Today we explore one of my favourite samples: the blaring, haunting saxophone introduction to The Lafayette Afro Rock Band’s “Darkest Light” from their 1975 album Malik. Click below to listen:
The Lafayette Afro Rock Band – Darkest Light (Malik, 1975) [Sample][audio:http://momonox.free.fr/divers/darkestlight.mp3]
Formed in 1970 on Long Island, The Lafayette Afro Rock Band was originally called Bobby Boy Congress after vocalist Bobby Boy. Quickly realizing that “America was already overloaded with funk acts” (1), the band relocated to France in 1971 where they caught the attention of producer Pierre Jaubert. Jaubert dramatically altered the group’s musical direction by encouraging them to blend “the powerful Afro-beat tendencies” of Paris’ Barbesse community with the band’s “original solid (if workmanlike) funk.” (2) The resulting sound, a “heavy, dense, no compromise ghetto funk,” (3) propelled their second and third albums, 1974’s Soul Makossa (the source of another classic hip-hop sample: the drum break from “Hihache”) and 1975’s Malik, to modest success.
Unfortunately, by the mid 1970s Jaubert had become infatuated with disco and convinced the band to record a novelty dance track called “Brazil” under the name Crispy and Company. The song became an instant hit, reaching #26 in the UK. Spurred on by the track’s success the band plunged headfirst into the disco wave, releasing albums like Frisco Disco and singles like “Dr. Beezar, Soul Frankenstein.” However, their disco success would be short-lived and the group disbanded soon after returning to the US in 1978.
Luckily for us, the band’s pre-disco catalogue has since been thoroughly mined by beat diggers and a number of excellent samples have been unearthed, the saxaphone introduction from “Darkest Light” being perhaps the best known and most recognizable of them. Melancholy and desolate, the sample is so effective for two reasons: first, because it is evocative – it elicits in the listener a unique emotional response – and second, because it is so versatile. Containing only a single instrument, the sample can be layered over any number of other samples to create an limitless variety of sounds.
Indeed, consider the diversity of the songs on which it has been used, some of which are listed below. On Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got”, the sample serves as a compelling counterpoint to the exuberant horns of Johnny Pate’s “Shaft In Africa.” On Public Enemy’s “Show ‘Em What You Got” the sample becomes a hypnotizing clarion call for empowerment while on Wreckx-N-Effect’s “Rump Shaker” it becomes a New Jack Swing summer jam.
Jay-Z – Show Me What You Got (Kingdom Come, 2006)[audio:http://www.4080records.com/music/jz_dl.mp3]
Public Enemy – Show ‘Em What You Got (It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, 1988)[audio:http://www.4080records.com/music/pe_dl.mp3]
Wreckx-N-Effect – Rump Shaker (Hard Or Smooth, 1992)[audio:http://www.4080records.com/music/we_dl.mp3]