The Five Best Donald Byrd Samples in Hip-Hop

Donald Byrd in the early 1970s. Photo: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images

The music world lost a great earlier this week when 80-year-old jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd passed due to unspecified causes. Byrd’s talented jazz chops saw him craft a career that included acclaimed work with genre greats John Coltrane, Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, but it was his late-’60s and ’70s recordings for Blue Note that endeared him to a new generation of musicians with hip-hop producers finding his increasingly funky grooves irresistible sample sources. (Byrd seemed to appreciate the rap world’s endeavors, and appeared on the first of Guru’s Jazzmatazz albums in 1993.) Here’s hip-hop’s five most effective samples of Donald Byrd’s music.

1. “Wind Parade,” as sampled in Black Moon’s “Buck ‘Em Down”

Donald Byrd’s most fondly flipped sample has formed the basis of beats for Organized Konfusion, 2Pac and Ludacris, but Brooklyn’s Black Moon can claim the most natural sounding hook up. Smitten with the song’s funkafied jazz groove, producers Evil Dee and Mr. Walt used “Wind Parade” as the backdrop for the Franklin Avenue Posse kids to spit their weed-inspired raps over, creating a cornerstone early-’90s rap anthem.

2. “Think Twice,” as sampled in Main Source’s “Looking At The Front Door”

Edging out A Tribe Called Quest’s use of the song on “Footprints,” here Large Professor’s old group got melancholy about a snobbish girl whose friends cause him to complain that “they speak proper while my speech is from a garbage can.” Byrd’s “Think Twice” comes off like a seamless fit for Large Pro’s lament.

3. “Flight Time,” as sampled in Nas’s “N.Y. State of Mind”

Nas’s cherished debut album Illmatic flares into life with the rugged “N.Y. State of Mind.” That song was crafted by DJ Premier, who nabbed the gutsy wailing horn stabs that signal the start of Donald Byrd’s “Flight Time” and used them to similar effect, adding a motif to “N.Y. State of Mind” that conveys the vibe of the city’s cold urban underbelly. To that backdrop, Nas rhymes his enthusiastic ass off.

4. “Beale Street,” as sampled in the Pharcyde’s “Oh Shit”

A simple snatch from the perky opening riff of “Beale Street” pairs just lovely with the West Coast’s happy hip-hop stoner crew. Over the piano loop, the group’s members recount self-deprecating raps, topped by Fatlip’s admission of going on a date with a girl who turned out to be a dude. (Key clue: The “real long” feet.)

5. “Wee Tina,” as sampled in the Beatnuts’ “Props Over Here”

Donald Byrd cut “Wee Tina” in tandem with fellow trumpet player Booker Little. It was a recording session picked up on by one of hip-hop’s savviest beat-diggers, the Beatnuts, as they looped up a snatch of bass action from the song’s mid-section for their glorious “Props Over Here.” The crowning verse comes from Fashion, before he left the group for solo pursuits.

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