Who Flipped It Better? Jay-Z vs. Danny Brown
The Sample: Gershon Kingsley - 'Rebirth' (1970)
In 1969, a German-American musician named Gershon Kingsley met Robert Moog, the man who invented the historic synthesizer. Three years prior, Kingsley had made what is considered the first-ever electronic music album -- 'The In Sound From Way Out' -- as one half of Perry and Kingsley alongside Jean-Jacques Perry. Perry had been playing with tape loops of pitched voices and strange animal sounds in the studio. Kingsley laid instrumentation over the samples, and with a bit of arrangement, a soundtrack for space was cemented. That technique is woven into hip-hop's DNA, and 30 years after their debut album, Perry and Kingsley allowed The Beastie Boys to name their greatest hits compilation the same title. No Perry and Kingsley? No 'Paul's Boutique.'
When Kingsley discovered the Moog, he had to have one. The problem was it's price: $3,500, or in those days, equivalent to around $35,000. Kingsley bought the one Bob Moog had already built, and asked he build three more for his quartet. It was the last of Kingsley's money.
Kingsley was the one who introduced Sun Ra to the Moog, and Sun Ra later borrowed a prototype Mini Moog from Bob months before the commercial product released in March, 1970. The Moog wound up being front and center on many of Sun Ra's early '70s albums like 'Space Is The Place,' 'Astro Black,' and 'The Antique Blacks, ' and Sunny's unbridled enthusiasm for the machine might have even spurred Moog to move forward with mass production of the Minimoog, as Bob was encouraged by the demand from genius musicians like Sun Ra.
The album this week's sample appears on, 'First Moog Quartet' from 1970, is rare, word to Based God. A new CD copy goes for over $100 on Amazon and the sealed vinyl will run you over $800.
Flip 1: Jay-Z - 'Interlude' (Prod. by Just Blaze) 
'The Black Album' was supposed to be Jay-Z's curtain call, and the production credits reflected it: 9th Wonder, Pharrell, Kanye West, Eminem, DJ Quik. But no one, not even 'Ye, had as strong a showing as Just Blaze did. He produced the intro and the first song (plus 'P.S.A.'), so in a sense the entire album depended on how Just sparked it off. He wrote the intro's dialogue and told REVOLT he wanted it to be "very spacey ... something you kinda just zone out to." Hence not one, but two samples -- 'Rebirth' by Kingsley and 'Dizzy' by Hugo Montenegro, another colossal force on the synthesizer.
Flip 2: Danny Brown - 'Change' (Prod. by Mainframe) 
Back in 2012, there was some buzz about a project between Danny Brown, Blu and producer Mainframe called 'Danny Johnson,' titled after Blu and Mainframe's own 'Johnson & Johnson.' But the truth behind the buzz was both relieving and disappointing: 'Danny Johnson' wasn't real because it dropped two years before as 'It's A Art,' an elusive project Danny dropped on his Tumblr that found him rapping and Blu and Mainframe producing. Little projects like that and 'The Hybrid: Cutting Room Floor' help fill in Danny's already astounding catalog.
On 'Change' Kingsley's synth is zippier and sped up a bit to shuttle across the beat like a shooting star. There's little vigor on the song -- Danny sounds blunted with a side of sizzurp (this is, after all, the old Danny Brown) as he recounts a cyclical day in poverty - "Blow a blunt, pass out, don't count no sheep / Wake up, blow another one and still don't eat." It's bleak and gray in Danny's world, and Kingsley's synth is the silver lining in an otherwise oblique lifestyle.
Jay's intro is another story. 'The Black Album' opens gradually, from an atom to a molecule to an organism, and here the synth is wondrous, as if it's flying over the land that Just Blaze envisions being traversed by seeds on the wind. Jay's book of life is being opened before our eyes, and Kingsley's Moog signifies a mystical experience. This LP was, after all, originally called '8th Wonder.'
The synth's effect is also doubled by the Montenegro sample, as the two seem to squiggle off one another like a light show in the skies. By stacking both synthesizers, Just Blaze heightens the magnitude of the opening. It's a much better use of a short, quick synth spurt than on 'Change,' where it skirts over Danny's expressionless mood instead of signifying a monumental album like 'The Black Album.'
Blu and Mainframe didn't do much to that sample, but Just Blaze knows how to expand every sound he uses. The sample's interplay with Montenegro, plus the feeling it conjures as the beat grows, makes the intro a simple yet powerful beginning to what was supposed to be the end. Now can Just Blaze make more beats, please?