Sampling Evolution: Donald Byrd + Main Source + Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
by Winston "Stone" Ford
It’s very rare for me to enjoy a hip-hop sample and every single song that sampled it, but Donald Byrd’s “Think Twice” is an enjoyable exception.
Yesterday, while I drove the the rooftop party at Beacon, I blasted this song down Rhode Island Avenue with the windows down and the sunroof open. “Think Twice” is off of the album Stepping Into Tomorrow, which most of y’all may know was covered by Madlib a few years ago. Even though “Steppin'” has gotten more recent acclaim, “Think Twice” still takes the crown for best sampled track.
Take, for instance, Main Source’s, “Knocking at the Front Door,” from their 1990 album Breaking Atoms. Large Professor’s take on remixing acid jazz bests A Tribe Called Quests efforts by 1 year (and largely influencing the sound of the early 90s East Coast bohemian hip-hop scene.
The effect was simple. Take the bridge from Byrd’s song, add some breaks, and bam, instant rap song. This bridge is so damn powerful, and for me, outshines the lyrics of the song.
Less than a year later, Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, famous for cute 80s pop hits like “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” sampled Byrd’s bridge and sped the tempo up for the house track, “Let The Beat Hit ‘Em.”
Even though “Let the Beat Hit Em” used the exact same sample, the house sound not only breathed new life into the Byrd’s original track but differentiated itself from Main Source’s vibe as well. I was in LOVE with this song growing up. When I was 11 years old, I would wait around until 9PM when the local R&B station would play this track on the radio. In fact, the track spent a brief time at the top of the R&B charts that year, back when house music crossed over into the mainstream.
Byrd’s bridge is quite possibly one of the best loops ever found and sampled. It probably won’t go down in hip-hop history, but should be recognized nonetheless.