In this, the second instalment of our three-part look at the samples comprising Quasimoto's The Unseen, we break down the tracks from "Real Eyes" to "Green Power." If you've found your way here from elsewhere, you might like to check out Part I.
On another sample-rich cut, Madlib and Lord Quas lay waste to money-hungry rappers without an appreciation for the art form. The constant preoccupation with clothes, hoes, rivalries and reputations gets in the way of artistry, which explains why Quas steers clear of it.
The underlying instrumental is built from Arawak's "Accadde A Bali," a track from his 1970 funk record, Accadde A........
Arawak was an alias of Italian composer Benito Simoncini, who recorded swathes of film scores throughout the '70s and '80s. As Arawak, Simoncini recorded five LPs of library music that spanned jazz, funk, electronica and ambient genres.
The track opens with a two-bar grab from a Funkmaster Flex freestyle. The guest emcee is Canibus, who'd taken to the Hot 97 DJ's renowned segment to prove himself. It was commercially released on a 1998 compilation.
The group, led by Isaac "Redd" Holt, released just two records, both in the mid-'70s. Despite their lack of studio releases, Holt purportedly played under the moniker until the '90s. Madlib goes on to sample another of Holt's outfits, Young-Holt Unlimited, on The Unseen track "Astro Black."
The voice at 0:07 - "okay, here's another song now..." - belongs to disgraced comedian Bill Cosby. The sample is taken from "I Found A Way Out," a track included on 1971's Bill Cosby Talks To Kids About Drugs. An educational record intended to educate children about the dangers of drug use, it's aged so, so poorly.
Madlib creates a full Cosby intro by splicing together fragments of dialogue from across the same record. The second sample appears at 0:10, when Cosby says "we want you to listen to the next song... I think this next song, this is about a guy who--." It then abruptly cuts to a third sample from the educational LP.
The third and final Cosby sample is taken from "Bill Talks About Pushers." As the title suggests, the track finds Cosby warning children about the dangers of drug dealers. Madlib stitches Cosby's comments into the opening, adding: "--doesn't care about your health, all he cares about is if he can get that money." It's a pretty apt description of the drug dealing, thieving miscreant that is Lord Quas.
The distinctive vocal that appears at 0:25 is none other the legendary Wu-Tang emcee Ol' Dirty Bastard. "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" was the second single from his solo debut, 1995's Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version. It's been sampled by acts such as A$AP Rocky, Kanye and Common.
ODB died of an accidental overdose in 2003, having released just two acclaimed solo albums. He was 35.
The quiet choir-like backing at 0:35 appears at the close of Dorothy Ashby's "The Moving Finger." Ashby was an accomplished jazz harpist who recorded 11 studio albums and played alongside artists such as Stevie Wonder, Bobby Womack and Bill Withers. "The Moving Finger" was featured on The Rubaiyat of Dorothy Ashby, on which she played the koto.
Another blink-and-you'll-miss-it vocal sample is taken from Mobb Deep's "Survival Of The Fittest." The lyric that opens that track's chorus, "we're living this--," can be heard at 1:15 on "Real Eyes."
"Survival of the Fittest" appeared on Mobb Deep's most revered album, 1995's The Infamous. Released as the second single, the track has is regarded as an East Coast classic, second only to the group's signature song,
Immediately after the Mobb Deep sample comes words from another East Coast duo. For his second sample of a Funkmaster Flex freestyle, Madlib borrows from Gang Starr. A Brooklyn-based group comprised of rapper Guru and producer DJ Premier, released six albums over 14 years. In the sample, Guru lets us know that he "ain't tolerating blatant disrespect for this artform," a sentiment Lord Quas has expressed by calling out posturing emcees and money-hungry artists.
The instrumental that suddenly appears at 2:12 is sampled from Flora Purim's "Love's The Way I Feel 'Bout Cha." A legendary Brazilian jazz singer, Purim has recorded 17 albums as leader and contributed to works by Santana, George Duke, Dizzy Gillespie and Chick Corea. 1978's That's What She Said, on which this track appeared, was her ninth solo effort.
Digga's sampled verse finds him berating hip hop artists who jump from style to style in keeping with trends, a sentiment explored on the preceding Gang Starr sample. Madlib cuts up his verse and spreads it across 20 seconds of "Real Eyes."
The closing vignette - a classic staple of Madlib's production - is borrowed from Charles Wright and Watts 103rd Rhythm Band's 1970 track, "High As Apple Pit Part II."
"Come On Feet"
Lord Quas flips a Melvin Van Peebles sample on a track about fleeing to live another day. Underpinning it all are two samples from La Planete Sauvage, one from jazz musician Alain Goraguer's OST and the other from a key scene in which a human wanders throughout an alien world.
Madlib punctuates the track with a sped-up sample of the drums from Little Feat's "Fool Yourself." Little Feat, in their original incarnation, were a short lived rock group from Los Angeles. They were fronted by Lowell George, guitarist and onetime Grateful Dead producer, and disbanded months before his sudden death in 1979. George was 34.
Two of the four samples on "Come On Feet" are taken from Alain Goraguer's La Planete Sauvage soundtrack. The 1973 French animation had a big influence on The Unseen, contributing both oddball samples and aesthetic influences. Critic François Couture wrote that the soundtrack conjurs "an interesting marijuana-induced sci-fi floating mood, blending psychedelia, jazz, and funk." Just tell me that doesn't sound like Quasimoto's shit.
The second sample is incorporates diegetic sound, utilising narrative sound effects to emulate the sounds of scurrying feet. In the clip, a Draag feeds an Om, or human, by pouring food into its enclosure. The psychedelic film has been interpreted as an allegory for both the ills of racism and the importance of animal rights.
"Come On Feet Do Your Thing," the key vocal sample throughout "Come On Feet," appeared on the soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles' 1971 blaxploitation trailblazer, Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. The soundtrack was written by Van Peebles, himself a musician, and performed by Earth, Wind and Fire. Van Peebles released the soundtrack prior to the film in an unorthodox attempt at promotion. Huey Newton was so endeared to the film that he dedicated an entire issue of the Black Panther magazine to it.
Lord Quas and Madlib himself trade verses about tough-talking emcees, who they see as little more than wack pretenders. If you ask them, most of these phoney rappers are bluffin'.
The instrumental underpinning "Bluffin" comes from a live performance of Ahmad Jamal's "Extensions." The 20-minute performance was recorded at the 1971 Montreux Jazz Festival and released on 1972's Outertimeinnerspace. The prolific jazz master released his first record in 1951, and has continued recording well into his eighties.
Madlib samples a brief Lord Finesse lyric at 1:03. "Track The Movement" appeared on 1990's Funky Technician, a collaboration between Finesse and DJ Mike Smooth. The debut for both members of the duo, it received critical acclaim and helped establish the Diggin' In The Crates Crew as one of NYC's most revered musical collectives. Subsequent releases by members of the crew include Big L's Lifestylez ov da Poor N Dangerous, O.C.'s Word...Life and 2000's posse record, D.I.T.C.
The recurring guitar chord that plays throughout "Boom Music" is taken from the opening of Sam & Dave's "When Something Is Wrong With My Baby." The pair were one of the most successful and influential American soul acts, accumulating ten consecutive top 20 singles between '65 and '68. The most enduring of these was '67s "Soul Man."
The track's first vocal sample is taken from Diamond D's "A Day in the Life." Included on his 1992 debut, Stunts, Blunts & Hip Hop, the track featured golden era rap group Brand Nubian. A producer-turned-emcee, Diamond D produced most of his tracks himself.
Diamond D was a founding member of the NYC-based crew D.I.T.C., which counted Big L, Fat Joe, Lord Finesse, Buckwild and O.C. as members.
The loud, wordless ad-libs that begin at 0:10 are vocalisations from Syl Johnson's 1968 track, "Different Strokes." It was included on his debut album, released on Twinight Records. Johnson's success was such that he enabled the label to expand their roster. Johnson himself retired from music to start a fast food store, only returning after realising his place in sampling culture. His daughter, Syleena, is best known for her prominent feature on Kanye West's "All Falls Down."
The glockenspiel trill that first appears at 0:30 is taken from the opening of another Sam & Dave song, "May I Baby." It first appeared as the second track on the duo's most acclaimed album, 1967's Soul Men. That album featured production from Isaac Hayes and instrumentation from Booker T. & The MG's, and lead single "Soul Man" received the 1967 Grammy for Best R&B Group, Vocal or Instrumental.
The track ends with some unexpectedly space-age vocals. These vocals are lifted from the opening to Ronnie Gee's "Raptivity," though the final product featured on "Boom Music" is heavily edited.
Little is available on Ronnie Gee, a man who released five singles between '80 and '86. Some of those records may not be the same Ronnie Gee, though they were released in the same period. Judging by labels, it seems he was based in NYC.
The languid instrumentation that underpins "MHB's" is lifted from Kool & The Gang's "Little Children," a cut off their 1976 record, Open Sesame. The second of two records released by the group that year, it included eventual Saturday Night Fever track "Open Sesame." The rise of disco negatively impacted the group, whose attempts to musically evolve resulted in a disaffected public.
The cowbell-esque percussion placed atop the Kool sample is sourced from New Birth's "You Are What I'm All About."
That song was the final track on the group's fourth album, 1972's Birth Day. The highly prolific outfit had only released their debut as New Birth in '71, and by the time the decade had ended they'd released 12 studio albums under the name.
A sample from Kool & The Gang's aforementioned "Open Sesame" appears twice on "MHB's." The gong sound effect used at 0:07 in Kool's original track appears at both 0:10 and 0:54 on Quas' indictment of gold diggers.
"Snow Creatures" is an instrumental track from Quincy's 1972 Dollar$ soundtrack, which accompanied the well-received caper film starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn. This track has been sampled by many artists, such as Gang Starr, J. Dilla, Lord Finesse and Common. The hi-tech sound effect from 2:34 can first be heard at 0:30, though it's largely overshadowed by the vocal performance. It reappears throughout the track.
The "hey!" ad lib that quietly punctuates Quas' verse at 1:15 is taken from Bobby Byrd's version of James Brown's "Hot Pants." Byrd and Brown were colleagues and collaborators, with Byrd playing organ on Brown's original recording. Both Brown's original and Byrd's cover have been extensively sampled in hip hop. Though it may be a disservice to his own formidable talents, Byrd is best remembered for helping launch Brown's career.
"Put A Curse On You"
Though the instrumental sample remains a mystery nearly two decades on, "Put A Curse On You" features sampled vocals from an increasingly familiar voice.
One easily identifiable sample belongs, yet again, to Melvin Van Peebles. Clearly a favourite of Lord Quas, this Van Peebles sample is taken from 1971's Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death. That album found Melvin performing spoken word over music he'd composed himself.
Timestamps for Van Peebles and Quas are as follows: 0:03 appears at 0:40, 1:14 appears at 0:48, and 0:05 appears at 1:23.
We already know that Lord Quas loves Sun Ra: he goes on to shout him out on Madvillain's "Shadows Of Tomorrow," a track that samples Ra's own "Space Is The Place." This time around, he takes a title and a vocal from the legendary space-jazz afrofuturist.
Quas and Madlib revisit another of their idols, space-jazz pioneer Sun Ra. At 0:04, Ra himself can be heard saying "astro black mythology."
Sun Ra's Astro Black, released in 1973, is another journey into space-age jazz. It features the Arkestra at the peak of their power, and was recorded throughout the development of what would become Sun Ra's afrofuturist feature film, Space Is The Place.
Madlib samples the riff from Joe Cocker's "Woman To Woman," which can be heard from 0:20 onward in "Astro Black." The original track was included on Cocker's bluesy 1972 LP.
You may recognise the distinctive piano and horn licks from Tupac's "California Love," another track that sampled the progression.
Madlib samples from Super Lover Cee and Casanova Rud's "I Gotta Good Thing." The sample - an integral part of the "Astro Black" hook - first appears at 1:13, where the young emcee raps "I'm layin, I'm slayin I'm constantly lovin 'n bonin them."
Super Lover Cee and Casanova Rud released just one album, 1988's Girls I Got 'Em Locked. True to their name, the tracklist included songs such as "Come And Get Some" and "Super-Casanova."
Young-Holt Unlimited were an instrumental jazz trio founded by former Ramsey Lewis Trio members Eldee Young and Redd Holt. Madlib samples dialogue from the group's eight-minute medley, inserting it at 2:48.
Their biggest hit, 1968's "Soulful Strut," sold over a million copies and achieved Gold certification. Despite this success, the group disbanded in 1974 after releasing twelve albums.
The titular "green" refers to a number of things - namely, money and weed. Lord Quas himself also invokes images of nature and growth, and ultimately finds that whilst "green power" can improve one's life, it can also bring it to an untimely end.
The track opens with the intro to Bobby Lyle's 1978 track, "Inner Space." It appeared on New Warrior, the jazz pianists third solo LP.
Throughout his nearly six decade career, Lyle toured with acts such as Sly and the Family Stone, Bette Midler and Anita Baker, jammed with Jimi Hendrix and recorded with George Benson and Gábor Szabó. He also occasionally filled in on keys for Young-Holt Unlimited and Ronnie Laws.
The quiet voice that says "great all dedication" at 0:05 is none other than Trugoy The Dove from De La Soul. The sample is pulled from the intro to "Itzsoweezee," a track from the group's fourth LP, Stakes Is High.
The bell-like percussion and backing ambience from Mandrill's "Khidja" first appears at 0:15.
Despite their exotic name and album art, Mandrill are a funk band from Brooklyn. Mandrilland, the 1974 double album on which "Khidja" appeared, was the group's fifth. The band are perhaps best known for their contributions to the soundtrack from The Greatest, a 1977 Muhammad Ali biopic in which Ali plays himself.
Lord Quas' opening lyric - "I know you didn't cut that whole thing / It happened last month anyway" - is an interpolation of yet another Melvin Van Peebles track.
"Salamaggi's Birthday" is the final track on Ain't Supposed to Die a Natural Death, Van Peebles' 1970 record. It's distinct from the 1971 musical soundtrack of the same name, which featured many of the same songs adapted for the stage.
Starting at 1:12, Madlib takes multiple samples from Paul Sawtell and Bert Shefter's "What Is a Nice Girl Like You Doing in Places Like This," composed for the Motorpsycho OST. Motorpsycho was directed by sexploitation legend Russ Meyer, released just prior to his 1965 magnum opus, Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Madlib would sample more from Sawtell and Shefter's soundtracks on 2004's Madvillainy.
Another Van Peebles sample, this time taking from 1974's "Three Boxes Of Longs Please." The opening track on 1970's Ain't Supposed To Die A Natural Death, it finds Van Peebles musing on the colour green. It seems that "Green Power" could be another track based off the artist's work.
Lord Quas employs a versatile mix of sample and interpolation, the sources of which can be found from 4:00 onward in Van Peebles' original cut.
The drum and piano that fade in at 2:35 originally appear in the intro to Arena's 1976 track, "The Long One." Arena were an Australian jazz-funk group who released just one self-titled album.
The seven track LP was reissued on vinyl in 2016, and the accompanying press release provided some much needed background to "one of Australia’s most revered and scarce rare groove records."
Russell is not a performer, but instead the arranger and composer of the pieces on the record. A true jazz master, Russell's extensive work in music theory earned him the coveted MacArthur 'Genius Grant' in 1989.