Q-Tip’s contributions to Mobb Deep’s seminal sophomore LP are without a shadow of a doubt some of the very best examples of his work behind the boards. Nestled in amongst the dark and grimy soundscapes created almost exclusively by Havoc, The Abstract’s three additions to The Infamous are priceless, aptly providing the listener with moments of melodic respite in the midst of a collection of songs that are otherwise deeply shrouded in the shadows of the Queensbridge housing projects. With ‘Give Up The Goods (Just Step)’, ‘Temperature’s Rising’ and ‘Drink Away The Pain (Situations)’, Tip not only provides the LP with a depth that it would otherwise have lacked but also solidifies his status as a producer who was able to effortlessly switch his game up when the opportunity arose during the heady days that were the mid-‘90s.
For this special edition of the Q-Tip Beat Series I present to you all three Abstract-produced cuts from The Infamous with key sample sources and discussion for your listening and reading pleasure. Let the deconstructing begin…
‘Give Up The Goods (Just Step)’
Esther Phillips, born Esther Mae Jones, lived a turbulent life that was ultimately cut short by a long-term heroin dependency and a substantial dose of heavy drinking on the side that caused her liver and kidney to fail in 1984. Having been discovered by legendary musician and bandleader Johnny Otis in the late ‘40s, Phillips progressed through a range of styles that saw her release numerous albums over a career that spanned 30 years. Amongst her most successful was From A Whisper To A Scream, an album that received a Grammy nomination and which acts as home to ‘That’s Alright With Me’, the inspiration for the first of Tip’s Queensbridge flavoured beats, ‘Give Up the Goods (Just Step)’.
As is the case with all three of these selections (and indeed his back catalogue in general), Tip holds back from rearranging the sample too heavily, jacking a couple of bars from the opening section of the Phillips’s original. It’s interesting to note that the bass also makes its way into the Mobb Deep cut, although its depth suggests that there is either some heavy EQ-ing going on or that The Abstract simply followed the pattern with a beefier sound that he sourced elsewhere.
In terms of its context within the album as a whole, ‘Give Up The Goods (Just Step)’ is the song that seems to bridge the gap between Havoc and Tip’s production style most obviously, with both the sample and ridiculously crispy snare hit smoothly fitting into the Queensbridge aesthetic. It’s a clear demonstration of Tip consciously adopting a slightly different approach for the project in which he realises a grittier style with devastating effect.
Mobb Deep – ‘Temperature’s Rising’ (Remix)
taken from ‘Temperature’s Rising’/’Give Up The Goods (Just Step)’ 12” (Loud, 1995)
Although the sung chorus hook may have inevitably alienated the more steadfastly hardcore heads, ‘Temperature’s Rising’ endures as my favourite Tip produced cut on the album. The soulful melody of the sample and chorus are underpinned by a neck-snappingly fierce drum track, and the result is a musical backdrop that perfectly suits Havoc and Prodigy’s no frills account of trife life in the city.
The source material comes care of Patrice Rushen, a Grammy award-winning musician who is probably best known for her hit ‘Forget Me Nots’ (as sampled by Poke & Tone for Will Smith on the Men In Black soundtrack). ‘Where There Is Love’ is lifted from the same LP as the aforementioned track, entitled Straight From The Heart, and constitutes an enjoyable slice of ‘80s R & B flavoured pop that holds value beyond just sample-spotting geekery. It’s the first couple of bars after the initial drum fill that are of note, another straight loop that is masterfully dropped into the mix at the 0.39 mark of ‘Temperature’s Rising’ by The Abstract.
Inspiration for the chorus hook comes from Quincy Jones and his song ‘Body Heat’ from the album of the same name released in 1974 on A&M. It always amazes me how prolific and adaptable Jones has been during a lifetime in the music industry: from humble beginnings playing trumpet in Dizzy Gillespie’s band to the release of his own material and onto work with powerhouses of popular music, the man’s status is nothing short of legendary. As with ‘Where There Is Love’ the song is enjoyable in its own right, but pay particular attention at the 0.25 mark to hear the vocal hook in its original incarnation.
The remix of the song uses the same key sample source, and although not drastically different, it’s a pleasing rendition of the track with a more overtly radio friendly twist. With the drums toned down somewhat and lyrics cleaned up and re-recorded it manages to hold its own against the LP version and the incorporation of the ubiquitous ‘UFO’ sample provides it with an added depth. All in it acts as gratefully received supplementary material to what I believe is one of, if not the, greatest Q-Tip produced joints of all time.
‘Drink Away The Pain (Situations)’
And so we make our way to the final instalment of The Abstract’s Infamous odyssey. ‘Drink Away The Pain (Situations)’ once again falls in line with the Queensbridge formula, although the heavy drum track is backed up by an uncharacteristically funky break that sets it apart from the other songs that can be found on the LP.
The groove is snatched from a song by The Headhunters called ‘I Remember I Made You Cry’ which appeared on the group’s sophomore release Straight From The Gate. Essentially a loose conglomeration of constantly changing musicians who had worked with Herbie Hancock during the early ‘70s, this album saw the band further step out of his shadow and continue their experimentations into jazz-funk fusion, although the group disbanded after this release only to reform in 1998 with the triumphantly titled Return Of The Headhunters!.
The break can be found at the very beginning of the track and is particularly notable as a result of its three bar structure. It’s a technique that I’ve discussed as a feature of Tip’s production work before over at Oh Word, and it works just as well here as it does in the Tribe joints. The effect of it is difficult to define, but it gives the cut a distinctive and captivating vibe that once again demonstrates The Abstract’s ability to create beats with a subtle complexity that is masked by superficial simplicity. Although there are few changes to the groove throughout its five minute duration, the use of filters that originally appear at the 0.30 mark and a dope verse from Tip himself make this one of the standouts from an LP that is almost impossible to falter: ‘classic material’ doesn’t even begin to do it justice.