Who Flipped It Better? Smoke DZA vs. K-Otix
The Sample: Gene Harris, ‘Peace of Mind’ (1977)
Gene Harris was a jazz pianist in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, best known for his slow, bluesy style of play. He recorded albums almost exclusively for the famous jazz label Blue Note, as well as Concord and Jubilee. Later, his style would evolve to a hybrid of jazz and funk, and he played electric piano and synthesizer on his 1977 album ‘Tone Tantrum,’ from which this week’s sample, ‘Peace of Mind,’ comes from.
In 1997, a Houston-based rap group called K-Otix released their debut EP, ‘Spontaneity.’ It was drastically different from the regional syrup-soaked sound that the Screwed Up Click was known for, opting instead for something akin to Lootpack or early Roots (notice the Black Thought sample on ‘Interlude’). That alone made them stand out within the Texas rap scene, along with the sharp mic skills of Mic and Damien Randle, but it was the production of DJ Russell ‘The ARE’ Gonzalez that brought it all together. Gonzalez would later leave the group to pursue a solo career, releasing projects like the well-received ‘Dem Damb Jacksons’ tape, but not before putting together a heralded full-length LP with K-Otix, ‘Universal.’
Flip 1: K-Otix – ‘Pimp University’
It was the ’97 EP ‘Spontaneity’ that really put the spotlight on K-Otix in the rap community, though. With an underground aesthetic and intricately woven bars, they embedded themselves as anti-gangstas who could hold their own with more established acts. It’s made their legacy stand the test of time to this day.
Songs like ‘Pimp University’ help that legend along. A crispy snare is the cherry on top of the ethereal Harris sample, which is a simple four-bar loop that nonetheless floats along with angelic keys and a bent bass into another realm of calm. Screw would’ve been a fan of this.
Flip 2: Smoke DZA – ‘Maybe’
Sean C and LV gifted Smoke DZA with a peppier flip for ‘Maybe,’ which features their signature drumming style. The song sounds like its programmed live instead of being sequenced and looped, giving the beat more vivacity than the K-Otix cut. Both are still blunted beauties, but DZA’s song feels like swing, where as ‘Pimp University’ smells like smoke.
It’s hard to gauge which one is better. Sean C and LV definitely took more liberties with the sample, using the instrumentation at the 22-second mark of Harris’ song for the intro. It’s safe to say that they were more creative with the flip, but the K-Otix beat wins due to its simplicity. Less is more, and ‘Pimp University’ can be played on repeat far into the wee hours of the morning.