Sample Wars: Dr. Dre vs. Masta Ace

February 14, 2013 | Andy Cush

Each week in Sample Wars, we’ll pit two songs which sample the same source material head-to-head against each other, to determine which one rocked the sample better.

This week, we’ll take a look at David McCallum’s “The Edge,” which spawned Dr. Dre’s “The Next Episode” and Masta Ace’s “No Regrets.”

“The Edge, “David McCallum (1967): Performed by a Scottish television actor who now plays the medical examiner on NCIS, “The Edge” finds jazzy flute-led passages trading bars with orchestral flourishes, in a slice of Morricone-inflected instrumental pop that sounds weirdly outside of time.

“The Next Episode,” Dr. Dre Featuring Snoop Dogg, produced by Dr. Dre (2000): In “The Next Episode,” Dr. Dre takes his patented G-funk sound into the 21st century, augmenting its syrupy synths with brooding orchestral music and staccato guitars. Dre and Snoop’s verses are mostly forgettable, but the production (which actually features an interpolation of “The Edge,” not a sample), the hook, and Nate Dogg’s immortal “smoke weed every day” coda make this a classic.

“No Regrets,” Masta Ace, produced by Domingo (2001): Released just one year after “The Next Episode,” “No Regrets” takes “The Edge” in the opposite direction, looping its downtempo flute riff under introspective rhymes from Masta Ace. Where Dre’s track is all funky futurism, producer Domingo uses the sample in the service of straightforward New York City boom-bap. A slept on classic, even if Ace hates on this writer’s home state.

The Verdict: “The Edge” is an embarrassment of potential samples–the untrained ear could listen to the two songs above and have no idea they came from the same source. Kudos to Domingo and Masta Ace for taking an original spin on the material, but we’re giving the proverbial “edge” to Dr. Dre. He took the song’s most idiosyncratic section–a two measure guitar riff that’s abruptly tossed off after one iteration–and ran with it, creating an entire sound-world. Seems like McCallum didn’t even realize he had gold on his hands.