In the realm of hip-hop sampling, the sounds of vintage keyboards abound. Although the Fender Rhodes has been a common sonic choice by producers, samples of other vintage keyboards are widespread in the genre as well. West Coast hip-hop from the early 90s, for example, was characterized by the inclusion of portamento-ridden synths (mostly sampled from Parliament-Funkadelic, hence the spinoff term “G-Funk”). However, few beat-makers have chosen to sample the Hammond B3 Organ, one of the staple sounds heard in jazz, blues, gospel, R&B, and progressive rock since the 1950s.
One has to dig deep to find “organ chops,” as virtually none of hip-hop’s most well-known tracks feature organ samples (A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” is one of the exceptions that come to mind). Here are six Hammond B3 cuts sampled by three of hip-hop’s greatest producers:
1. Joe Pass – “A Time For Us” (Guitar Interludes, 1969)
J Dilla – “Chop Organ” (Beat CD #4, 2002 Batches)
Not much is known about the details behind the Dilla beat tapes that have been circulating around cyberspace for the past few years. I find it doubtful that the titles of the beat tapes and most of the tracks are accurate, because of the way file sharers tend to label their music. However, the authenticity of the music is unquestionable. “Chop Organ” is one of Dilla’s finest from his series of unreleased beat tapes. The organist on Joe Pass’s track is Mike Melvoin.
2. Dr. Lonnie Smith – “Jeannine” and “In the Beginning” (Finger Lickin’ Good, 1966)
Madlib – “Figaro” (Madvillainy, 2004)
MF DOOM and Madlib teamed up as “Madvillain” to craft one of hip-hop’s most unique releases, Madvillainy, which was released on the innovative West Coast label Stones Throw in 2004. Madlib always tends to dig up samples from the depths of obscurity, such as the heavy organ intro to “Figaro,” taken from the hits before the drum break in the middle of “Jeannine.” (Lesser known fact: “Jeannine” features a young George Benson on guitar.) The rest of the track was crafted from “In the Beginning,” also on the same Dr. Lonnie Smith album.
3. Brother Jack McDuff – “Electric Surfboard” (Gin and Orange, 1969)
Pete Rock – “One In A Million” (Poetic Justice Soundtrack, 1993)
Brother Jack McDuff’s “Oblighetto” has its place in hip-hop history as the sound behind A Tribe Called Quest’s defining hit “Scenario,” but fewer hip-hop heads know of the McDuff chop Pete Rock did for the soundtrack to the 1993 John Singleton film “Poetic Justice.”
4. Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery – “Mellow Mood” (Further Adventures of Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery, 1969)
Quasimoto – “Low Class Conspiracy” (The Unseen, 2000)
Jimmy Smith, who arguably did more to popularize the B3 Organ than anyone else, released two incredible classic organ trio albums with Wes Montgomery in 1966. Madlib sampled their track “Mellow Mood” under the alias of Quasimoto for Quas’s debut album The Unseen. The entire Unseen album was completed by Madlib in only a single week, fueled by steady consumption of psilocybin mushrooms. Madlib’s already-evident quirkiness is taken to new extremes as a result.
5. Mogollar – “Halicte Gun Batisi” (Anadolu Pop, 1971)
J Dilla – “Welcome 2 Detroit” (Welcome 2 Detroit, 2001)
Tucked away in the middle of Turkish Anatolian rock group Mogollar’s “Halicte Gun Batisi” is Dilla’s 9/4-time sample for the intro to his 2001 solo album Welcome 2 Detroit. The highly unconventional choice of an odd-time sample speaks further to how willing Dilla was to take changes and depart from the tendencies of his peers. Murat Ses is the organist on the original track.
6. Sonny Phillips – “Goin’ Home” (My Black Flower, 1974)
Pete Rock – “It’s About That Time (ft. Black Thought and Rob-O) (Soul Survivor, 1998)
Last up on the list is Sonny Phillips’ “Goin’ Home,” flipped by Pete Rock on his 1998 debut solo album Soul Survivor. “It’s About That Time” features Roots MC Black Thought and MC Rob-O, from Rock’s pet project InI. Dilla idolized Pete Rock, and one can see where some of the inspiration for Dilla’s bouncing, unique bass grooves comes from. Of course, Soul Survivor was released well into the middle of Dilla’s “Pay Jay” period, so one must assume that Jay Dee drew more inspiration from Rock’s earlier work with CL Smooth and InI. Sonny Phillips, the sampled organist, was a student of Ahmad Jamal’s, another oft-sampled keys player in the world of hip-hop.
Words by Cale Hawkins