I can only imagine how tedious and tiresome it must be for new artists to have to comb through catalogs and CD collections dense with the same sounds, instrumentations, beats and production when starting up a new project. Grappling with the questions of “What should this sound like?” or “Where do I want my aesthetic to develop into throughout this journey?” can always be the stun gun that paralyzes the momentum of a brilliant brainstorm. However, what I appreciate most about an artist is their fearlessness and gull to make tracks from the weirdest and extraterrestrial noise that the ear naturally rejects. Burrowed deep inside genres so far off from what the average Hip-Hop artist would go to first to sample, many would be surprised by how categories like folk, house, ambient, and lo-fi become overlooked, but can make a significant difference in how sounds can progress during the building process of a project in motion. Thus, I have compiled a short list of some atypical tracks from great musicians who are guaranteed to give your next project the knock in the jaw that will crack the spines of even the stiffest of listeners. The list goes as follows:
10. Eyes Wider Than Before – Scott Matthews
Hazy, distorted harmonic vocals, joyful finger picking steel stings, and a simple bongo drum beat to accompany the musical feud, there is much to choose from on this minimalist track. Nothing too layered, a nice range in voice, and a cozy overlay of string instrumentation with a hint of shakers gives this track the perfect pitch that can be used for practically anything – hooks, voice as actual instrumentation for beat construction, or a simple loop of Matthews grassy and melodic crooning would do just fine.
9. Tomboy – Yellerkin
Partially biased because I know these (amazing) dudes personally, Yellerkin throws us back to last week’s post on top 10 most underrated tracks for sampling with their heavy influences from moody indie rock band, Local Natives. A track gushing with sugary sweet melodies and harmonies, crisp claps, round bass and drum, and multi-track vocals layered over one another like perfect origami, “Tomboy” would be an interesting pick for artists who are ready to let go of the simple rip and shred of 80’s classic RnB riff samples and ready to take on something a bit more complex and dynamic. I am also unabashedly in love with this track and would be beyond ecstatic to see a Hip-Hop/RnB/Soul artist sample them in another context outside of the indie rock scene.
8. To Kingdom Come – Passion Pit
Oh, Passion Pit. You first made your major debut when non-profit organization Invisible Children ran your most phenomenal track “Sleepyhead” to the ground at rallies, camp outs, and marches in our nation’s capital. This collective is a group of incredible musicians, producers, and minds constantly zooming with zany ideas for sonic and electric sounds that literally shock listeners into bewilderment. The track’s dreamy synths reminiscent of 80s early pop era highlights Passion Pit’s signature falsettos of Michael Angelakos, as well as its catchy hooks that are perfect for chopping and screwing. After their release of Manners, their bold and unapologetic sound became incredibly watered down and bastardized due to pressures from high execs for them to be more marketable. I only recommend Chunk of Change EP to see more tracks by them. Otherwise, happy ripping.
7. Postcards From Italy – Beirut
A childhood favorite (well, probably 6 out of 10 are from my youth), this track is best known for the drowning vocal leads of Zach Condon and the Afro-Caribbean brass trumpet solos in the bridge. The breakdown is probably my favorite part, as well as the steady strum of the ukulele. And the marching band drums. An ensemble of love in sound and manner. I know one of you out there understands the brilliance in construction of this track.
6. Transatlanticism – Death Cab For Cutie
Off their hit record, Transatlaticism, Death Cab For Cutie was a suburban teen’s gospel for ages into high school and into higher learning. Depressing, melodramatic, and languorous in subject matter, this sagging tune is great for building upon its simple piano and guitar duet, as well as Ben Gibbard’s emo voice over. This 7 minute and 55 second track spends about a whole 3 building the track’s momentum into an explosive climax toward the end. I have not a clue as to how to approach ripping this track apart, but I would be curious of the conclusions had and drawn from artists who feel ready to step outside the box and look for sound that they aren’t necessarily accustomed to borrowing for great samples.
5. This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race – Fall Out Boy
The 90’s babies were raised on pop, and these guys have never left our iTunes, no matter how many clean sweeps we did to free up room for new, futuristic sounds of 2014. Fall Out Boy is known for their great marketing and cross-over appeal into different genres outside of parent genre, Rock N Roll. Patrick Stump’s overly embellished soulful vocals and harmonies would be something fun to play with while building a beat – and yes, that is a direct reference to Lil’ Wayne’s track off The Carter III, “Let The Beat Build.” Actually, Stumps’ if vocals were taken out of context and put over a dope beat, it would sound like Wayne’s track. See, it’s all basic math, people.
4. Chamakay – Blood Orange
Straight out the gate this beat already sounds like a beast on its own. Deep bass and drums, croons, voice intention, harmonies, and ghostly flight of layered vocals gives this track the aesthetic of Michael Jackson, still wearing his red leather jack, rebirthed into the airwaves of 2024. The production is crazy, the options in the sorts of rips and chops you can do to this track are literally endless. You really could just make an entire album from just this song alone. In addition, Blood Orange is an incredibly underrated collective, so that’s more incentive to support your fellow working artists in their endeavors and movements.
3. Better Man – James Morrison
This track secured the top 3 spot for multiple reasons. One, it’s very simple, from content to aesthetic. Morrison’s scratchy soulful vocals and passionate falsetto riff well over his 4-chord progression, singing of the most melancholy dedication to a love he may have almost lost due to a mistake or hiccup in their relationship. A slow track for the common MC, we have seen experts in their craft take some of the crawling beats of rnb’s and soul’s past and made brilliant songs – from Kanye’s “Blood on the Leaves,” taken from Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” as well as his coloration with BIG Brother Jay Z on “New Day,” from Simone’s “Feeling Good.” Maybe Drake could make a really depressing track from this and have all of his listeners croon along as they sing of how they could be better lovers.
2. Entre Dos Aguas – Ojos De Brujo
I was saving this track for the very bottom, because they are literally the poster child of the underrated, under-appreciated musician. This political artist collective from Spain sing songs of revolution, anti-capitalism/anti-facism, liberation and freedom over scorching world rhythms and sounds. Simply: there dominant Spanish guitara and Afro-Carribbean drums, flawless improvisational finger picking, flamingo strumming, the sounds of Barcelona in the middle of summer rain, Ojos De Brujo have a whole catalog unpublished of songs that are really polished and brilliant. Someone pull another Carlos Santana x Wyclef project and make some cool ass shit from this track. Forreal, I dare you.
1. Pussy – Brazilian Girls
Brief preface: Don’t be fooled by the name (or chorus). This track is far from vulgar and disrespectful. First time I heard this song was in Algebra class in the 9th grade, and my best friend at the time had all this crazy weird music on her iPod and we would listen to her playlists all the time because our teacher was a horrible instructor. Anyway, I remember when this first played and I flipped – in a good way. No Doubt Gwen Stefani meets Ojos De Brujo in the middle of Congo Square with Mykki Blanco emceeing 90’s ska on the eve of Martis Gras. I’ll leave you with that, to your own devices for imagination, and allowance to build and create out of a university sounds.