The song: “Nut” by Tuff Crew
The producer: Tuff Crew (DJ Too Tuff)
The science: Tuff Crew’s 1989 LP, Back to Wreck Shop, is one of those best-kept-secret albums. Most hip-hop heads from that era know it, and most who know it really like it, but it still rarely turns up on many Top 10/20/50 lists, in part because, well, a lot of great albums were coming out at that time, so it kinda gets lost in the shuffle. So while it’s not an album whose name is on everybody’s list, it’s an album people would do well to give plenty of bump to. The rhyming on Back to Wreck Shop is solid, but it often gets overshadowed by DJ Too Tuff’s fantastic scratching (he tears it up on pretty much every track) and the top-notch production.
The beats on Back to Wreck Shop are very 1989 in sound and style: Rugged breaks with well-chosen loops. But far from being a production retread, the album showcases real diversity (it boasts a couple of straight-up Miami bass tracks–not a common thing for an album coming from the northeast at that time), perfect chopping and locking up of loops (no small feat in 1989), and a knack for clever arrangement (“Soul Food” fuses “Shaft in Africa” and “Darkest Light” decades before Just Blaze put those samples together for Jay-Z’s “Show Me Whatcha Got”). When talking about great sample flips, this album offers plenty of standout tracks to choose from, but “Nut” gets the nod here for its creative utilization of Eddie Bo’s New Orleans funk masterpiece “Hook & Sling.”
“Hook & Sling” is a monster of a tune — simple, energetic, catchy, and brilliant. Tuff Crew is far from the only group to sample it, but most people who sampled it used pieces of the opening vocals (“You ready?” “Yeeeaaaaaaah!”). Stezo looped up the song’s signature guitar riff for his album cut “Girl Trouble,” but Tuff Crew went beyond that and took out a clip of James Black’s frenetic (not to mention phenomenal) drumming. It’s the kind of sample a lot of producers might have stayed away from because it’s so busy–more a drum fill than a real beat–but Tuff Crew saw that all the loop needed was some heavy kicks and snares to set up the basic drum pattern, and the loop would do the rest, giving the track plenty of swing and manic energy.
Of course, Eddie Bo’s vocals did prove to be irresistible, hence the exuberant “oh!” that gets thrown in periodically, and the “You ready?” “Yeeaaaaaaaah!” exchange opens up the song. And the group filled out the beat with a snatch of horns from the barely-ever-used Part 2 of “Hook and Sling” to keep it funky. Definitely a clever, creative, and original use of a breakbeat classic.