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)