Only YOU can prevent sample abuse

I’m a lover of music. I own an insane amount of it and a very wide variety. I also am a fan of a well chosen sample that can turn a good song (“Fantasy” by Mariah Carey) into an awesome song (“Fantasy” remix featuring Ol’ Dirty Bastard). But not all musical rip offs are equal. For every euphoric Dr. Dre/Parliament Funkadelic experiment there’s that horrible Sean “P. Puff Daddy Diddy” Combs and Jimmy Page nightmare produced for the Godzilla soundtrack.

Here are the good, the bad and the unholy pieces of crap:

Songs I paid full price for or got on sale

1. “Please Don’t Stop the Music,” Rihanna (“Wannabe Startin’ Something,” Michael Jackson)

I didn’t understand why I had the chorus of this song stuck in my head given that I would always turn it off two seconds into the techno-ish beat. Then, when I could take no more, I actually let the song play, found myself enjoying it, but noticing that it was very familiar to me and then if totally turned into “Wannabe Startin’ Something” from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album. And they didn’t just jack a hook. They jacked the whole damn song, complete with Jackson “Woo-hoos!” and “Hee-hees!” including the mama-say-mama-sah-mama-cu-sah. It was so blatant. I’m not surprised Rihanna needed the King of Pop’s help as she is such a marginal singer that she should that Jesus everyday that she was born physically attractive.

That said, this is actually a pretty good song, although that’s all based on the fact that they ripped off one of the best songs by Michael Jackson to sing out loud and fuck up all the lyrics because God only knows what Mike is singing on that one. Black people love this song. Possibly more than “Beat It,” but not more than “Billie Jean.”

2. “Cupid’s Chokehold,” Gym Class Heroes (“Breakfast In America,” Supertramp)

It helps when people rip off songs I already like and don’t do much to mess them up. The Snob loves Supertramp and “Breakfast In America” is an awesome song off of their most awesome prog rock album. Gym Class Heroes’ version track gets a little annoying after too many listens, but I’ll cut them a break. They’re new.

3. “Last Night,” P. Diddy and Keyshia Cole (“Erotic City,” Prince)

Normally I wouldn’t recommend ripping off a Prince sample, but Diddy manages to pull one off for his album “Play.” I was drawn initially to the song on the power of Keyshia Cole’s Karyn White-esque vocals and how the song sounded like a throwback to all the 90s New Jack Swing R&B I love. So around the fortieth listen it clicked in my head that this song was totally stealing the baseline from “Erotic City,” Prince’s greatest B-side. I can not put into words how wonderfully dirty this song is. Not as dirty as the “Dirty Mind” album, but plenty filthy to not get played on the radio. This is a hit for Diddy, who gets his sample rip-offs right about as often as he gets them wrong.

4. “Fergalicious,” Fergie (“Supersonic,” JJ Fad)

A Snob reader reminded me recently that Fergie bites hard on some JJ Fad for this catchy track. I don’t like Fergie much (and not just because she looks like her name should be manly Stanley), but I was all about JJ Fad back in the day. “Supersonic” is the jam. All three of Fergie stars are for ripping off JJ Fad because they deserve those stars. They can’t be treated like clientèle.

And they’re all way cuter than Fergie Ferg.

5. “Stronger,” Kanye West (“Harder Better Faster Stronger,” Daft Punk)

This isn’t the greatest use of a sample ever. But it comes pretty damn close. Kanye West is much better at sampling that Diddy on his best day. Kanye’s sample “hot track” ratio is much higher and Kanye is far more creative. Diddy just slaps the baseline down and hopes someone writes some good lyrics. Kanye at least chops things up, speeds up or slows down and tries to surprise.

The All Time Greatests

  1. Hard Knock Life,” Jay-Z (“It’s A Hard Knock Life,” the musical “Annie”)
  2. Cherchez La Ghost,” Ghostface Killah (“Cherchez La Femme,” Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band)
  3. Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems,” Notorious BIG, featuring Puff Daddy and Mase (“I’m Coming Out,” Diana Ross)
  4. Today Was A Good Day,” Ice Cube (“Footsteps In the Dark,” The Isley Brothers”)

One is the best and only use ever that I know of from a kid’s Broadway production. The second I can listen to any day, everyday. The third takes me back to fond memories of college parties, throwing our pretend rollies in the sky, and the last is, my God, the best use of a sample ever. Cube’s production team doesn’t do much but speed up the pace slighting on an Isley Brothers track and let Cube do his thing all over it, but it is masterful. This song is cemented in my mind as being one of the best things ever, next to Johnny Depp, Martin Scorsese films, Jill Marie Jones’ weave, central air conditioning, barbecue chicken pizza and Nike cross trainers.

Crimes Against Humanity
(and the original songs murdered in the following tracks)

1. “SOS” and “Shut Up and Drive,” Rihanna (“Tainted Love,” Soft Cell and “Blue Monday [cover],” Orgy)

It was bad enough when people kept covering the 1980s synth pop ode to stalkers and other unwanted lovers, “Tainted Love” (Marilyn Manson and Pussycat Dolls), but to do what Rihanna did was criminal. The Coneheads Movie was more gentle to it than you. And I’m pretty sure Orgy wants their cover of New Order’s “Blue Monday” back with your vocal assassination, coupled with what had to be, the world’s most tepid song with the world’s most insipid title.

2. “Hey Baby,” Bow Wow and Omarion (“Going Back to Cali,” LL Cool J)

When I heard this abomination on the radio over the weekend I knew I had to write this post. This is, by far, one of the most horrible songs I’ve heard, murdering one of my favorite LL Cool J tracks of all time. Nestled between “Jack the Ripper” and “I’m Bad” was “Cali,” a cool, jazzy Rick Rubin production that combined the edginess of 80s hip hop with the cool of commercialism. (The song originally appeared in a cinematic mangling of the Bret Easton Ellis novel, “Less Than Zero.”) Despite Bow Wow’s shout-out to Rubin towards the end of the song all the “wow” factor that initially made “Cali” genius was now as authentic as a jar of mild Pace Picante Sauce zapped with Cheez Wiz.

3. “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puffy Combs, 112 and Faith Evans (“Every Step You Take,” The Police)

I really didn’t want to rag on a song written as a dedication to Notorious BIG after he was murdered. But my GOD, this song is horrible! It is, by far, the worst Puffy sample production. The stankiest of the stank, and the shittiest of the shit. Never mind that Puffy’s eulogy was based on a song about stalking your ex, the hate is just too strong for me. Puffy had previously murdered David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” and Lisa Stanfield’s “Been Around the World” in one song. I still remember that Web site dedicated to stopping Puffy from ruining their 1980s high school soundtrack. Someone stop this man before he kills again.

4. “Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill),” Wyclef Jean featuring Akon, Lil’ Wayne and Niia (“C.R.E.A.M.” Wu-Tang Clan)

Being that I already hate Akon, I was predestined to not like this track, but as I listened to it, it started to grow on me and then the chorus showed up. Granted, this song does not directly rip off the outstanding creepy piano plinking in Wu-Tang Clan’s hit “C.R.E.A.M.,” but it does commit a drive-by execution on its chorus. And this new song is, yet again, about strippers. And while this is a slightly more progressive song about strippers n’ golddiggers, it still feels exploitive. Not as exploitive as T-Pain’s “I’m N Luv Wit A Stripper,” but they’re rolling around in the same ballpark.

The Crappiest of the Crap

  1. Ice Ice Baby,” Vanilla Ice (“Under Pressure,” David Bowie and Queen)
  2. Can’t Touch This,” MC Hammer (“Super Freak,” Rick James)
  3. PE 2000,” Puffy Combs (“Public Enemy No. 1,” Public Enemy)

The first two seemed like good ideas at the time. Harmless even. And they may still be harmless now, but considering the genius that went into both tracks by their original, not fully mainstream, yet very popular creators. But Robbie Van Winkle and Stanley Kirk Burrell took all that was interesting and funky about these two songs and turned them into a generic smoothie of McHits that I liked when I was 13 and did not like as I grew older.

The last song is truly a capital offense. As if it weren’t bad enough for Puffy to strap Sting to table and give “Every Step You Take” a lethal injection of cloyingly trite, Diddy had to strap on the “suicide vest of suck” and blow up Public Enemy’s premiere thesis on the status of the black male in America, “Public Enemy No. 1,” and turn it into an exiguous screed on Diddy’s alleged “edge” and non-existent cool points. How one man can slap together either brilliance or crap depending on who wrote the rhymes versus who’s rhyming is mystifying.

Sometimes I can’t remember why he was originally famous at all. That Shiny Suit Man.

3 thoughts on “Only YOU can prevent sample abuse

  1. Please,Let’s not act like Kanye won’t just add a baseline (if that) to an old song and rap over it. Jesus Walks, Drunk and Hot Girls, Champion, I Wonder, etc. Kanye IS the new Diddy.

  2. Provided it was not a good song to begin with but some people totally butchered “She like the wind” to the point Patrick Swayze wouldn’t recognize it. I was shocked and appalled someone would actually remake the song. Ice Cube by far best sampling…I still like Hammer and Mr. Ice Ice Baby. NO ONE should sample or remake Prince songs..that is just criminal on all counts! 🙂

  3. I’m not going to lie, Anonymous. I hate Sean Combs more.A lot more.It’s not that Kanye doesn’t possess numerous faults, but I can’t forgive the Jimmy Page collaboration for “Godzilla.” And then the raping of “Public Enemy No. 1,” went beyond the pale. And The Police rip-off. At least Kanye doesn’t steal songs I don’t have emotional attachments to. I didn’t know a Daft Punk song until “Stronger.”

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