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Who Flipped It Better? Roc Marciano vs. Meyhem Lauren & Buckwild

The Sample: C.A. Quintet – ‘Trip Thru Hell (Part I)’ [1969]

In the 1960s, people did a lot of drugs. People probably did a lot of drugs in the 1860s too, but a century later it was taboo to smoke, snort, inject, and ingest drugs in any which way, so naturally it became cool. It was probably a side effect of the Swinging side of things; in the face of tragedies like JFK’s assassination and the prolonged, unpopular Vietnam War, U.S. citizens needed somewhere to stockpile their hopes and dreams for a country that, despite making advances in Civil Rights, was still mired in a cultural pile of s–t. In 1963, Martin Luther King delivered his timeless “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., and six years later the homosexual community would fight back against the police for the first time during the Stonewall Riots. The times were, as Bob Dylan put it, a-changin’.

With the cultural revolution came a musical one, resting on the backs of pioneers like Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, and many more. These artists were grouped under what would be called psychedelic rock, a direct result of the liberated drug use that swept the country. Psychedelic drugs like acid, which Hendrix was mythically said to have applied to his forehead during concerts, spawned acid rock, a sub-genre that was both a result of tripping on drugs and an aural drug trip in itself.

Way up at the U.S.-Canada border, a couple of dudes in Minnesota wanted in on the action. In 1969, an all-male psych rock group called C.A. Quintet released an album called ‘Ride Thru Hell’ to less than a little fanfare – upon release, it barely sold 500 copies. The original pressing would go on to sell less than 1,000 copies. Groundbreaking, it wasn’t, but as the years went on and the music from the ’60s became more enshrined in the spectrum of American culture, ‘Ride Thru Hell’ started to gain cult status among psych rock devotees. A number of official and unofficial rereleases followed through the ’90s until Roc Marciano emerged with his debut solo album in 2010 and, for the first time ever, sampled C.A. Quintet. He flipped ‘Trip Thru Hell (Part 1),’ a nine minute freak-a-thon that dives into the rabbit hole and only scrapes it’s way out with baritone strings and organs at the end.

Flip 1: Roc Marciano – ‘Thugs Prayer’ [2010]

Roc Marciano rose from the ashes of the group that was The UN, consisting of him and fellow Long Island friends Dino Brave, Mike Raw, and Laku. They made their debut on, strangely enough, Pete Rock’s 2001 ‘Petestrumentals’ album, where they contributed vocals to two bonus tracks, ‘Nothing Lesser’ and ‘Cake.’ Pete would go on to produce two songs for the group’s only album, ‘UN Or U Out,’ which was just rereleased by Fat Beats for the LP’s 10th anniversary. It originally came out on FourFiveSix, a small label that Carson Daly started to showcase lesser known talent. But the album’s marketing was dismal and the sales suffered as a result, so the group broke up soon after. Dino, Mike and Laku left the rap game to take jobs, but Roc, who intended to be a solo artist all along (he was at one point also a member of Busta’s Flipmode Squad), struck out on his own.

In 2010, he dropped his solo debut ‘Marcberg,’ (not counting ‘Strength and Honor,’ the solo mixtape he put out to promote the UN album) and it was quickly heralded as the return of gritty NYC rap at it’s height. Roc produced the entire thing by himself on an MPC 2500, mining samples from blaxploitation flicks and rare loops in the process. According to his in-depth interview with Stan Ipcus of Nah Right, Roc was digging at Academy Records in Brooklyn with Large Professor one day when he found the samples for ‘Snow’ and ‘Thugs Prayer.’ He had this to say about the C.A. Quintet record he stumbled upon: “When I heard that, I was like, ‘Damn, I was looking for that!’ That s–t resonated with me. It was one of those moments where you feel like the universe is coming full circle. That record brought me to times in my life that needed to be expressed on the project.”

‘Thugs Prayer’ is a drug-addled flip that threads the choir-like vocals of the sample throughout the song while strings canoodle beneath the gothic organ and dusty drums. It isn’t that much of a complex flip, though – he grabs the loop at 7:18 and rides with it.

You might also remember Roc Marc sampling another C.A. Quintet song, ‘I Shot The King,’ for a song of the same name in 2012. He released it as a warm-up to his incredible sophomore album, ‘Reloaded,’ and eventually added it as a bonus track.

Flip 2: Meyhem Lauren – ‘I Need It All’ (Prod. by Buckwild) [2014]

Meyhem Lauren and Roc Marciano aren’t all that different, at least in heritage. The heavyset rapper from Queens is, along with Action Bronson, a member of the graffiti squad Smart Crew and ran with the Lo-Lifes, who used to plunder clothing stores for free Polo (read this dope article to get up on some ignored NYC history). He’s also a member of the now somewhat-abandoned rap collective The Outdoorsmen, and as such released a string of overstuffed mixtapes with J-Love alongside Bronson during the pre-’Dr. Lecter’ days. He is, in other words, certified, and his latest album with D.I.T.C. legend Buckwild, ‘Silk Pyramids,’ which dropped this week, only further solidifies his lineage.

He doesn’t quite have an imaginative edge over Roc Marciano rhyme-wise, but Buckwild slid him heat for ‘I Need It All,’ which goes beyond looping ‘Trip Thru Hell’ to chopping up those ghoulish organs. Where Roc’s beat coasts, Buck’s beat snaps, making for one of the better productions on Meyhem’s album.

In fact, as masterful a rapper/producer as Roc is, Buckwild beats him on ‘I Need It All,’ perhaps because Roc renders most beats he raps over insignificant. Buck doesn’t wait until the end to grab a piece of the sample, instead lifting the slow-burning organ and quivering strings from :05 to piece the beat together. It sounds like a brand new song, instead of ‘Thugs Prayer,’ which sounds like Roc just spitting over the C.A. Quintet original. Needless to say, both producers are geniuses in their own right for exhuming such a terrific sample, but the vet bests the newcomer this week.

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