Sample Wars: Kanye West vs. Large Professor

September 19, 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 looking at “Bound 2” from Yeezus. It was recently released as that polarizing album’s second single (here’s ‘Ye and Charlie Wilson performing it on Jools Holland earlier this week) and is by far the warmest, most old-Kanye-sounding cut on the otherwise dark, industrial-tinged album.

“Bound,” The Ponderosa Twins Plus One, 1971
The Ponderosa Twins were in fact two sets of identical twins (Kirk and Keith Gardner and Alfred and Alvin Pelham), “plus one” in the form of impossibly high-voiced lead singer Ricky Spicer. They were a young vocal group in the vein of The Jackson Five who unfortunately disbanded in 1975 before getting the chance to record much material. “Bound” is a thing of beauty, with cascading vocal harmonies on top of warm and twinkly keyboards. Spicer’s voice is so high that the hook–the part sampled in “Bound 2″ –sounds like it already has Kanye’s signature pitched-up effect already in place.”

“Bowne,” Large Professor, 1996/2009:
There’s no denying the influence of Large Professor on the sound of classic NYC hip hop, and therefore on rap in general. P gets a lot of mileage out of “Bound”‘s keyboard-led intro, only dipping into the vocals for the hook. Cleverly, he purposely “mishears” “Bound” as “Bowne” to pay tribute to Flushing, Queens’s John Bowne High School.

“Bound 2,” Kanye West, 2013: “Bound 2” plays like a beautiful oasis at the end of the dense, unrelentingly dickheaded Yeezus. There’s the trademark soul sample courtesy of the Ponderosa Twins, there are nostalgic, summery references to proms and “red cups all on the lawn,” there’s that absolutely transcendent Charlie Rose middle eight. And after three months with the album, I’m still beguiled that the beat doesn’t even have a drum loop.

The Verdict: Kanye all the way. The track is a gem on its own, and works even better within the context of the album. Even though he basically just lets the sample loop, it feels like a revelation after 35 minutes of distorted drums and dissonant synths. It’s possible, however, that Kanye or his co-producers were inspired by Large Professor’s use of the sample: check out how he opens the track with a short, stuttered loop–the same technique P uses during “Bowne”‘s second verse.