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Who Flipped It Better? Wiz Khalifa vs. Dysfunkshunal Familee

The Sample: Manchild – ‘Especially For You’ (1977)

Manchild. What a weird ass name for a soul/funk band. It doesn’t have any sultry, sexy tone to it. It sounds like something a delusional battle rapper would call himself in service of (weak) punchlines about how you can’t beat him. You know, because he’s the Manchild. Or he’d talk about how biologically advanced he is. Ahead of his time. That sort of ball-swinging thing.

Then again, maybe it was a perfect moniker for the ’70s band from Indianapolis. The biggest star to emerge from the group was Babyface, and though he was only 19 on Manchild’s debut album, he would go on to join The Deele with L.A. Reid before releasing his first solo single in 1986. Manchild’s claim to fame is ‘Especially For You’ from that first album, ‘Power And Love.’ The airy synth ballad is a blissful oasis amidst the often uptempo LP, cruising lazily in the same lane that classics like Faze-O’s ‘Riding High’ and Teddy Pendergrass’ ‘Love T.K.O.’ occupy. The guy giving life to the keys is Charles Bush, who wrote ‘Especially For You’ as well as the song before it, ‘(I Want To Feel Your) Power And Love.’ ’We Need We’ is another gorgeous song, but ‘Especially For You’ sounds custom built for a blunt in the morning, sun seeping through the blinds as the world awakens. It’s been sampled by Alchemist, Domingo, The Jacka, and Lil’ B, amongst others. For a band with two scrawny albums to its name and not one major hit, Manchild has stood the test of time in the manscape that is hip-hop.

Flip 1: Dysfunkshunal Familee – ‘New Ruff Flava’ (Prod. by Crazy DJ Bazarro) [1994]

Little is known about Dysfunkshunal Familee, comprised of DJ Skinny, AMAYSS, D-Rock, Brain Dead and centerpiece Crazy DJ Bazarro, the last of whom became known for a 1996 cult mixtape called ‘Bushwick Day’ that featured artists like Finsta Bundy, Shadez of Brooklyn, and the Arsonists. The group toyed with ideas for other names, including The Hitman Squad (which they felt too closely resembled EPMD’s Hit Squad) and Civilized Savages, but ended up with Dysfunkshunal Familee after Bazarro watched an episode of Oprah that focused on what Dr. Phil talks about on every episode now – dysfunctional families. Forming in ’93 (or ’92, according to AMAYSS’ Wikipedia profile), the Bushwick crew’s first song was called ‘S–t Iz On Point’ and featured Bazarro and Brain Dead just… talking s–t. That led to the creation of their first official single, ‘New Ruff Flava,’ of which they allegedly pressed up 500 vinyl copies and gave 200 to Dan Smalls at Loud Records for radio play. “We were testing the waters with an alternative to the same old genres like gangsta rap and commercial hip hop,” Bazarro told Red Bull Music Academy. “We put out records because we loved making music – that was it.”

After getting written up in magazines like Gavin Report and Rap Sheet, the group began to see their buzz grow, but all that ever came out of it was a couple EPs in the mid-90s like ‘Lost And Found, ‘Mixed Emotions,’ and ‘Civilized Savages,’ with the last two seeing proper releases by boom bap rehabilitation label Chopped Herring in 2009. At some point in the ’90s they liberated their ‘Unreleased Album’ which gathered different songs from those EPs along with other rare tracks, and in 1997 the group also dropped an EP alongside Finsta Bundy as a one-off for Bazarro Records.  It wasn’t until 2010 that the group would drop their official debut album, ‘Family Reunion,’ with features from Craig G, Sadat X and Jean Grae and production contributions by Bushwick buddies Da Beatminerz.

Flip 2: Wiz Khalifa – ‘Dispensary’ (Feat. Chevy Woods & Berner) [2014]

Wiz Khalifa smokes a lot of weed. Sky is blue, water is wet, etc. He peaked with ‘Kush and OJ,’ the 2010 mixtape that was so heavily anticipated I risked getting arrested for the fourth time in a year to spark up to it outside my college dorm. What followed – his major label debut, ‘Rolling Papers,’ which was more painful than getting your eyelids ripped off – paled in comparison to what had come before. Mixtapes like ‘How Fly,’ ‘Star Power’ and ‘Prince Of The City 2′ were what he built his name on, but all that went out the window when he signed with Atlantic. To his credit, though, he’s managed to put out a recent single – the magnitude of which he failed to present on ‘O.N.I.F.C. 2′ – in the form of ‘We Dem Boyz,’ a Chief Keef ripoff in nearly every sense. Why, then, he decided to put out a bloated 28-song (ahem, gram) mixtape instead of ramp up the release of his upcoming album, ‘Blacc Hollywood,’ remains mystifying.

Earlier in the year, Wiz released ‘Dispensary’ with his weed carrier Chevy Woods and an actual guy who supplies weed for the weed carriers, Berner. The beat, done by an unknown producer, rides the Manchild sample like a horse with that whining synth for a saddle. Throw some clanging drums over it and let that bassline come up for air every now and then and you’ve got yourself a good enough beat that harnesses the expected loop

Bazarro freaks it a little differently. He actually inverts the bass and the synth, pushing the bass to the front of the mix and relegating the distinct synth to the back. At times he even drops the synth in favor of the bass as it turns its cheeks to the sun every time it hits that higher note. The synth is also a little more piercing than the bass, so even as they volley against each other, Bazarro adjusts the levels so neither one drowns out the other . Most producers highlight the synthesizer from the beginning of ‘Especially For You’ and let the curling bass lay down on the low end. Bazarro flipped the expectation, if there even was one at the time – in ’94, he was the first rap producer to ever touch this sample. Skull Snaps drums always help, plus there’s that tricky beat switch at 2:30 when he drops in the piano sample, but it’s that simple innovation – that going against the grain –  that puts Dysfunkshunal Fam over Wiz Khalifa this week.

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