Friday Flips #1: “King Sun with the Sword”

Written by DJ Enki on October 7, 2011

If you’ve been checking out the ego trip website (and if you haven’t, that’s when ya lost!), then you’ve probably noticed a semi-regular feature they do about “[fill in producer here]’s favorite sample flips.” It’s a really cool feature for beat heads, and reading the takes of people like DJ Spinna, Prince Paul, and Da Beatminerz is definitely interesting stuff. The posts always get me wound up to talk about sample flips, breakbeat/sampling nerd that I am, so I figured I may as well do my own series about sample flips here. So it is with that in mind that I present to you the inaugural post in the Friday Flips series, a (hopefully) weekly feature about the beats that make me say “daaaaamn!” like Tha Alkaholiks. First up: An amazing piece of work Tony D did for King Sun.

The song: “King Sun with the Sword” by King Sun
The producer: Tony D
The science:
Probably best known for his work with Poor Righteous Teachers (and known-without-being-known for being the dude Naughty by Nature bit the “O.P.P.” beat from), New Jersey’s Tony D (RIP) definitely had that late ‘80s/early ‘90s sound on lock. His knack for grabbing great loops and locking them in the perfect drum programming made him a somewhat in-demand producer during that time, and when King Sun set about putting together his (excellent) sophomore album, Righteous but Ruthless, he hollered at Tony for some beats, and Tony was happy to oblige, even putting his homies PRT on a track with Sun. The album spawned a great single, “Be Black,” and a so-so single, the Mr. Loverman-styled “Undercover Lover,” but the real gem was the first song of the second side, “King Sun with the Sword.”

To me, the most jaw-dropping aspect of this track is the chop job Tony did on “Funky Drummer.” Everybody and their father’s brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate was sampling “Funky Drummer” back then. But most people simply looped it, and why wouldn’t you? Those drums are classic and really need no touching up. Some people would do fairly simple chops to it (witness Dre’s usage on NWA’s “Quiet on tha Set”) or just throw a little snippet of it in as an accent to the track (Freshco & Miz’s “Ain’t U Freshco?”).

But Tony really got busy with it. He took the whole break apart piece by piece and put it back together in a wholly original and ridiculously funky way. As soon as you hear the drums, you know they’re “Funky Drummer,” but they’re doing a completely different pattern. Tony keeps the iconic snare shuffle in the background, but the way he makes it stutter gives the beat a renewed funkiness, and the occasional double snare keeps the drums interesting. To my ears, it’s the best “Funky Drummer” chop ever, and that’s really saying something.

So with the drums in place, Tony augments them by doing a particularly Prince Paul-ish job on the Nite-Liters’ “Tanga Boo Gonk.” As I’ll get into in detail with a later entry in this series, Paul was the master of going through an entire song and pulling out all the best parts. Tony does that to terrific effect here, not only isolating the Nite-Liters’ blaring main horn riff for use in King Sun’s chorus, but also grabbing the guitar riff, baritone sax stabs, and other horn parts and sprinkling them throughout the beat, always keeping the track moving and engaging and showing a real knack for song arrangement and when to deploy particular samples.

Oh, and just so we don’t give King Sun himself short shrift here: He takes an amazing beat and rides it flawlessly.

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