Sample Wars: Flying Lotus vs. Busta Rhymes and J Dilla

August 1, 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’s Sample Wars looks at two of our era’s most titanic musicians: J Dilla and Flying Lotus. “Pie Face,” from FlyLo’s 2010 Pattern + Grid World EP, and “What Up,” produced by Dilla for Busta Rhymes in 2002, share a sample in “Psyche Rock,” a pop oddity from French musique concréte pioneer Pierre Henry (that also provided inspiration for the Futurama theme).

“Psyche Rock,” Pierre Henry, 1964: If you know “Psyche Rock” already (really if you know Herny at all and you’re not a nerd for contemporary classical music), it’s because of Futurama. And yes, it does sound kitschy and futuristic, and it’s not difficult to understand what Futurama composer Christopher Tyng heard in it. But it’s also a sonic collage befitting of an avant-garde tape music legend’s first, strange foray into rock music, mixing guitars and drums with analog synth squeaks and churchy-sounding bells.

“What Up,” Busta Rhymes, 2002, produced by J Dilla: “What Up” presents J Dilla at his most raw, funky and minimal. Kick on the one, snare on the two, and stiff, otherworldy synth bleeps and bloops courtesy of the intro to “Psyche Rock.” Busta’s verses feel like a missed opportunity–this is the kind of beat he’s murdered many times before–but everything here is too safe, too in the pocket, not nearly unhinged enough, though the intro’s “go ahead and crash your whip in the fucking wall” is one hell of an ad lib.

“Pie Face,” Flying Lotus, 2010 As was the case with Chance the Rapper’s overt Dilla/Slum village we looked at a while back, this one is probably a case of a Dilla disciple paying homage to the master. “Pie Face” sounds very little like “What Up” on the surface; where the Busta track is lean and economical, Fly Lo is bursting to the brim with sounds and ideas. But those same synth bloops are there–focus on the first few seconds of this track and you’ll hear them. I’d bet money they were deliberately included as a tribute.

The Verdict: A draw. Do you like your beats snappy and clean, take the Dilla; if you like them murky and psychedelic, take the FlyLo. If your only requirement is backbreaking, forward-thinking funk, take them both.