And then there's the rather lazy novelty of it all. It's cool that Brown and producer Paul White are forward-looking enough to chance this interesting juxtaposition, but the rather mundane nature of the whole affair underestimates just how inventive a lot of hip-hop production has been in terms of utilizing unexpected and/or obscure samples, especially in the 80's and 90's heyday. The best of the best MC's have been rocking over ESG's "UFO" (flipped on the wrong speed no less) for eons, not to mention proto-metal gods Mountain seeing a live version of their "Long Red" becoming a standard break.
For the curious, the website Who Sampled provides an indispensable user-edited database of sample sources that can easily tune one on to just how diverse and ingenious many of hip-hop's best producers have been in their re-contextualization of cross-genre catalogs as the basis for their distinctive beatscapes. One interesting case I wish to address is the use of Canterbury prog-fusion legends The Soft Machine in the canon of 90's hip-hop. These following three notable 90's tracks went into the band's early catalog as a means for crafting the sort-of head-nodding, neck-breaking boom-bap snap that a plethora of hip-hop purists worship and lament.
Craig Mack - "Get Down (Q-Tip Remix)"
Many still overlook just how incredible Q-Tip was as a producer in the 90's, not only in terms of being responsible for the vast majority of the beats on his group A Tribe Called Quest's first three classic albums, but also for all-too-infrequently outsourcing his skills behind the board, with this work thus appearing on such classic albums as Mobb Deep's The Infamous and Nas' Illmatic. A little more overlooked was Tip's overhaul of early Bad Boy signee Craig Mack's underrated second single "Get Down," this remix of which not only included a new third verse courtesy of Tip, but more notably an ingenious flip of some minimal, sparse organ chords that dabble about during the introduction of the Soft Machine's "Facelift," the opening side to the band's fusion masterpiece Third. It's the kind-of obscure snatch that maybe the most patient and attentive of listeners may spot, but putting the remix and its source back to back proves conclusively that Tip had a brilliant ear for hearing something funky in this notably abstract bit of improv.
Jamal - "Fades 'Em All (Pete Rock Remix)"
Likewise, the legendary Pete Rock heard something special in Third's, errr, third side when he snatched this wavering organ loop from the Machine's last venture into vocal pop, "Moon In June," also notable for being a piece mostly realized by drummer Robert Wyatt. While a little more melodic and immediate a sample than Tip's grab, Rock nevertheless etches out a no-nonsense toughness to this remix's backdrop, allowing Def Squad-affiliate (and former member of hardcore kiddie-rap duo Illegal) Jamal's gruff battle raps to smack effortlessly against this rather moody affair.
INI - "Step Up"
One of Pete Rock's most storied 90's ventures was never given an official release at its time of conception, the project in question being the lost classic Center Of Attention by his protegees INI. The flagship act on Rock's Soul Brother imprint under Elektra's watch, their 1996 LP never saw the light of day after some contentious staff restructuring over at Elektra, in spite of a single and video ("Fakin' Jax") being sent out for promotion. While Rock produced the majority of said album, it's INI MC Grap Luva, Rock's younger brother and an underrated producer in his own right, who configures the Machine's "Save Yourself" from their debut LP into a smooth ride consisting of Mike Ratledge's organ deftly complementing Grap and Rob-O's laid-back monotones with perfectionist ease.