need more than four or five readers to accomplish the latter feat.

1."Just Don't Want to Be Lonely" by Main Ingredient vs. "Dead Muthafuckas" by Cam'Ron- No contest, Cam wins this one. The strongest part of "Just Don't Want to Be.." is the laid back hook, which is exactly what gets sped up in the chorus of "Dead Muthafuckas." As much as it's cool now to complain about the staleness of sped up vocal samples in rap songs, the combination of huge beats and helium vocals still gets me every time.

2."The Ecstasy of Gold" by Ennio Morricone vs. "Blueprint 2" by Jay-Z- It's no surprise Jay-Z used this Morricone song for his second attack on Nas. After a melodramatic piano build, the song is all grandeur, full of triumphant horns and an anthemic melody Metallica fans have been humming for years (the band uses the song as their onstage intro music). As good an MC as Jay is, you don't want to hear him whining about Rosie Perez over one of the most gorgeous instrumentals ever.

2. "Nautilus" by Bob James vs. "Daytona 500" by Ghostface Killah- I first heard "Nautilus" on the Master Sounds radio station featured on Rock Star's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The song, along with James' cover of Paul Simon's "Take Me to the Mardi Gras," has been sampled on numerous rap songs. including LL's "Rock the Bells" and Slick Rick's "Children's Story." Since "Nautilus" is a cheesy fusion song and "Daytona 500" is an undisputed classic, you'd think this would be a no brainer. However, my vote goes to "Nautilus." Firstly, I love cheesy fusion songs--some of Herbie Hancock's best songs are the kind of shiny, fluffy disco instrumentals that house DJs in the 80s sampled the hell out of. As much as I've come to appreciate more traditional hard bop jazz, there is still a part of me that only really likes the kind of jazz that sounds like free form funk or disco. Secondly, the beat to "Daytona 500," like a decent amount of early RZA beats, just does not do it for me. While propulsive, it lacks melody and dynamics, though I suppose you could argue the scratchiness of the beat adds texture. Add to this the fact that the chorus is thin and cliched, and the title goes to "Nautilus."

4. "Hunters of Heaven" by Harumi vs. "Big Lost" by Diplo: I first stumbled upon the Harumi song on an mp3 blog and thinking they were a Japanese psych band, I downloaded it. Turns out "they" was Harumi, an obscure Japanese songwriter and super producer (Bob Dylan, VU) Tom Wilson, who teamed together to make a psych pop record for Verve in 1967. According to this review, the results sucked. Having only heard "Hunters in Heaven," I have no opinion, but the horn line is amazing. When I first heard it on Diplo's "Florida," I was convinced I could place the sample because it just sounded so familiar. As far as which song is better, I'm going to have to go with "Big Lost" because its energy and groove have managed to make the Harumi song sound better just by association.

5. "Every Breath You Take" by the Police vs. "I'll Be Missing You" by Puff Daddy and the Family: Even though "I'll Be Missing You" is cheesy and cliched and sentimental (not to mention arguably exploitative), it's a better song than the original because it treats "Every Breath" like the sappy love ballad it is. Even though the song is supposed to be about a stalker, there is not an ounce of menace in Sting's voice or in the music. I'm sure to this day there are couples who think of it as "their song" because they don't pay much attention to the lyrics outside of the chorus. By turning the song into an elegy, Puff Daddy understood it better than its creators.