The Sample: Willie Hutch - 'Love Me Back' (1975)

Willie Hutch has a voice like honey -- thick, sweet, with an unmistakable flavor all its own. He's a lynchpin of rap samples, from Dr. Dre's 'Rat-Tat-Tat-Tat' to UGK's 'Int'l Players Anthem,' and his discography is as strong as any other soul singer in their prime -- 'Soul Portrait,' 'The Mack,' 'Foxy Brown,' etc. He has the gift that all timeless vocalists share -- the ability to sing about sad topics, like lost love, while still making you happy you're listening. Ghostface might not be able to "Hold a note like Willie Hutch," but at least he knows who deserves a namedrop next to Marvin Gaye.

Flip 1: Kingpin Skinny Pimp - 'King Of Da Playaz Ball' (Prod. by DJ Paul & Juicy J) [1996]

Kingpin Skinny Pimp might be the most underrated Hypnotize Minds member of all time (sorry, Lil' Wyte). His '96 debut LP 'King Of Da Playaz Ball' lowkey features some of the most sumptuous Three Six production to ever be recorded, retaining DJ Paul and Juicy J's murky aesthetic with a touch of gloss. It's a diamond in the rough, rampant discography that spans dozens of underground Three Six tapes, and the title track is a shining example.

The sample is utilized perfectly -- Hutch's "doo doo doo ooh" fits right into the rising string sample that anchors the beat. The tempo is slowed just a tad for the skittering drum pattern across the verses before the percussion drops out and slumps on the chorus. Hearing the whole thing transports you right to the backseat of a drop-top candy-painted Caddy.

Flip 2: T.I. - 'Drug Related' (Prod. by Chad "Wes" Hamilton") [2006]

The core of 'Drug Related,' an alternate version of 'Live In The Sky' that was a bonus track on T.I.'s 'King' album, essentially snatches the exact same four bar loop of strings  and horns (around :45) as Kingpin Skinny's track ... or so it seems. T.I.'s track brings the sample into the poppier light of mid-00s production, and Chad "Wes" Hamilton deserves a lot more credit than he gets today for bringing that updated vintage soul sound to Roc-A-Fella at the height of the label's success. He did two beats on Cam's 'Purple Haze,' a majority of the Young Gunz album 'Tough Luv' (don't act like you didn't cop that), and a slew of other songs for Freeway, Beanie Sigel, and others. But 'Drug Related' might be the single best beat he's ever laid hands on.

The flip itself is basically the same, except he tags Hutch's intro onto the front to build up for the drum drop. It's not magic, but he gives the sample more life than Paul and Juicy did. If you listen closely, you can hear exactly what he did to build on the original, though.

First, both Skinny Pimp and T.I.'s songs use eight bar loops, not four. You can tell because of the second four bar loop section that brings in the horns and Hutch's vocal snippet. But while Kingpin's sample is drowned in lo-fi, Chad's second four bar stretch hums a little harder than the first section. It's a touch more vigorous, and though it's not thanks to any innovation of Chad's, it was his choice to let the original emphasis of that specific string section stand out. Compare it to how DJ Paul and Juicy J use that same section in Kingpin's song, and you'll notice how the emphasis doesn't shine through on the '96 track.

Then, a smaller wisp of genius: first, Willie squawks around 2:17 on 'Drug Related.' Then, seconds later, at 2:24, you hear the electric guitar come in for a moment. Add both of these minute details to the way Chad drops the sample for the drums and bass at differnt times throughout the song, and our winner is pretty clear.

So this one's for you, Chad. You haven't gotten nearly as much credit as you should have throughout the years, but f--k it - we still love you. As for DJ Paul and Juicy J, well...we'll continue to pile on the accolades for your work, but you got outdone on this one.