Around the World with Jay Dee: Part 4 – Europe (continued)

Illustration: Jeremy Leung

Jay Dee (aka J Dilla) was no stranger to moving out of hip hop’s comfort zone and into new sonic territory.

Whether it’s short as a single vocal phrase or as left-field as a retro synth melody, anything is fair game from a sampling perspective as long as it captures something special. Flipping through Jay Dee’s discography, it becomes clear that he felt no need to keep things ‘traditional.’ Rather, he embraced the distinct and pioneering elements of one musical style by re-imagining them in another.

We continue our “Around the World with Jay Dee” series with somewhere you might not expect when it comes to hip hop – the Mediterranean. But Italy is home to Giorgio Moroder, one of the most influential composer-producers of the 20th century proclaimed the “Father of Disco,” if not modern electronic dance music as a whole. It turns out even hip hop was no exception to his influence.

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J Dilla’s “Phantom of the Synths” samples Giorgio Moroder’s “Theme From Midnight Express.”

There’s no shortage of hip hop producers with some Moroder in their beats – this sample alone appears on tracks by MF DOOM, Mobb Deep, Jay Electronica, and OutKast. The catchy synth melody is taken from the 1978 crime drama Midnight Express, Moroder’s first motion picture soundtrack, which coincidentally went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Score the following year. Jay Dee speeds up the pattern, thickens up the drums, and lets the original sample shine through with its lead organ line, layered synth stabs, bubbly effects, and underlying bed of strings.

The original sample from Giorgio Moroder’s “Theme From Midnight Express”

How the sample was used.

Jay Dee’s “Track 18” (Unreleased) samples Giorgio Moroder’s “E=MC².”

A previously unreleased track from 1998, “Track 18” also sampled Moroder. The repeated vocal snippet from “E=MC²” comes courtesy of Moroder’s 1979 album of the same name, which was one of the first to be recorded using entirely digital means. Heavy vocoder and delay effects comprise the lush, harmonic sample that’s layered across multiple octaves. The track was eventually released as a collaborative effort with Common, years later.

The original sample from Giorgio Moroder’s “E=MC².”

How the sample was used, at 16:06 on the beat tape.

J Dilla’s “DD.13” samples Perigeo’s “Via Beto Angelico.”

70s Italian prog rock and electronica get sampled more heavily than one might think, as evidenced by another of Jay Dee’s deft sourcings. Perigeo released multiple records during this time and drew heavily on jazz influences to create the dreamy, delayed keyboard riffs in this unreleased Jay Dee cut. With “DD.13,” he cleverly brings out Perigeo’s heavily delayed bell-like riffs and subtle guitar plucks and complements them with additional chords and some deep electric bass. The result is cosmic, relaxing, and loopable for days.

The original sample from Perigeo’s “Via Beto Angelico.”

How the sample was used.


J Dilla’s “Someone Used This Already” samples Vangelis’ “Stuffed Aubergine.”

The next stop on our sampling journey is Greece, featuring the discography of another award-winning composer. Evángelos Odysséas Papathanassíou, more commonly known as Vangelis, has brought his uniquely influential electronic music to the big screen in films like Blade Runner and to televisions across the world in Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. However, Jay Dee chose a passage from Vangelis’ 1978 studio album Dragon to serve as the melodic foundation here. The original sequence is simple yet powerful, consisting of two plucked instruments (perhaps a synthesizer and guitar) weaving beautifully in and out of the mix. He lets this melancholic melody take centerstage in his production, complemented solely by one of his signature drum patterns – which itself is both minimal and catchy.

The original sample from Vangelis’ “Stuffed Aubergine.” 

How the sample was used.

J Dilla’s “Track 32” samples Vangelis’ “Alpha.”

So nice, he sampled Vangelis twice. For this unreleased track, Jay Dee takes the first few notes of “Alpha,” a 1981 release also by the famed synth master. The twinkly melody serves as the centerpiece for this track, and not much is altered from the original – have a listen.

The original sample from Vangelis’ “Alpha.”

How the sample was used.

J Dilla’s “Track 19” samples Stelios Kazantzidis’ “Efuge Efuge.”

Stelios Kazantzidis was a Greek singer known for popularizing Laïko, a traditional style of Greek folk music. For this beat flip, he speeds up a section of the organ-playing, loops it, then filters out most of the low and mid frequencies to let the sample float atop the beat. The result is something odd and eclectic, but just as heavy and head-nodding as any great Jay Dee track.

The original sample from Stelios Kazantzidis’ “Efuge Efuge.”

How the sample was used.

Stay tuned for the final installment of “Around the World with Jay Dee,” where we head to the U.K. to explore his love of acts like Jamiroquai and Stereolab.

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November 3, 2018