Friday Flips #4: “Down-Ass Zaggin”

Written by DJ Enki on November 11, 2011

The song: “Down-Ass Zaggin”
The producer: 5th Ward Boyz/John Bido
The science: The art of loop-stacking is taken for granted these days. For starters, that style of production has been phased out by drum-machine minimalism, but even when people do stack loops, it’s a really easy process thanks to Pro Tools and other software. You can get loops locked in with the utmost precision — even zooming in on the waveforms to make sure the snare attacks are lined up exactly — in mere minutes, and it you need to, you can do pitch adjustment to make sure everything is in perfect key with everything else.

Back in the early 1990s, though, it wasn’t quite so easy. Locking everything together in your sampler was a trickier proposition, and of course, the more loops you stacked, the harder it was to make everything play nice together. And pitch shifting? You did that on the turntable before you sampled the record, or you could do it in the machine if you wanted to, but it wasn’t the perfect-pitch proposition that it is today.

So not only is the Fifth Ward Boys’ “Down-Ass Zaggin” a fresh beat, but it’s a technical accomplishment for the way it piles up loops.

For starters, the Boyz loop up Stanley Turrentine’s “Sister Sanctified,” best known as the basis for BDP’s “My Philosophy.” But instead of using a two-bar loop, the Boyz grab the entire four-bar phrase (and occasionally mess with the programming so it’s not just a straight four-bar loop all the way through). They also pitched it down a bit to make it fit with the other elements, and it fits with those elements perfectly–again, no small feat.

So with “Sister Sanctified” set, the Boyz grab a nice slice of War’s “Slipping Into Darkness,” letting the bassline bounce off the sax riff of “Sister Sanctified.” Then, to tie it all together, they bring in the classic Bill Withers “Kissing My Love” drum loop, and it is locked in perfectly — even the syncopated snare from the War loop sounds like an accent to the Bill Withers drums. Everything in the beat works perfectly with everything else, the programming is crisp and tight, and the whole track is perfectly orchestrated. And remember: It was all done with nary a Pro Tools rig in sight. Word to the Fifth Ward Boyz and John Bido.

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