Who Flipped It Better? Lil’ B vs. Kam
The Sample: Keith Sweat - 'How Deep Is Your Love' (1987)
Nobody did sex music like Keith Sweat. Though he's known for helping to usher in the New Jack Swing Era in the '80s, and lord knows you don't want to keep up with 110 BPM in the sack, his slower songs, for lack of a better description, make you sweat. His first album, helmed by production guru Teddy Riley, yielded classics like 'Right And A Wrong Way' (an R. Kelly precursor if there ever was one -- forgive me Lord) and 'Make It Last Forever,' which C-Note and the Botany Boyz immortalized with 'Makin' Cash Forever.'
'How Deep Is Your Love,' however, with it's sweeping strings, cascading drums, and belching bassline, is the masterpiece. It's the second most-sampled track in his career, touched by everyone from Wiz Khalifa to Celly Cel, and it showcases how Sweat could toe the line between vulnerable and player, soliciting further love by doubting it's depth in his partner. The tempo of the song also made it pliable for DJ Screw in banging fashion.
Flip 1: Kam - 'Still Got Love 4 'Um (Remix)' [Prod. by QD III] (1993)
In the league of extraordinary West Coast rappers, Kam never gets enough shine. His 1993 debut 'Neva Again' was a molotov lofted in the direction of a post-riot Los Angeles, and it painted a vibrant picture of race, politics, and violence. He wasn't the most spectacular spitter, but his Nation of Islam affiliation made him unique in California and gave him a tit-for-tat relationship with Ice Cube. After 'Boyz N The Hood,' Ice Cube had a target on his back by portraying a hardcore gangster, but Kam's influence in the streets and among Muslims helped Cube to maneuver undeterred. In exchange, Cube signed Kam to his Street Knowledge label, better known as Lench Mob Records.
But things went sour from there. Kam and his crew didn't feel like Ice Cube had his business on lock, and when Kam tried to fix things, he felt like Ice Cube was playing him. Cube also began broadcasting an allegiance to the West Side of southern California on songs like 'Bow Down,' and since Kam was from Watts on the East Side, he felt disrespected. One of Kam's homies allegedly confronted Cube and snatched his chain (which, thanks to Cube's beef with Cypress Hill, apparently ended up in B-Real's hands), and in 1997, Kam released 'Whoop Whoop,' a diss record to Cube, with DJ Pooh. In May of the same year, Cube and Kam patched up their differences at the Hip-Hop Peace Summit and ended their feud.
Flip 2: Lil' B - 'Gutta To The Core' (2013)
Lil' B isn't a gangsta. He's Berkeley, California's most positive rapper, emitting love and acceptance in a rap world that condones fear, withdrawal, and misogyny (though he lends his hand to that one, too). He is the most strikingly human rapper to come about since Lil' Wayne said he felt like dying, and he's been able to gain a cult following amongst youngsters due to playful, often ridiculous aura. His vulnerabilities are perhaps not all that dissimilar from Sweat's, in that he 's strengthened by his ability to be honest about his feelings on wax. "N--gas hatin' on me, man f--k that karma / man, the world is your armor," he says on "Gutta To The Core,' and if you really listen to what he's spitting on this, it's hard to argue that he can't rap when he tries to.
The producers on Lil' B mixtapes are notoriously uncredited, but it makes little difference here - the beat is nothing but a loop of 'How Deep Is Your Love' starting at :31. It's a nod to the prowess of Teddy Riley and Keith Sweat, both of whom produced the entire 'Make It Last Forever' LP. Kam's track, on the other hand, is a remix to a song from his own debut album, handled by QD III, Quincy Jones's son and a producer for 2Pac beats like 'To Live & Die In L.A.' and 'Heaven Ain't Hard 2 Find.' He's best known for executive producing the Beef DVDs and the 2009 Lil' Wayne documentary, 'The Carter.'
Kam and QD III win by default this week -- serene synths coast over Detroit Emeralds drums for a beat that might best the original Moments-sampling production. It's really just the bassline that is lifted, or interpolate, but it gives the beat a ground to run on. Best of all, Lil' B and Kam are two sides to the same West Side coin, and though their differences are pronounced over Keith Sweat samples, you don't have to choose one or the other -- they both have their merits as emcees.