Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Top 10 Party Crashers: Sampler Smackdown, Pt. 2

Here's part 2 of comparing sampled songs to the songs they were sampled for.

6. "Spirit in the Dark" by Aretha Franklin vs. "School Spirit" by Kanye West: As much as I love Aretha Franklin (especially "Since You Been Gone" and "Baby I Love You"), "School Spirit" just has an infectious spirit (pun intended) that "Spirit in the Dark" doesn't. The way Kanye stretches out Franklin's voice in the sample it sounds like she's saying "e-voo" or "evil," followed by a slightly lowered pitch "in the dark." The main verses use the humming refrain of the latter part of "Spirit in the Dark" to great effect, creating a earnest chorus to off-set Kanye's bitter lyrics. Besides being an amazing song, "School Spirit" is pretty the summation of Kanye's "College Dropout" album. Lines like "Told 'em I finished school and started my own business/They say "Oh, you graduated," No, I decided I was finished/Chasing all your dreams and what you got planned/Now I spit it so hot you got tanned" perfectly capture the album's theme of being trapped in a life path that's stifling and oppressive. What is odd but charming is how the beats use of fraternity stepping ("Alpha step, sigma step..") and the gorgeous humming refrain make being miserable in college sound kind of fun. I always chuckle at the line "This nigga graduated at the top of his class/ I went to Cheesecake, he was a motherfucking waiter there" because Kanye's delivery and the joy in the music makes the situation sound more like a funny scene in an after-college comedy, instead of a depressing comment on how much a college degree is worth nowadays.

7. "Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone vs. "Family Affair" by Ghostface Killah: How long did it take for Pete Rock to make this beat? As much as I dislike the Roots, the way they sampled "Everybody is a Star" on "The Tipping Point" kept intact the song's melody (as well as adding on a bunch of unnecessary backing vocals) while Pete Rock's beat just samples the bass line and Sly singing. Ghostface sounds best over maximalist soul tracks like The Stylistics "You're a Big Girl Now" and Isaac Hayes' "Walk On By" since they compliment his emotional delivery. The original "Family Affair" is one of the best soul songs ever, managing to be sad, creepy, and funky all at the same time. Frankly, even a good sampling of the song probably couldn't beat it--it's untouchable.

8. "Theme from 'Tenebrae'" by Goblin vs. "Phantom pt. 1 and 2" by Justice: As much as I like Justice, Goblin are the kings of horror movie music (Bernard Hermann doesn't count since he mostly scored thrillers). Their music mixes disco and prog rock in such a charmingly cheesy way that it makes the Argento movies they score seem far cooler than they actually are. Listening to "Phantom," it's hard to hear what Justice adds to the original except a more jagged rhythm and a ton of filters.

9. "Sure Shot" by The Beastie Boys vs. "Daylight" by Aesop Rock: "Life's not a bitch/She's a beautiful woman/You only call her a bitch because she won't let you get that pussy/ Maybe she didn't feel y'all shared any similar interests/ Or maybe you're just an asshole who couldn't sweet talk the princess"? This is why Aesop does not rock. Beasties win.

10. "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" by Crystal Waters vs. T.I.'s "Why You Wanna": Since I'm lame enough to have heard the T.I. song before "Gypsy Woman," I assumed the latter would be the sort of slow burn disco song Donna Summer did it so well, the kind of song where the energy of the performance makes you dance (or nod your head) faster than the actual BPM. Actually, "Gypsy Woman" is a more a house song than a disco one (I know some people don't hear the difference but if you don't start differentiating somewhere, 70% of electronic music with singing on it is disco). The tempo is quick and, unlike "Why You Wanna," the horn line circles in on itself. The way the horn line is sampled on "Why You Wanna," the last note is left unresolved, like the melody isn't finished. This bothered me at first, but it benefits the song tremendously, because it leaves the listener hanging on the last note, waiting for resolution, only to jump back into the beginning of the horn line.