Many of the Hip Hop genre's biggest hits have sampled from Jazz, Funk, R&B and Rock songs, and from the earliest days of the rap scene, artists would dig through crates of old records for inspiration. Sometimes just a few seconds from a dusty old album would speak to an artist enough to sample, loop and rhyme over.
For many young artists without the means for expensive musical equipment, two turntables and a microphone (cue Beck) were enough to create unique, original music.
Just last week, I was having a conversation about samples with a coworker and asked him if he'd ever listened to Bernard Wright's album, 'NARD, because a couple of the album's tracks have been prominently featured in some of Hip Hop's greatest hits.
He was unfamiliar, and realizing I didn't actually own it myself, I promptly ordered myself a copy of the LP on Discogs. I've been happily spinning it since and that brings me to today's post...
'Nard is the near definition of a forgotten gem.
Bernard Wright was born in Jamaica, Queens in 1963--the son of the legendary Roberta "Killing Me Softly" Flack. A prodigal young jazz/funk keyboardist, Wright began touring with jazz drummer Lenny White when he was only 13-years-old.
Wright's debut album, 'Nard, was recorded when he was just 16 and released in 1981. While the album didn't gain as much momentum as it deserved, it did make it to #7 on the Billboard Jazz charts, and the single, "Just Chillin' Out", made the charts for both US R&B and Dance that year.
But here we are, 40 years later, and the album still holds up.
From the wacky, funked-out roller coaster trip of "Haboglabotribin'" to the beautiful piano rendition of Miles Davis' "Solar" concluding the album, 'Nard is a musical joy ride.
But back to 'Nard...
A few years after Snoop, 2Pac sampled the same song on "Lie to Kick It" from his album, R U Still Down?
The song's music box intro transitioning to full on, bass-slappin' funk was a major player in the memorable Snoop anthem. Wright's amusement park raps and tweaked vocals throughout the song feel like a lost track from George Clinton. It's goofy and weird, but funky as all get out.
Speaking of slap bass, the album's next track, "Spinnin'" is even more impressive -- highlighting Wright's keyboard skills and a tight horn section bringing to mind Earth, Wind & Fire or Kool & the Gang.
Around the 1:25 mark, the song suddenly switches gears to a laid back vibe. That :15 seconds of chill was later sampled on the self-deprecating megahit 1995 song, "I Wish" by Skee-Lo.
Check out Bernard Wright's "Spinnin'" in the YouTube clip below, and then watch Skee-Lo's classic music video to hear the sample.
The whole 'Nard album is worth checking out if you haven't heard it, and used copies of the out-of-print LP aren't difficult or expensive to find online. Enjoy!
(The sampled clip on "Spinnin'" first appears at 1:25)