Who Flipped It Better? Max B vs. Masta Ace
The Sample: Kool & The Gang – ‘You Don’t Have to Change’ (1974)
It’s hard to believe we went four months without touching another Kool & The Gang record. The group has been sampled over 800 times since the 1960s, but it’s their broad palette of rhythms and styles that makes them such treasure chests for crate diggers. Considered by many to be the group’s greatest album, 1974’s ‘Light of Worlds’ vacillates from hard-driving funk on ‘Street Corner Symphony’ to sweet, blissful soul on ‘Summer Madness.’ ‘You Don’t Have to Change,’ which also sits on the effort, is a sample both Masta Ace and Max B have used in their songs.
Masta Ace Incorporated (Masta Ace, Eyceurokk, Lord Digga, Paula Perry and Leschea) is stupidly slept on these days. Ace dropped not one but two timeless albums under that moniker (his 1990 debut was billed simply as Masta Ace) with astounding help behind the boards by The Bluez Bruthas (Lord Digga and Norman), Louie Vega, and DJ U-Neek. Yet it was Ace himself who assumed the production moniker of Ase One for 10 of the 16 songs on the classic 1995 LP ‘Sittin’ On Chrome,’ thus becoming responsible for the album’s entire sonic thrust.
Flip 1: Masta Ace – ‘U Can’t Find Me’ (Prod. by Ase One) (1996)
Ace and his crew struck the perfect nerve for the beats on ‘Sittin’ On Chrome.’ The concept album revolved around the story of Ace’s fictional cousin visiting New York from the West Coast and meshing Cali’s speaker-knocking sound with the traditional boom bap of the East Coast. Crispy percussion intertwined with warm bass made for quintessential summer listening in the car as Ace balanced soul samples with hard-hitting beats; highlights like ‘Sittin’ On Chrome’ and ‘Born to Roll’ elicit an instant screw face, while fantastic softer cuts like ‘The B-Side’ and ‘Terror’ fall on the lighter side.
‘U Can’t Find Me’ utilizes the first few seconds of ‘You Don’t Have to Change,’ falling somewhere between grimey and airy, though far closer to the latter. A wonky synth constitutes the original song’s intro before it segues into a different, guitar-driven groove.
Flip 2: Pete Rock – ‘We Roll’ (Feat. Jim Jones & Max B, Prod. by Pete Rock) (2008)
That same wonky synth resumes around the 1:45-mark, and it’s right around there where Pete Rock also lifts the drums for the backbone of ‘We Roll.’ Appearing as the first song on Rock’s ‘NY’s Finest’ album, it represents some of the best work that Jim Jones and Max B would ever achieve together before going their separate ways. The advantages of the unexpected collaboration were symbiotic — Pete Rock got to feed off of the popularity that Max and Jim were enjoying, while the Byrd Gang boys got to rock over sounds much different than their usual production.
You have to shake your head at how genius Pete Rock can be. He makes a brand new song out of just a couple seconds of the Kool & The Gang record. ‘We Roll’ doesn’t even use new drums — the break in the middle of ‘You Don’t Have to Change’ already comes prepackaged. It’s not just the final product that determines a producer’s weight, but the ear that catches the right samples and extracts the best elements.
Ase One is vastly underrated today, and his early work remains some of the hardest East Coast s— to grace the airwaves in the ’90s, but we have to give it to Pete for his work on the Max B and Jim Jones track. He makes it seem so easy, when in reality he’s taking Max and Jim out of their comfort zone to make one of the best songs of their respective careers. Seventeen years after his debut project with CL Smooth, ‘All Souled Out,’ the Chocolate Boy Wonder was still proving that he’s one of the greatest of all time.