Who Flipped It Better? Wu-Tang vs. Ratking
The Sample: The Sweet Inspirations – ‘You Roam When You Don’t Get It At Home’ (1973)
Ever heard of Whitney Houston? Her mix of pop and R&B has reverberated across generations, but she might have been born with an advantage: her mother was a vocalist too. In fact, Emily “Cissy” Houston, sister to Lee Warrick (who was mother to Dee Dee and Dionne Warwick), founded The Sweet Inspirations, a soul group from the ’60s and ’70s that later signed to Atlantic Records (and then RZA’s favorite, Stax). Dee Dee was the lead singer in the early ’60s, when the group sang backup for artists like Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Solomon Burke. In 1967, two years after Myrna Smith replaced Dee Dee, the group sang backup vocals on Van Morrison’s hit ‘Brown Eyed Girl.’
‘You Roam When You Don’t Get It At Home’ seems to be a Wu-Tang favorite, even though the last time it popped up on a Wu album was thanks to Juju of The Beatnuts. You can hear the ‘One’ refrain from ‘Supreme Clientele’ at 1:09 on the Inspirations cut.
Flip 1: Wu-Tang Clan – ‘Keep Watch’
The most recent Wu-Tang single to drop also features this sample, though it’s used in a wildly different way. The piano chords and swelling strings aren’t part of the new song, ‘Keep Watch.’ Instead, Mathematics uses the “na, na, na” at :17 and the “yeah, yeah, yeah” at :22 as the main vocal loops. He noodles on the piano, which doesn’t seem to be lifted from the Inspirations track, although beneath those keys is a guitar that is. If you strip away the somewhat lackluster Wu members and the abominable hook, it’s a nice collage of a beat.
Flip 2: Ratking – ‘646-704-2610’
While Wu-Tang’s members are in the twilight of their careers, Ratking is at the dawn of theirs. In 2012, Wiki, Hak and Sportlife released a tape called ‘1993’ that made waves on the Internet. Wiki, who dominated the six-song project, drew comparisons to early Eminem, and anytime whitey’s name is invoked, people come flocking. XL signed them, rereleased the project with reworked samples and a bonus song in 2013, and one year later they’ve just released the official debut Ratking LP, ‘So It Goes.’
The original ‘1993’ had the Sweet Inspirations sample front and center on ‘646-704-2610,’ a song that takes the form of a phone conversation between Wiki and Hak (on a payphone, in case you didn’t think they were from NYC). The reworked version still has the sample intact, but it’s totally muffled, while the original loops ‘You Roam …’ from the very first bass notes. Sporting Life grabs the first line of the song and that tickling guitar lick, adds his own scruffy drums, layers an “ah” to the back of the beat, and makes the song complete.
Two formidable flips. Mathematics uses the vocals around his own crunchy drums while subtly incorporating the strings, but the Ratking cut centers around that guitar lick, plus a neat trick of sampling the middle of “looking for someone to love.” The Mathematics beat might be a better example of fine craftsmanship, with small parts of the sample bubbling up here and there, but Sport’s flip is just straight up iller. Not even Juju thought to swipe that guitar loop, and paired with the vocal samples, it makes for one hypnotic ass beat, word to Bleek.