Music » Record Reviews

Stax: The Soul of Hip Hop

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An overdue concept record badly missing a companion disc: Here is a batch of relatively obscure Stax sides all sampled in generally more successful hip-hop hits — with explanatory liner notes.

If you're familiar with the rap singles that deploy these sounds, then what this record presents is evidence of sampling at its best — not wholesale appropriation but recontextualization or lifting stray elements and converting them into new music: the Isaac Hayes piano lick Public Enemy deploys on "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos"; the Little Milton vocal hook that comments on the verses of Ghostface Killah's "Walk Around."

Honestly, the hip-hop songs that borrow are, in most of these cases, better than what they're borrowing from. Whenever I hear the Emotions' "Blind Alley" or Isaac Hayes' "Hung Up on My Baby," I'm always disappointed I'm not hearing Big Daddy Kane's "Ain't No Half-Steppin'" or the Geto Boys' "Mind Playing Tricks on Me."

Taken out of its hip-hop context, this is a good collection of Stax sides most casual fans will not own and may not have heard. ("Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic" — Isaac Hayes; "After Laughter (Comes Tears)" — Wendy Rene; "I Forgot To Be Your Lover" — William Bell) — CH

Grade: B+

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