Who Flipped It Better? Action Bronson vs. Logic
The Sample: Clarence Reid - 'Living Together Is Keeping Us Apart' (1973)
At some point in your life, if you listen to rap for long enough, you might have an epiphany about what makes it such a superior genre. If you haven't had that epiphany yet, we'll just tell you: it's the drums.
The inclusion of drums in modern music is arguably the number one most important advancement in the art form since the Gregorian mode. Hip-hop was born with drumbreaks for umbilical cords, feeding early DJs the nutrients for new life. They zig-zagged from the booming 808s of Run-DMC and Beastie Boys to the more precocious audio riots of Public Enemy and the Bomb Squad, but drum breaks -- the short percussion solos dropped throughout songs -- were always relevant.
Blowfly (real name Clarence Reid) was a different influence on rap altogether. That a drumbreak of his is this week's sample is strange; in 1980, he recorded to wax what could be considered one of the first ever "rap" songs, simultaneously using "Rapp" for one of the first times in the title. It's called 'Blowfly's Rapp' and it'd make Eminem proud for its use of "fag---s" within the first 15 seconds. He wrote and produced records for Betty Wright ('Clean Up Woman'), Gwen McRae ('Rockin' Chair') and more, but he's best known for being a musical freak. Just ask Snoop. Read an in-depth bio of Reid's life here and then dig into this fascinating interview he did with Wax Poetics for a complete picture of the man they call Blowfly.
This week's sample is the first drum break of the Who Flipped It series. Producers don't really "flip" drum breaks -- they tweak them, filter them, maybe pitch them and slow them up or speed them down, but usually the drums stay the same, often forming the foundation for a beat. Here, two songs -- one produced by Tommy Mas and the other produced by Alkebulan, 6ix and DJ Khalil -- use the same drum break from the start of 'Living Together Is Keeping Us Apart,' a standout song on Reid's 'Running Water' LP, in slightly different fashions.
Flip 1: Action Bronson - 'Shiraz' (Prod. by Tommy Mas) 
'Shiraz' was the song that put Action Bronson on a lot of people's radars, and the fluid production by Tommy Mas was a huge factor in that breakout. The hi-hat just kills, but Mas builds an almost entirely separate, flute-driven beat around that main drumbreak, swapping what sounds like two different beats throughout the song. Part of why the song works is Mas knows exactly when to drop the beat in full and when to pull it back in. That sense of timing, and Bronson's interaction with the dips and dives of the beat, make it one of his best songs to date.
Now pay attention: you hear how the drums double up on the original break? And how the drums on 'Shiraz' don't do that? Sounds like Mas truncated the first bit of that break for a two bar loop. Sneaky as s---, and slamming too.
Flip 2: Logic - 'Soul Food' (Prod. by Alkebulan, 6ix & DJ Khalil) 
The second half of this Logic song drops at 2:46, and it brings in a completely different beat than the first half. The drums don't even sound sampled, so props to whoever cleaned up and programmed the loop. The hi-hat gives it away, though, preceded by that speedy spurt of snare-kick-snare-kick.
This is tough. The Logic beat is clean, and the way they dusted off those drums is worth a hat-tip, but Tommy Mas freaked the 'Shiraz' beat way too nicely to lose this one. It's not just the drumbreak itself, but what he put around it and how he pulled it in and out that makes its prudent use so effective. Mas is stupid underrated -- why doesn't he produce for more people? -- but this week, Bronson's right-hand man gets his props.