Sample Wars: Rick Ross vs. Joey Bada$$

July 18, 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.

In some ways, Joey Bada$$ and Rick Ross couldn’t be more different. One is a teenager from Flatbush who, despite high-profile cosigns, still feels like an anachronistic underdog, spitting terminally laid-back rappity raps over jazzy production that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Souls of Mischief album. The other’s persona is built entirely around the idea that he’s not the underdog–he’s the bawse, he has money, his beats all sound like they cost more than your house. Those dollar signs in Joey’s name seem cheeky and a little aspirational; in Rick Ro$$’s, they’d read as simple statement of fact.

And yet here were are: Joey Bada$$’s “95 Til Infinity” (speaking of Souls of Mischief) and Rick Ross’s “Maybach Music III” both sample the same source material: Latin fusion band Caldera’s “Ancient Source.” Let’s have a listen.

“Ancient Source,” Caldera, 1977: “Ancient Source” begins with a spacey groove befitting its mystical-sounding title–all sweeping strings, vocals about owning the clouds and the meaning of life, and fretless bass–then eventually comes to a livelier place thanks to some crisp percussion work from drummer Carlos Vega. Fittingly, each of the tracks here reaches from a different section–Joey Bada$$’s from the slow, blunted opening, and Rick Ross’s from the regal second half.

“Maybach Music III,” Rick Ross feat. T.I., Jadakiss, and Erykah Badu, 2010, produced by J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League: This might be the most luxuriant beat Ross has ever rapped on, besides maybe “Devil in a New Dress.” The reverberations from Teflon Don’s most famous track are still being felt today in both rap and dance music, but it was equally filled with music like this, grand, sweeping soundtracks to riding smoking cigars and riding in luxury cars.

“95 Til Infinity,” Joey Bada$$, produced by Lee Bannon, 2013: The beat is as laid-back as Joey has ever rapped on, but he takes the opportunity to display a newfound intensity reminiscent of his buddies in Flatbush Zombies. The opening of “Ancient Source” is pitched up and run through a smooth low-pass filter, rendering it even mellower than it is on the original track.

The Verdict: It’s hard to root against the Brooklyn-raised underdog here, but for real: Maybach Music III is a pinnacle of Rick Ross-ness, and that is something to be celebrated. I feel rich just writing about it. Hungry, energetic verses from T.I. and Jadakiss don’t hurt either.