The Sample: The Isley Brothers - 'That Lady' (1973)

You've probably heard Kendrick Lamar's 'i,' the brand new single that samples 'That Lady' by The Isley Brothers. Message aside (yay, positivity!), 'i' sounds more like a toothpaste commercial than a Kendrick Lamar song, aesthetically. His voice sounds particularly munchkin-like and the beat makes you want to do the Carlton dance. In other words, it's about to be a smash hit. But is it corny?

Flip 1: The Get Funky Crew - 'Who's That Lady' (Prod. by Beatmaster Clay D) [1989]

The fact that other artists have sampled The Isley Brothers perfectly in the past (Biggie's 'Big Poppa' and Ice Cube's 'Today Was A Good Day' come to mind) doesn't negate how Rahki used the sample here. Neither of those songs sound like jingles, despite also being huge hits.

In 1989, for instance, The Get Funky Crew used the same reeling guitar loop on 'Who's That Lady' that Rahki did on "i." The difference is the Get Funky Crew was a Miami Bass group. The music was completely pared down to the bare essentials, i.e. obnoxiously loud drums. As soon as the song starts, your body gets moving. Swift and Rahiem, the members of the Get Funky Crew, are only rapping over drums and bass for their verses. The chorus incorporates the hook and the guitar from 'That Lady' without sacrificing the hard-ass bounce that Miami Bass is characterized by.

Flip 2: Kendrick Lamar - "i" (Prod. by Rahki) [2014]

There are redeeming qualities about "i," like the positive sentiment consistent with Kendrick's self-empowering ideology from past albums. But while the idea of the beat follows in Puffy's tradition of blatant rip-offs (at least until the more interesting second half of the song), it sounds like a high school band played it. Great for prom. That's not good or bad. That's just what it is.

The standalone fact that Rahki sampled 'That Lady' does not in itself make the song corny; the way he used it does. When you hear the Get Funky Crew cut, you don't think "crossover." But the first few seconds of 'i' -- is that a cowbell? -- make it painfully obvious that Kendrick wants his global hit. And he's got it.

So song-wise? 'Who's That Lady' beats Kendrick out. But Rahki did a lot more with the sample than Beatmaster Clay D did, and even though the Get Funky Crew song is more superior overall, the production on 'i' expands the possibilities of what you can do with 'That Lady' -- for better or worse. The traffic-jam second half of the song doesn't rely on the sample as much as it uses it for a hectic springboard. Beastmaster Clay D didn't flip the sample too much; he just laid the guitar and the vocal loop on the hook. Rahki used all kinds of different parts from the original, so he wins this week. Dance with your grandma to it.

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