Emotions: Blind Alley
From Untouched (Stax, 1972)

Big Daddy Kane: Ain’t No Half Steppin
From 12″ (Cold Chillin’, 1988). Also on It’s a Big Daddy Thing (Cold Chillin’, 1988)

The Pharcyde: 4 Better or 4 Worse
From promo-only 12″ (Delicious Vinyl, 1993). Also on Bizarre Ryde II the Pharcyde (Delicious Vinyl, 1992)

The Emotion’s “Blind Alley” was the first break I ever heard: I remember that DJ Joe Quixxx and Beni B played it once on KALX (this was back in 1993 or so) and I recognized it as the sample behind AMG’s “Jiggable Pie,” (yeah, I was Kane ignorant at that point) and I thought: “wow, this is what an original sample sounds like.” As such, the song and album it comes from was the first I ever bought strictly to find a sample and I was lucky to have come upon it way back then – it is, by far, the hardest Emotions’ LP to locate and I don’t know if that’s because everybody wants it for the song or that the LP was never a big hit to begin with but either way, if you chance upon this, consider yourself fortunate.

What makes the song (and thus sample) so memorable is the intro melody with its distinctive electric piano(?) and bass accompaniment – soulful, funky and indelible. It’s no wonder the song has been used by so many producers. I’m assuming Marley Marl was the first, flipping the song for Big Daddy Kane’s “Ain’t No Half Steppin'” which remains as one of Kane’s best songs ever. So arrogant yet so smooth – the perfect braggadocio blend.

There’s no shortage of options for another example of “Blind Alley” in action but I went with Pharcyde’s “4 Better or 4 Worse” one of the stranger songs on an album soaked in strangeness. It’s not like no rappers before the Pharcyde had ever thought of comparing the mic to a woman but their invention of “Rhymalinda” is one for the ages as the various quartet members bemoan their complex, co-dependent relationship. If “Passin’ Me By,” was the angsty teenage love song that everybody could identify with, “4 Better,” was at the other end of the spectrum: it’s so outlandish the song is either inspired or insane or possibly, both. I’m still trying to figure out that bridge in the middle with the crazed phone stalker, talking about nibbling on homegirl’s fingers and other unmentionables