In case you haven’t realized, samples are ubiquitous in hip-hop. Flipping an old classic or a forgotten favorite is a staple of the genre. To that end, producers regularly introduce new audiences to the tunes of yesteryear, creating a timeless vortex of music appreciation that spans generations.
As such, here at TripleOT, I’d like to pay respect to an indelible part of hip-hop through this series: Who Flipped It Better? Despite the swaths of music untouched by modern remixes, plenty of tracks have seen an innumerable amount of sample usage – that could mean having a single line chopped and inserted into the background as with Run DMC’s “Louder” or “Aww Yeah” snippets in “Here We Go (Live at the FunHouse)” or having minimal substantive changes as Joey Bada$$’s “Waves” on which he spits over a 2011 track by Freddie Joachim.
For this series I’m concerned not with the origin track as much as I am songs that flip the original. For each installment I’ll be pitting two tracks with the same sample against one another, in an attempt to determine, who flipped it better.
The Game Feat. Drake “100” vs. Ty Dolla $ign Feat. Lil Wayne & The-Dream “Love U Better”
The Sample: Peabo Bryson “Feel the Fire”
Released in 1977 as a single for his second studio album, Reaching For the Sky, Peabo Bryson’s “Feel the Fire” is heralded as a staple of the Quiet Storm supergenre. Featuring Peabo’s bellowing vocals backed by a choir, the track emits an air of consecration. The sample in question appears at the 2:04 mark, as the track climaxes and Peabo reckons with the possibility of losing his love.
The Game Feat. Drake – “100”
Background: The sole single from The Game’s sixth studio album, The Documentary 2. Premiered on Power 105.1 by DJ Envy, “100” was produced by Johnny Juliano and Cardo. The former has credits with Ty Dolla $ign (“When I See Ya”), Nicki Minaj and Meek Mill, while the latter is immediately recognizable by his “Cardo Got Wingssss” producer tag, as well as for his work on Wiz Khalifa’s debut mixtape, Kush And OJ.
Debuting in the summer of 2015, The Game and his production team seemed to foretell the LA craze that would overcome hip-hop and media fans alike with the release of “100.” The track came just a month or so before both Dr. Dre would announce his third and final studio album, Compton: A Soundtrack, and the release of Straight Outta Compton, the F. Gary Gray directed N.W.A. biopic.
The beauty of this sample lay in its unrelenting emphasis on nostalgia. The cut begins with The Game contemplating a missed opportunity to speak up, while Peabo Bryson’s crooning is looped underneath a bass-less filter. “We just sitting there, talking about life. Played some beats, but I forgot to tell you one thing…” leads into Game’s verse which plays as a confessional to his co-star Drake about an unknown assailant wanting to put a hit on OVO’s finest. At this point, bass fills the track, and Peabo’s vocals remain under that same filter. Despite taking less prominence given the strength of the vocals in the original track, leaving Peabo underneath the bass and mild synth work plays up the nostalgia, as the sample doesn’t take the shine from The Game’s pointed verse.
When Drake hops onto the hook with his flatish, monotonic singing, Peabo is further drowned out, and, by Drake’s verse is again filtered along with the rest of the track, allowing Drake to respond without the luscious bass or overt melody that accompanies Game’s contribution.
Ty Dolla $ign Feat. Lil Wayne & The Dream – “Love U Better”
Background: Produced by DJ Mustard with help from Twice as Nice, “Love U Better” debuted as Ty’s lead single for Beach House 3, his second studio album. The track was released on July 10, 2017 during Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 radio show and peaked at the number one spot on the Billboard US Bubbling Under R&B/Hip-Hop Singles. Although DJ Mustard has an ever-growing body of recognizable work with YG, Iamsu!, Ty$ and plenty others, Twice As Nice has put in work for names like Robin Thicke and Rihanna.
From the jump it should be established that this track incorporates two samples. Of course, the Peabo sample is easily identifiable at the track’s outset, but Mary J. Blige vocals from “I Can Love You” pop up sporadically throughout the track as well. That said, the help Ty$ enlists from “Feel the Fire” comes from that same 2:04 section, as Peabo’s voice swells passionately. Whether by Mustard’s or Twice’s choice (likely Mustard), the Peabo vocals in this cut are noticeably pitched up, lending to the electronic/dance atmosphere the track creates. “Love U Better” runs at a higher tempo than “100” (118 BPM vs 108 according to SongBPM.com), and that bump up is definitely audible; the frantic bass pattern and choppier synths are ripe for a dancefloor, and DJ Mustard’s staple “Aye” chant sample is rife throughout the cut.
About halfway through the cut, Lil Wayne and his autotuned voice comes through similarly to his 2008 counterpart, when he began his reliance on the tool with Tha Carter III. Keeping with the mid-2000s flair, The-Dream, who took off with 2007s Love Hate, returns with his trademark falsetto vocals on the hook, trading lines with lead man Ty$.
The Verdict: The Game Feat. Drake: “100”
Only one installment in and this series presents an existential crisis. At the end of the day, you can love two, three, a million songs, and if those songs happen to use the same sample, God help you in trying to rank them. In this battle, the fact that both tracks came with accompanying music videos played a part in the decision to choose “100” as the track that flipped “Feel The Fire” better.
Before diving into the videos though let’s get down to brass tacks. In using the same timestamp from the sample, and then opening the track in similar ways, with the sample vocals playing a bit more muted than the original rendition makes choosing a victor all the more difficult. Where “100” wins out is in the total presentation. The brief introduction Game provides while the sample plays out before the bass rushes in is inspiring, as the listener has the chance to try and reconcile how the track will manifest itself. And, once the additional bass and synths are incorporated, the original Peabo sample is left the same as it was in the intro. “Love U Better” takes a more dramatic turn with flipping the sample, using the same overall melody and vocals, but chopping them up into a danceable track that relies less on the emotional quality of the “Feel The Fire” sample than the Game track does.
On the part of the videos, the subtle sepia tone to the “100” video seals the deal in this comparison. Utilizing the radiant sunlight of Los Angeles to pair with the track’s nostalgic air is then complemented by shots of “the homies.” Drake and Game weave their way through groups of Compton natives, kids and adults alike, adding to the familial and sentimental timbre of the cut. In the Ty$ video, the slow-motion visuals don’t exactly complement the energetic song, and the largely nocturnal and brooding setting limit the connection between audio and visual. But hey, Trae Tha Truth makes a cameo, so that counts for something.
Thoughts on the first edition of Who Flipped It Better? Let me know @bjtripleot on twitter or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.