Who Flipped It Better? Isaiah Rashad vs. Slum Village
The Sample: Clare Fischer – ‘You Call It Madness’ (1970)
Even an astute lover of jazz would escape chastisement when asking, “Who the f–k is Clare Fischer?” The American keyboard player, composer, arranger, and bandleader began his career in the late 1950s with an a cappella group, The Hi-Lo’s. In the following decade, he became known for his bossa nova work, even composing the Latin jazz standard ‘Morning,’ and for his third and final act, he arranged songs for pop artists like Paul McCartney (‘Distractions’), Michael Jackson (‘This Is It [Orchestra Version]‘), and Celine Dion (‘With This Tear’). Remember Brenda Russell from last week? He worked on that album, too.
‘You Call It Madness’ is from a rare 1970 LP of his called ‘Great White Hope’ (it currently fetches upwards of $50 on eBay and Discogs). One can only imagine the album title was an attempt at self-mockery, considering he worked with monumental jazz artists like Dizzie Gillespie and Donald Byrd. The album’s subtitle, ‘& His Japanese Friend,’ refers to the Yamaha YC-30 combo organ he plays on the album, alongside his trusty Fender Rhodes. The entire album was recorded over the course of one day in his Hollywood home. ‘You Call It Madness’ sounds like a solitary man exploring his electric piano in his living room as he faces a wide window and lets the sun rays wash over his face.
Flip 1: Slum Village – ‘Estimate’ (Prod. by J Dilla) 
J Dilla the crate-digging fiend was almost the first guy to flip a Clare Fischer sample, but that accolade belongs to Pete Rock for ‘Greenbacks’ in 1994. Two years later, Slum Village released ‘Fantastic Vol. 1,’ much of which would lay the groundwork for their fully developed classic, ‘Fantastic Vol. 2.’ ’Estimate’ was an interlude on the former that found Baatin and Dilla trading bars about decepticons, but it’s that ethereal keyboard sample that floats in the back like a mist over the ocean. It’s got a cool spray to it, at once sobering and intoxicating. According to Questlove, D’Angelo was “in love” with the short song.
Flip 2: Isaiah Rashad – ‘Ronnie Drake’ (Feat. SZA) [Prod. by The Antydote] (2014)
Fast forward almost 20 years, and TDE’s youngest in charge flips the same part of the song that Dilla touched (the 1:14 mark). It seems deliberate – of all the parts to extract, the use of the ‘Estimate’ sample seems like a willful decision.That automatically makes Antydote Dilla’s son, despite ‘Ronnie Drake’ rocking on it’s own merits, especially the percussion.
But listening to ‘Escape,’ it’s harder to trace which sounds Dilla actually lifted. ‘You Call It Madness’ is a drifting oasis of ready-made samples composed of isolated notes and chords that hang in the air like pollen. It sounds like Dilla chopped up each still moment and layered his own meandering beat by weaving together Fischer’s wondrous melodies. Hov might say just because you can’t understand how Dilla chopped it doesn’t mean that he’s nice, but then again, what has Jay-Z ever produced?
So this week is, believe it or not, a draw. Antydote’s beat builds a haze around the song that lets Rashad and SZA invite you in to their world, while ‘Estimate’ is a quick in and out, a sketch of Dilla’s genius that nonetheless demands replay. One couldn’t have existed without the other, but that doesn’t mean that the last person to use it couldn’t improve on the sample’s application. Dilla was and still is important for his simplicity. In that sense, we could see him as the foundational architect for tons of today’s producers.