The Sample: Billy Cobham – ‘Heather’

When you think of jazz fusion in the '70s, you should think of George Duke. The keyboardist/vocalist was born in California and became a Bay Area jazz legend who would eventually branch off into rock experimentation and R&B. His career reached many different plateaus, a common experience among iconic musicians, but his life truly changed when he began working with Jean-Luc Ponty, a violinist who introduced Duke to the Fender Rhodes that he would eventually master.

Duke’s trajectory is not only one of progress, but of consistency, beginning with Cannonball Adderley and Frank Zappa before working with artists like Miles Davis, Stanley Clarke, and Bill Cobham.

In 1974, Cobham released an album for Atlantic called ‘Crosswinds.’  It was recorded at the famous Electric Lady Studios in New York City and featured George Duke on the keyboard, who you can hear gentle touching the keys throughout the 35-minute album. Part fusion, part smooth jazz, ‘Crosswinds’ was a steady cruise, an easygoing sunset of an album written entirely by Cobham. It featured trumpet, guitar, and drum solos, but none as piercing as Duke’s soliloquy on ‘Heather.’ He wails with a sense of loss, even though the notes wind and turn as if anticipating better days ahead.

Flip 1: Souls of Mischief – ’93 ‘Til Infinity’

It seems fitting, then, that the Souls of Mischief song looks to the present for hope in the future. ’93 ‘Til Infinity’ is a pledge, yes, but it’s also a hope that creative West Coast kids harbored about rap: for it to stay true. It’s almost a bittersweet listen now, knowing that in 1993 tides were turning, commercialism was creeping in, and hip-hop was about to become a widespread mainstream phenomenon.

A-Plus’s flip is one of the most infamous ever, looping two different parts of the Cobham song to layer over each other. With the perfect truncation of sound and a little pitch increase, it’s up there with Havoc’s ‘Shook Ones Pt. II’ and RZA’s ‘Verbal Intercourse’ samples as one of the craziest flips of all time.

Flip 2: Rick Ross, ‘Thug Cry’ (Feat. Lil' Wayne)

Credit J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League for at least adjusting their method to Ross’s and making this flip as lazy as possible. Rick Ross tries this kind of re-digested '90s nostalgia elsewhere on ‘Mastermind’ with the abhorrent ‘Nobody,’ but being original was never Rozay’s thing in the first place. ‘Thug Cry’ comes off as cheap and uninspired, especially with that Wayne verse attached.

Flip 3: Big K.R.I.T. – ‘No Wheaties’ (Feat. Curren$y & Smoke DZA)

This is a f--king flip. When Big K.R.I.T. first started getting wider Internet attention, it was through  short lived creative hub DD172, where K.R.I.T.'s manager Jonny Shipes linked him up with Curren$y and Smoke DZA. There, K.R.I.T. completed this dazzling song from ‘K.R.I.T. Wuz Here,’ and before the album came out, fans got a special sneak preview of the cut.

Cinematic TV was essential during that period, capturing moments in the studio that encapsulated what Dame was trying to accomplish at the creative space that was DD172. The video shows the making of ‘No Wheaties,’ but plays the song front to back. We see each member performing their verses live, with Spitta’s making the greatest impression as he cuts through the beat drop with staircases of rhymes.

K.R.I.T. took a completely different part of the Cobham record (around 4:45), though it’s still Duke’s keys being looped. Crisp drums and flying sax finish the job, but the bass and that central theme become the backbone to ‘No Wheaties,’ showing off not only K.R.I.T.’s genius as a producer, but also the abundance of sample-ready moments in ’Heather.’

Ultimately, Souls of Mischief win out with the original flip from over 20 years ago. A-Plus set the precedent for producers like K.R.I.T. to get creative with it, but there will always be lazy imitators, and Rick Ross will always be there to rhyme over their beats.

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