Who Flipped It Better? MellowHype vs. Young Jeezy
The Sample: Cortex - 'Chanson D'Un Jour D'Hiver' (1975)
Cortex was a French band in the '70s that specialized in spacey jazz and funk. The original sample in question even has vocal pieces that echo some of the work by Return To Forever, a fusion jazz-rock band from the same period with legendary members like Chick Corea and Stanley Clarke. Even if you've never heard a full Cortex song, you're familiar with their work; everyone from Madlib and DOOM to Wiz Khalifa and Curren$y have sampled their music in the past.
Flip 1: MellowHype - 'Loco' (2010) [Prod. by Left Brain]
The sample leads with ominous keys that match well with MellowHype's murky, devilish sophomore project, 'BlackenedWhite.' The opening piano sounds like the music you hear in scary movies when someone climbs up the stairs and the camera follows their feet as they slowly approach their doom. Then the sun breaks through the clouds and the popular part of the sample appears: a heavenly voice hitting a falsetto right on the nose with keys filling in behind, dispersing darkness.
It's an oddly airy sound for Hodgy Beats and Left Brain to lift, considering 'BlackenedWhite' had a stark deadness to it, from the black-and-white cover of what looks like a twin from 'The Shining' to the ear-drumming sounds of songs like 'Gram' and the amelodic 'Igotagun' (other titles like 'F666 The Police' and 'Hell' should be dead giveaways). The sunnier part of the Cortex track is restrained by that nagging piano that becomes the beat's backbone. The vocal only gets a few seconds to shine before being stifled again, creating a tension that makes you anticipate the part of the sample that's held back. It's strange, but the interplay of light and dark sounds works within MellowHype's young but nihilistic outlook.
Flip 2: Young Jeezy - 'Beautiful' (Feat. The Game & Rick Ross) [Prod. by Black Metaphor]
Black Metaphor, the guy who's produced for French Montana and Meek Mill but didn't pop until serving Lil' Bibby with the 'Water' beat, leans on the centerpiece of the sample with a bit more laziness. In fact, it's lazy to even use this Cortex sample in 2014, what with it's saturation amongst rap beats in recent years. He lets the sample play out for 35 seconds before dropping drums and segueing into the usual vocal sample that's taken from the Cortex track.
The drums fill in nicely for Justice League, but Metaphor doesn't do anything new to the sample. How is this different from the way Curren$y used it on 'Mary' or Smoke DZA on 'The World'? Both of those songs dropped in the last three years. At least DZA and Spitta chopped the vocals up a bit; Black Metaphor doesn't even bother to do that. Jeezy's product is clean enough, but for anyone who has paid close attention to rap for the past half decade, it just comes off as careless.
MellowHype blows the competition out of the water this week, and it didn't take much. Isolate a lesser-used part of a sample, contrast it with the more popular section, and then use that dynamic to complement your group's own sadistic aesthetic. Jeezy, meanwhile, continues to coast on the strength of production. The song is as lazy as the sample choice. Every little detail counts.