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    Hank Crawford and Hip-Hop

    On January 29th, Bennie Ross "Hank" Crawford, Jr., passed away.  Though he left his mark on music in a very direct way, both through his own recordings and compositions and through working with legends like Ray Charles, Etta James, Lou Rawls and B.B. King, Crawford's musical legacy extends into the realm of hip-hop as well.

    Hip-hop music has been characterized from the beginning by the practice of sampling, in which a chunk of audio is borrowed from an existing recording, frequently chopped up, sped up, slowed down or otherwise reworked into a new composition.  Though the practice remains somewhat controversial, it's an inextricable part of the hip-hop tradition.  Certain samples have become legendary for prolific usage, including tracks like the Winstons' "Amen Brother" and Clyde Stubblefield's infamous drum break on James Brown's "Funky Drummer" (I'm lookin' at you, Eric B.)

    Hank Crawford's track "Wildflower" is among these ranks.  Try the original track on for size:

    It's a beautiful track; soaring, soulful and melancholy.  If it sounds oddly familiar, as though you've heard it before, but not quite, perhaps you've heard it in one of the following tracks.  As near as I can tell, the first track to sample "Wildflower" was this track from 1996:

    You can hear the intro to "Wildflower" used as a part of the back-beat throughout, and the saxophone riff is prominent on the hook.  Then, in 1997, came this cut:

    Like 2Pac's offering, this track makes heavy use of the intro to "Wildflower" for the back-beat.  This is a trend that continues in our next selection:

    This track, released in 1999, was an offering on a joint effort spearheaded by Atmosphere's Slug.  Again the intro is used heavily, without any hint of Crawford's saxophone.  That was it for "Wildflower" in the 20th century.  Then, in 2005, Kanye West brought it back for his track "Drive Slow", which appeared on "Late Registration", his follow-up to the break-out "The College Drop-out":

    Here, West brings Crawford's saxophone melody back to the forefront of the track.  Kanye, if you need someone to hum a little melody for any future tracks, hit me up.

    RIP, Bennie Ross "Hank" Crawford, Jr. 1934-2009


    Well it sounded familiar to me from hearing this during my high school days.

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