There are moments in Hip-Hop when I find myself more appreciative of the sample selection(s) than the usage itself. That doesn’t necessarily take away from the reclamation projects that dominate much of production. Instead, it speaks to the wealth of knowledge embedded in the offspring of music’s bastard child (© DJ Jazzy Jay).
And that’s sort of where I’m at right now. As I sit back and take in rapper Curren$y’s most recent endeavor, I’m energized. Priest Andretti is a synthesis of Blaxploitation sounds and sensibilities, presented through the lens of modernity. Having seen the film Super Fly more times than I care to share and having listened to the accompanying Curtis Mayfield soundtrack more times than I can remember, this is my sort of project. As always, hats off to Spitta.
But that’s not what caught my attention. Towards the backend of the mixtape, I was introduced to a relatively short track titled, “2Much.” It begins as most cuts from the project do, with an excerpt taken directly from the film. It’s the archetypal “last score” speech—redemption found in just one more bad decision. It’s a narrative of conflict birthed through contradiction.
As this moment of musical foreshadowing concludes, the beat enters stage left. And this is where I stop.
The importance of Lonnie Liston Smith is just too expansive to discuss at this time. But if you’ve been following the site the way I have, you’ll understand, at least, a portion of his significance. What you hear on “2Much” can be simply understood as Smith’s composition, “A Song of Love.” Recorded in 1976, the song finds Smith accompanied by the Cosmic Echoes. Talented in its own right, the collective featured, Pharoah Sanders, Cecil McBee (bass), George Barron (soprano and tenor sax), Joe Beck (guitar), David Lee, Jr. (drums), James Mtume (percussion), Sonny Morgan (percussion), Badal Roy (tabla drums), Geeta Vashi (tamboura), and last but certainly not least, the soulful styling of Smith’s brother, Donald (vocals). And yet, even in the confines of a legitimate “supergroup,” Lonnie Liston Smith is the show. What makes this song so great, captured perfectly in the redux, is Smith’s relentless play on the keys. It’s stark. It’s aggressive. It’s powerful. It’s every imaginable adjective to describe something that hits you in the chest the moment it touches your ears.
When you couple this with the leisurely delivery of Curren$y, you get an odd balance. I can’t explain why it works, but it does. The final product is another for the illustrious discography of New Orlean’s most prolific emcee. But going back to my original point, I’m more impressed about the selection of the sample itself. A great song is a great song, there’s no taking away from that regardless of how it’s made. However, in an instance like this, I’m doubly impressed as a student of the game. Sampling these sorts of dusty gems, teaches myself and others about sounds undeservingly overlooked. It demands that we dig just a little deeper.
I wholeheartedly suggest taking a listen to Priest Andretti. As always, Curren$y brings the heat. But when you’re through with that, take a step back and enjoy the genius of the Lonnie Liston Smith catalog. You won’t be disappointed.
Written By: Paul Pennington