(Credit: Hip Hop Hero)

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The Story Behind The Sample: Biggie, Big L triumph with ESG

Sampling is an age-old practice in hip hop. In fact, some of the most popular songs in the genre contain other songs within their composition. Kanye West is undeniably considered the master of sampling, drawing a lot of his samples from soul. On the other hand, Timbaland is also known for sampling but leans towards old Arabic music. However, regardless of the type of music producers sample, the sampling of funk records will always be the foundation on which hip hop was built, and this is exactly what Big L and Biggie did with ESG track ‘UFO’.

The 1990s was somewhat of a golden era for hip hop and lots of different sounds were beginning to emerge as more and more artists began to experiment. With Roland drum machines and different production techniques sweeping recording studios, the way people were making hip hop was beginning to change. However, sampling remained a steadfast element of hip hop even as the sonics began to change.

In 1990s New York, Big L and Biggie Smalls were two lauded rappers, with the latter being slightly more prominent. However, although these two artists had completely different styles, they both made use of a sample of an interesting sample in their music, and the sample they used is from an early 1980s track entitled ‘UFO’.

‘UFO’ is a track by Bronx funk band ESG. The famous label executive Tony Wilson scouted the band after performing a show in New York. After watching their show, Wilson was so impressed he quickly signed the group to his label, Factory Records and got them working on their debut single. Wanting them to work with the best of the best, Wilson flew the girls from New York to the English city of Manchester to work with the legendary musician and record producer Martin Hannett.

A small, but important fact about ESG’s debut is that they were not even supposed to be in the studio with Martin Hannett as he was set to work with Joy Division. However, with the death of Ian Curtis’ curtailing those plans, ESG acquired that session in which they recorded their debut single, ‘You’re No Good’ as well as ‘UFO’ which was a musical freestyle merely made to fill the remaining three minutes left on the reel of tape.

Notorious B.I.G’s 1993 song ‘Party and Bullshit‘, produced by Easy Mo Bee, samples ‘UFO’. The 1993 release was the fourth single of the soundtrack for the 1993 film Who’s the Man? ‘UFO’ was also sampled only a year later by producer Buckwild for the Big L track ‘8 Iz Enuff’. Both legendary hip hop tracks, spawned from a simple sample.

You can listen to the original track ‘UFO’ by ESG below as well as ‘Party And Bullshit’ and ‘8 Iz Enuff’.