Mobb Deep – The Infamous Samples & Breaks Case Study

Lately I’ve been thinking about the amazing and groundbreaking production on Mobb Deep’s 1995 release of The Infamous and how over ten years after its original release I still reference many of its instrumentals when looking for either  inspiration or a reminder of what I consider to be a defining example of quality Hip Hop.  For quite some time I have been in awe when trying to reconstruct just exactly what was taking place musicly and often became completely baffled when attempting to retrace any logical or linear thought process for the creation and use of the production techniques that were being used at the time. 

The mid-nineties sound was marked by a few very distincitive characteristics, mainly the innovative use of the low pass filter now commonly referred to as "low end theory", organicly sampled drums, and the signature Pete Rock-esque echoed horn.  Since I’ll be touching on the topics of drum breaks and horns at another time, today we’ll focus on the use of the low pass filter.  Someone filtering a sample is essentially removing higher frequency sounds while allowing only lower frequencies to be heard.  This along with the tweaking of resonance allows for what was originaly a very clear sample to be mutated into a muffled, bouncier sound that is often used as a bassline.  The Beatminers employed this style so much during the recording of Black Moon’s – Enta Da Stage and Smif & Wesson’s – Da Shinin’ that they are now considered the masters of the low pass filter.  Nowadays the use of this technique is pretty much obsolete with the current generation of producers prefering a cleaner, more controlled keyboard sound for  basslines.

With regards to sampling and production techniques, the two standout tracks that really come to mind from The Infamous are Havoc’s work on Trife Life where his skillful manipulation of  You Are My Starship by Norman Connors cannot be matched and Q-Tips masterful reworking of the Headhunters – I Remember I Made You Cry on the ingenious Drink Away The Pain (Situations).  Both of these classic tracks made extensive use of all these techniques resulting in arguably one of the greatest cohesive works of Hip-Hop sampling and production ever put forth. 

So here for your listening and brainbusting pleasure are the original samples side by side with the Havoc and Q-Tip versions.

Norman Connors – You Are My Starship

Mobb Deep – Trife Life (produced by Havoc)

Headhunters – I Remember I Made You Cry

Mobb Deep – Drink Away The Pain (produced by Q-Tip)


19 thoughts on “Mobb Deep – The Infamous Samples & Breaks Case Study”

  1. man, the low pass filter is the shit. why dont cats make this raw stuff anymore?? the beatnuts were nice with it too. but also i wanna point out, the other night i pulled out the second (actually 3rd i guess) mobb deep album “hell on earth” and i think the beats on there are often overlooked – there’s some sick production, with thick snares, crazy basslines and crunchy loops – there’s a couple samples they just left the static on, shit is literally grimey.

    diggin this blog!!! dope shit.

  2. I agree about the ‘hell on earth’ shit. that album is AS good as ‘infamous’ as far as beats are concerned, that record was extra gritty.

  3. I would like to know the song that mobb deep sampled in his song “Right back at you” from the first album The infamous,

    i would be glad to know it. THanks for read

  4. The problem with these so-called “heads” is that motherfuckers dont dig!,It’s easier for these motherfuckers to like what evryone likes and then think that wateva else is not worth the effort!.production done on ‘hell on earth’ is one of the sickest in hip hop,but you’ll never hear “heads” giving props to that album or it’s producers.All u hear is J Dilla this and J Dilla that,i can tell u now that i have whole list of J Dilla beats that sound similar to Mobb Deep beats,not saying the guy’s cloning,but m jus pointing out how influential Mobb Deep beats r to most of these suckers’ favourite beat makers. (Mobb Deep’s “Clap” and J Dilla’s “The Clapper” is jus one example here).

  5. There was a very interesting “10 tracks that changed my life” piece by Carl Craig in the now defunct British music mag ‘Jockey Slut’ where he cited a De La Soul album for influencing the way he thought about bass. Wish I’d kept that. Not online as far as I know.

  6. i stay listenin to those early mobb deep albums,got em on heavy rotation.i gotta find cats thats into makin that kind of hip hop.nowadays everything sounds like some techno rave ish

  7. no doubt Lo pass is so underrated… i mean to be honest i cant stand the 16 pad chop method… im more of a loop digger and raw drums… so many people ask why dont their drums or bass sound right… i say you arent doing it right! but thats just me… i like the gulley sound… no needs for 500 dollar nikes and crazy space sounds and stuff 12 sec is enough of samp time… but extra is nicer… to many good tracks and flow worthy albums like Havoc’s production and tip and that ASR great stuffs… funny how so many dont even know Havoc is one of the best to do it… good drums and good loops go a long way esp with lo pass!

    hahahaha could be im a 26 year old still stuck in the 90’s and doesnt mind catching the train/bus/sub to get around town…

    its all about the head nod’s

    archie hit it right on the money! DIGGGGGG
    props for this post!

  8. yah that archie dude’s right, it’s like dilla’s the jesus of beats, not sayin he wasn’t one of the greatest, obviously he deserves respect, i do as much as the next cat, but think of how many J Dilla’s, primo’s, dj shadow’s, and mobb deep’s are out doing their own thing, diggin in the crates, making primium beats that jus never got discovered

  9. I love this website, the information is great and I have bookmarked it in my favorites. This is a well organized and informative website. Great Job!

  10. Hell on earth one of my top. Ever.tru headz know. Keep it simple one moody creepy loop .and drums.dats it. I think i made a hell on earth beat. Check me on myspace phantom jack spring….dunce freestyle Dats da track…i neeD a sampler so bad.

  11. For me Infamous is better than Hell On Earth. Raps and beats. Infamous is just incredible. Hell on Earth is ill too, but it just doesnt have a banger like Survival or Shook Ones 2. Also storytellings are way better on Infamous album.

  12. Nice post. The majority of what I listen to on a daily basis is from the 90’s, it was a unique time for hip-hop music and culture. For the past few years, Hip-hop as a ‘bigger picture’ has taken a turn for the worse, but there is definitely still amazing mc’s, beats and collabos out there, just way harder to find these days.

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