The first time I got into rap seriously was after listening to Eminem. The first time I started rapping was after listening to College Dropout by Kanye West. His mix of braggadocio rhymes, humour and a relatable drawn out delivery with everyman lyrics was irresistible. I was in UWI at the time so his college tales spoke to me. But digging deeper, what amazed me as much and influenced my early music was the beats. Using a technique popularized by RZA of Wu Tang, he sped up soul samples till the voices were chipmunk level and used them as choruses on his songs. That album and Jayz’s “The Blueprint” before it made this ‘obvious’ style of sampling popular.
With time, this type of beat fell out of favour. We had crunk. We had the Lex Luger/Rick Ross era. Kanye later influenced a synth heavy era after the release of Graduation. DJ Mustard brought back 80s style RnB with a twist. There were a few small movements in between. And then trap came. And popular hip hop music hasn’t deviated since. Enter Drake. With a song and video destined to ascend to the top of the Billboard Charts.
When I first heard “Nice for What” and the Lauryn Hill “Ex-Factor” sample hit me I was worried. Forget the fact that he sampled the song. He sampled the most iconic part of the song. I was thinking “don’t eff it up eh”. And then the New Orleans bounce came in and for a second I’m not so sure. And then I am. Then 12 bars in I’m like “Drake is a genius”.
It’s not like if I could have not liked the song though. Drake wouldn’t let me. Not with that video. Seeing so many sexy women, especially black women… I mean. Not just beautiful women but women with swagger. With personality. And Tiffany Haddish is in it. And it’s a female empowerment song in the era of hashtag “MeToo”. Men bound to like it. Women going to like it.
Movements happen when a unique style becomes popular. Then everyone wants a piece. H to the izzo off “The Blueprint” hit the top 10 of Billboard back when that hardly ever happened for hip hop tracks. Kanye’s “Slow Jamz“, the second single off “The College Dropout” then hit number freaking one. After that, the sampling style was inescapable. If (and when) this song hits number one, I see this trend returning.
If it does become a trend, I won’t really mind. It’s not that sampling in hip hop was dead (yeah right) but the overt sampling style where the sample is the chorus of the track seemed to have gone the way of CDs and MySpace pages. But as with all things that come back in fashion, it’s may return with a twist. In the early 2000s, Kanye went for a soulful style using almost exclusively soul samples. This track has an uptempo New Orleans bounce that gives it a dance vibes. Maybe this is the new form. Maybe.
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