Kevin Casey’s Sample Saturday – Sting et Nas

In conversations amongst hip-hop purists, you will consistently hear Nas’ Illmatic near the top of people’s lists.  I’m certainly not knocking the undeniable classic that it is, but It Was Written was always my favorite Nas album, largely because of my obsession with “The Message”.  It was my Wu-Tang tape that introduced me to hip-hop, got us two properly acquainted, and built my appreciation for the art-form… lyrics first.  Next up was a few other albums, including Nas’ second.  The spacey guitar in the intro of “The Message” was something that I couldn’t get enough of, as I OD-ed on my rewind>play buttons (I let my tape rock ’till my tape pop).  It was the turning point for me as a listener, and from that point on the beat became my main focus.  It was also the first time that I wanted to know the origin of a sample, and somehow (with no google) I found out.

The Trackmasters, who produced the bulk of It Was Written, used the opening loop from Sting’s “Shape My Heart” to lay the foundation of what would eventually become one of Nas’ standout pieces of work.  The song starts with the loop fading in slowly, with a high pitched tremelo sound that follows the 4-chord progression, this is also used to layer the hook.  The Sting loop marches on throughout the record, and something about the progression gives it an endless quality that refuses to feel played out. The chorus features Kid Capri scratching in a few classic lines from Illmatic, probably the most famous being “I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death”.  I have to pay homage to The Trackmasters for sparking something in my head with this beat that would eventually grow into a burning passion for hip-hop production.  So much that here I am talking about it week after week. Thanks for checkin in…

Sting – Shape My Heart

Nas – The Message

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