While I was researching the Spoonie G meme, I noticed that Brand Nubian uses a lot of remarkably creative samples. It inspired me to do a sample map of their classic first album, One For All. Click to see it bigger.
The track “Slow Down” in particular jumped out at me.
“Slow Down” uses some samples of the usual hip-hop suspects: “Kool It (Here Come The Fuzz)” and “NT” by Kool & The Gang, and “Let’s Take It To The Stage” by Funkadelic. It also samples a less expected song, “What I Am” by Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians. Usually hip-hop producers use material of previous decades, but “What I Am” was only a year or two old when Brand Nubian sampled it.
“What I Am” is perfect for sampling. It has a great funky-reggae groove and two killer hooks, Kenny Withrow’s sliding sus-2 chord guitar riff and Edie’s slightly edgy voice singing “What I am is what I am.” Besides Brand Nubian, here are some other folks who have sampled it:
- New Edition – “Something About You”
- Aretha Franklin ft Lauryn Hill – “A Rose Is Still A Rose”
- Intro – “Love Thang”
- Smokin’ Suckaz wit Logic – “Mutha Made ‘Em”
These tracks do more justice to “What I Am” than the original song itself. Due respect to Edie and her band, but once you get past the guitar hook and the chorus, the song is extremely inane. The lyrics are like a parody of dopey neo-hippiedom. There’s a rich tradition in hip-hop of finding a jewel of a sample buried in a less-than-jewel-like song, like the Apache break’s origin in a disco cover of a goofy quasi-Western instrumental.