Earning My Stripes: New School Rappers – Old School Samples

In this month's column, Tiger Taylor explores the multifaceted aspects of hip hop sampling.

Helloooo again, some Notion readers may be happy to hear that this week I will be introducing a bit of the UK into the column, along with the usual influence from the US.

 

At first glance, these two artists might not seem to have much in common, but what attracted me to both of them was the shared use of a specific sample. Both are highly respected in their own, very different circles. First up, with have Freddie Gibbs. Freddie is already pretty huge in the states and has a large following over this side of the pond as well… I’ve been following his career since I was about seventeen when I saw him perform at a small basement venue in London… I became obsessed with the song, “How We Do”, which samples one of my all time favourite classics, “93 ‘Till Infinity” by Souls of Mischief.

The freestyle came off the 2009 album “The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs”. Not only is the dexterity of his rapping ability close to unparalleled, but he’s also got serious bars and style for days. One of my all-time favourite albums is the 2014 collaboration with none other than genius producer, Madlib. Not only is “Piñata” one of the best-produced albums I’ve ever heard, but I might also even go so far as to say the beats could even be a match for the likes of Dilla… As an added bonus Madlib also released a separate “Piñata Beats” album, especially for neeks like me! Freddie has so many tracks that are worth mentioning but I’ll just give you a quick few favourites off Piñata, “High”, “Deeper”, “Bomb”, “Thuggin’” and “Shame”.

As much as “Piñata” is one of my all-time favourite albums I can’t deny how much I love the stripped down, raw gangsta style of earlier albums like “The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs” and “Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik”. With a slow steady beat and Gibbs’ super fast flow, a fine example of this raw simplicity is “Murder on my Mind”, from the latter. Some other favourites are, “Midwest Malcolm”, “County Bounce” and “Higher Learning”

If you haven’t yet experienced Freddie Gibbs, get into it ASAP. “Piñata” especially, is a must-have vinyl for any collection.

 

Next up we have Black Josh. Although their styles are very different, Freddie hailing from Gary, Indiana and Josh, Manchester, coincidentally our second artist also sampled “93 ’Til Infinity” in his 2014 release “Paul Scholes”. I think this is what first attracted me to his music as well… clearly I’m a sucker for a good sample. Samples are always a good indication of whether or not you will vibe with an artist’s work. Josh is a member of both Levelz, a collective of Manchester artists, and Blah Records collective, Cult of the Damned… he was sort of my introduction to how good UK rap can be as I had previously only really been interested in US based artists. I first fell in love with Josh’s music when I heard the song “Sleepless” from the 2016 album “Ape Tape”. The sample and the bridge are what really got me…

His latest album “Yung Sweg Lawd” which released November 2018 was one of the best rap albums to come out last year, in my opinion. Josh has incredible linguistic dexterity and flow, writing some of my favourite bars and spitting them with utterly venomous finesse. A high pitched intonation and Mancunian dialect deliver his often coarse bars with a demonic tone that truly hits the spot. Spitting lines like, “Cos my mother always told me don’t get caught up in the streets/But if it wasn’t for the road I wouldn’t have found the real me/I wouldn’t have found the route out of the belly of the beast/My niggas are hungry and now I’m tellin’ em to feast”… The energetic style is satisfying in a visceral sense and feels almost cathartic. “Judge Judy”, the collaboration with Kenyan female rapper Nah Eeto gives us a dark and mysterious tone with a lurky melody and slow beat serving as the perfect undercurrent for their languid discourse. This is one of my favourite tracks off the album.

Demonstrating his scope, in total contrast with the darker tones of “Yung Sweg Lawd” and “925”, Josh also displays a softer side in “Thinkin” and “Own Ting”, the latter on which he collaborated with Eliza Doolittle, Lee Scott, Jesse James Solomon and Sniff.

This incredibly cerebral artist is one to watch for sure. Do yourself a favour and buy the album, if you haven’t already.