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Who Flipped It Better? Drake vs. Just Blaze

The Sample: Reg Tilsley Orchestra – ‘Warlock’ (1972)

You can’t find much information about Reg Tilsley or his orchestra on the internet. He was involved with De Wolfe, the first production music library formed in 1927. Production music, also known as library or stock music, is used exclusively for licensing in TV, film, radio and other media platforms. Unlike traditional publishing splits on popular music, the copyrights for production music are 100 percent owned by the production music library. The music was often ambient, certainly strange and far from traditional.

Flip 1: ‘The ROC (Just Fire),’ Cam’ron

Just Blaze and the good folks at Roc-A-Fella Records ponied up some dough for ‘The ROC (Just Fire)’ from Cam’s ‘Come Home With Me’ album. Arguably the hardest beat on the album, ‘The ROC’ is built entirely on the horn sample from ‘Warlock;’ without it, the song wouldn’t be a classic.

On the original, the theme is played by bass and strings from the start. What’s so fascinating about hearing the songs that producers sample is pinpointing exactly which part they use. The melody is constant throughout the entire song, but Just Blaze waits until the very last riff to lift the horn loop. Unlike all the other parts when the theme repeats on ‘Warlock,’ the final riff has a one-note coda at the end. That’s the part Just Blaze both chopped (right before the drums drop on ‘The ROC’) as well as extended during the verses. Same sound, two different uses.

Flip 2: ‘We Made It, ‘Drake & Soulja Boy

Soulja Boy tapped producer Purp Dogg for the ‘We Made It’ beat, featuring crisp, cascading drums and a different portion of the ‘Warlock’ record. The horns have got a thick layer of slop on top of them, as though promethazine coats the top of the beat. It’s hard to tell what instrument is playing the sample that appears at the 2:40-mark on ‘Warlock’ (this was an orchestral recording, after all), but it sounds like a sax. Far more subdued than the triumphant part Just Blaze lifts, Purp Dogg’s sample works in the context that Drake and Soulja Boy give it. ‘We Made It’ basically sounds like a celebratory chant song to get really f—ed up to.

The filter used on ‘We Made It’ gets the point across — the drums are muddy, as if buried under tons of smoke. The producer could have used what clearly sticks out as the cleanest part of the record — the last few seconds — but his choice of the murkier loop necessitates the harder drums.

Just Blaze’s flip is hard in a different way. The way he chops up the horns is impeccable, where as Purp Dogg didn’t cut up any parts of the loop he uses. Just’s drums don’t bang as hard, but he almost uses the horn chops percussively at the beginning of the record, and throughout the song he maneuvers a shifty interplay between the different instruments. While the drums and the horns are separately enjoyable on ‘We Made It,’ standing alone on the same beat, Just Blaze melds the musical elements together to make it feel like one sound builds on another.

It’s a classic lesson not only in the difference between beatmaker and producer, but also in how you cater to different artists by structuring beats differently. Just Blaze takes the crown this week.

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