The Sample: The Jacksons - ‘This Place Hotel (Heartbreak Hotel)’

When The Jacksons released 'Triumph' in 1980, Michael Jackson was still (kinda) black and Ronald Reagan hadn't introduced crack to the hood yet. In other words, there was still hope. 'This Place Hotel' was the second biggest hit on that album behind 'Can You Feel It,' peaking at 22 on the Billboard pop singles chart and two on the R&B chart. Michael wrote and composed the whole thing while The Jacksons are credited as the producers. Besides the striking intro, the production comes off as a bit cheesy, but Michael sure was doing his best to sing those blues away.

Flip 1: Curren$y - ‘Godfather Four’

Nesby Phips is the heavily underrated (and underutilized) New Orleans producer/rapper who has been working with Curren$y since ‘Pilot Talk.’ He brings a resonant, acoustic quality to his beats, as if he’s plumbing the depths of the samples he used.

Here he brings the opening strings of the Jacksons song to the front of the mix, speeding them up just a bit to achieve dramatic effect. It feels like an overture to the project, not unlike Pharrell’s opening strings on ‘G I R L’ (peace to Hans Zimmer). In this short video, Nesby explains that he took the sample out during a certain part of the beat, but if you listen closely, it sounds like he kept that first opening note in there. It’s layered with two more strings that sound custom, which doesn’t seem like it would work on paper, but you barely even notice. It’s a nice touch that gives Phips beats an extra bit of texture.

Flip 2: C-Bo – ‘Death Riders’

C-Bo, also know as The Baldhead Nut, was DJ Screw’s favorite rapper. He’s splayed across Screw tapes and was the only act signed to AWOL Records, besides Marvaless, for four years. One need only listen to his debut album, ‘Gas Chamber,’ to hear his twisted genius.

DJ Squeeky is a legendary Memphis producer who got into public feuds with DJ Paul and Juicy J over claims that they jacked beats, hooks and samples from him. He started producing when he was 15 or 16 for artists like Eightball & MJG, Criminal Manne, Tom Skeemask, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, and other local staples. Influenced by the great DJ Spanish Fly before him, Squeeky was known for trunk-rattling beats and continues to produce for artists like 2 Chainz, Young Dolph, Gucci Mane, and Jeezy.

You’ll notice that Squeeky doesn’t exactly use the same portion of the sample. His loop comes in at about 00:20 on the Jacksons track, after the introductory strings and the flourish of the horns. He samples the keys that you hear playing the same theme, which actually gets transferred to the bass at around 00:31. Same melody, different instrument.

Squeeky’s beat slams but it doesn’t quite go anywhere (not that it needs to). He uses a two bar loop somewhat subtly, while Nesby’s strings are right on top of your ear drums. Because of that, and the fact that Nesby used the louder strings from the very start of the Jacksons song, his flip has more presence. Phips uses the entire four bar sample, and at 00:28 it even sounds like he’s playing a separate set of his own strings (from a keyboard) over the original sample. Add the horns and chalk up a win for Nesby Phips, who proves with every new beat that he deserves a lot more placements than he’s gotten recently. It’s ultimately a matter of taste (spoiler: all art is), and Squeeky’s beat still cranks, but Phips steals this one.

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