Sample Wars: UGK and OutKast vs. GZA and ODB

May 9, 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’re focusing on what’s one of the all-time great loops in my book: Willie Hutch’s 1973 orchestral soul jam “I Choose You,” sampled in UGK and OutKast’s instant classic “International Players Anthem (I Choose You)” and the GZA/Ol’ Dirty Bastard deep cut “Crash Your Crew.”

“I Choose You,” Willie Hutch, 1973 (samples appear at :07 and :10): “I Choose You” is a thing of exquisite beauty. For this cut from the soundtrack to the Richard Pryor-starring blaxploitation film The Mack, Hutch takes Isaac Hayes’s symphonic soul template to dizzying, melodramatic heights, layering cascading horns and strings with a positively soaring main melody line. Both tracks here sample the track’s opening bars, with wildly different results. Juicy J and DJ Paul take a large swath for “International Players Anthem,” replicating the feel of the original, while John the Baptist a two-beat snippet of saxophone for GZA’s track, transforming it entirely.

“International Players Anthem,” UGK featuring OutKast, produced by DJ Paul and Juicy J, 2007 (sample appears at :00): What can I write about “International Players Anthem” that hasn’t been written already? Released shortly after Pimp C was released from prison and just months before he died, the track can’t help but feel like a final victory lap for the group, with fellow Dirty South lifers OutKast stepping in for the assist. Andre 3000 turns in a career-highlight first verse, Pimp C gets in just as the beat drops with choosy lovers and Kompressors, Bun B dances all over the beat, and Big Boi bats cleanup.

“Crash Your Crew,” GZA feat. Ol’ Dirty Bastard, produced by John the Baptist, 1999 (sample appears at :03):  “Crash Your Crew” is just a minor blip in the full chronology of Wu-Tang–even in GZA’s solo catalogue, it’s not exactly a standout–but still, this is prime-era Genius we’re talking about here. ODB gives a characteristically batshit hook (no verse, unfortunately), and the beat, by second-string Wu-affiliate John the Baptist, delivers lithe, syncopated funk that’s worlds away from both “I Choose You”‘s slow grandiosity and the minor-key RZA productions we’re used to hearing GZA go in on. Interesting note: in 2003, Wu-Tang Clan extended family member Mathematics would go on to use “I Choose You” for a beat that sounds a lot more like UGK’s interpretation

The Verdict: It’s really no contest– “International Players Anthem” is one of the great singles of this or any century, “Crash Your Crew” is a tossoff by an admittedly huge talent. Still, kudos to both artists for doing something completely original with the source material. To the untrained ear, the two beats couldn’t sound any more different.