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Loop Library with NahRight’s Stan Ipcus

Words by Daniel Isenberg (@StanIpcus)

Happy New Year! I hope everyone brought in 2014 with a bundle of positive energy. I was lucky enough to take a few days off at the end of a productive 2013 to spend some quality time with not only my family and friends, but also my beloved music collection, and bring in ’14 feeling fully refreshed and motivated.

The other night, after I put my kids to bed and my wife went to sleep, I started rummaging through an old hard drive where I store a bunch of my favorite albums and mixtapes and songs looking for forgotten gems, and I eventually ended up in my folder of loops. Many of you may already know this, but in addition to my journalism work, I make my own rap music, or at least I used to. My stuff was posted on NahRight before I ever started working here, so you may have seen it in the past, or as recently as 2013 when I released what I like to call “my retirement album,” Local Legend. A lot of the songs on there, as well as on past projects, I produced myself from loops I gathered over the years. I never was a guy who used an MPC or was into programming drums, but I taught myself how to loop samples in GarageBand back when I got my first MacBook in 2005, and ever since I steadily built up a personal loop library of stuff that reflects my musical taste and style. Many of those loops have been used for past recordings, but as I discovered the other night, I’ve still got a bunch of cool joints in there that have yet to be touched.

Going through my own loops got me thinking about what some of the producers that we interview for our In The Lab series have in their stash. Like, imagine the joints that Pete Rock has looped up, or even young Gods like Thelonious Martin?!? Their folders must be flourishing. So I thought I’d use some of my own loops to create a template for future producers to share what they might have hidden away on hard drives, and set off one of our new feature series ideas for 2014 on the personal tip. Walk with me as I dig through my personal loop library to see if I can find anything dope enough to pull me out of rap retirement, and/or make one of you guys or gals start spitting some heat. There’s stuff here that spans the past four decades, and crosses through various genres, so open up your third eye for this. These aren’t your typical rap beats.

1. Esther Phillips “Black-Eyed Blues” (1973)

My boy Duigs put me on to this joint recently, like last winter around this same time. I told him that I was looking for new stuff to loop up, and he suggested I check this song out. At first, I wasn’t sure what I’d do with it, but I found some cool spots a few minutes into the recording, and looped up two different parts. Both had some nice, light vocals, one which I thought could act almost as a hook section, so I pieced them together as such. It’s got a smooth feel to it, and I can’t front it’s been calling my name for months, so we’ll see if I finally get around to rapping over it in 2014.

2. Thelma Houston “You Used To Hold Me So Tight” (1984)

Yo, this shit is kind of crazy. Who thinks they can body this loop? I’ve had this stashed away since 2006 I think, and I used to just play it over and over loud as hell, wondering what I could do with it. It’s from some ‘80s disco compilation I had, and I’m pretty sure it’s never been used on a rap song. There’s probably a reason for that! But I don’t know, the loop is kind of sick with the “yeeeahhh” in it. It’s got a fun, party bounce to it. I might have to go in, son!

3. The Brian Jonestown Massacre “Anemone” (1996)

One of my favorite music documentaries of all-time is Dig!, which is the story of these two West Coast bands, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Dandy Warhols, and how they went from being the best of friends to bitter rivals. It’s an ill doc, and I highly recommend you all checking it out regardless of what type of music you like. Anyway, I discovered the song “Anemone” from watching the movie, and immediately fell in love with its spaced-out, druggy rock vibe. So I looped it up, thinking that maybe I’d try to write a rap to it someday. For some reason I never did, though in revisiting it, I totally still think it can be rapped on, especially if someone added some hard-ass drums to it. But even without the drums, I still think it’s a go. In 2014, there are no boundaries, ya dig?

4. St. Germain “Montego Bay Spleen” (2000)

Another one of my boys, Timmy P aka Tennessee Tim aka T Bag aka Jesus, put me on to this shit. He loves blessing me with stuff to loop up, and it’s always some off-the-beaten-path flavor. St. Germain is a French musician, and this track off his 2000 album Tourist has an island-reggae vibe, but with a jazz sensibility, too. Just to structure it lightly, I did a little bit of what would best be described as a chop to open up the track (really it’s just a shorter loop of a different section of the song), and then dropped in the loop Timmy recommended for the verse. The whole song is an instrumental, and when he emailed it to me, I think he was like, “:55 in.” And he was right, that was the sweet spot. Very irie, indeed. I might have to hit the homie Matisyahu to hop on this.

5. Yeasayer “Henrietta” (2012)

The moment I first heard this song, I thought about spitting to it. This shit is hard, right? I love Yeasayer’s music, they’ve got a bunch of jams I keep in heavy rotation. I even had the honor of interviewing them for the release of the album this is on, Fragrant World. I never wrote any rhymes to this, but one random night last summer a few of us ended up freestyling over it in a drunken haze, and that shit sounded dope. I’d actually love to hear one of my favorite rappers just body the fuck out of this if I never get to it. Yo Action Bronson, what’s good, son?

Thanks for digging through my loop library with me. Holler at me on Twitter @StanIpcus and let me know if you fuck with any of these, and stay tuned for hopefully what will be an interesting new feature series here at NahRight. Peace and love.

Stan Ipcus’ album Local Legend is on iTunes now. Explore more on his Bandcamp site.

Previously: Sample Stories with Bob James