Nothing like an exciting sample find to bring this blogger temporarily out of stasis. I’ve been listening to The Infamous a ludicrous amount of late and enjoying it as much as ever, but it’s the undeniably great ‘Trife Life’ that has seen the most action. It’s always been one of my favourite beats on the album and epitomises the dark, murky aesthetic that Prodigy and Havoc achieved with such aplomb on this legendary LP. But then, you knew that already.
Only one key sample source at play here besides drums and it’s Norman Connor’s ‘You Are My Starship’, a sweet mid-70’s R & B cut featuring vocals by Michael Henderson, a bassist who had played with Miles Davis during the earlier part of the decade. The opening section of the song is immediately recognisable as the introductory section of the Mobb Deep cut, but it’s what happens after this that is perhaps more interesting as it represents some pretty visionary production at the hands of Havoc. Listen closely to the first couple of bars that mark the start of the first verse at 0.44 and you’ll hear that distinctive bassline nestled in amongst all the other elements of the Connor’s groove that ultimately form the backbone of ‘Trife Life’. It’s an extreme use of a low pass filter that to me is only matched by Large Pro’s work on ‘Halftime’ in terms of sheer depth, where all other components of the sample source are pretty much obliterated. Ultimately it’s this truncation that makes the melody here feel like it’s swarming around you: it’s just not possible to get a particularly clean sound when extracting the bass from such a busy source, but of course this would detract from the end result even if it was and be far less effective. ‘Trife Life’ was born to be dirty.
The other flurry that I love is the use of the two bars of sax that drop in at 1.57. A similar aggressive filter must also have been applied to remove this from the original source, so much so in fact that I’ve actually failed to acknowledge it as a saxophone until hearing the sample. The way it balances out the bass-heavy groove throughout the rest of ‘Trife Life’ is devastating, floating loftily during the chorus sections and intermittently breaking out during the verses providing that sense of space that prevents the song from monotony.
And Havoc knows how great this beat is. Just as you think it’s all over the groove comes right back at you, and when the fade out begins that sax drifts into play again. So menacing and yet so beautiful: that’s what The Infamous is all about, right?