if you want me, you should find me [Pill x Suzanne Vega]

May 13th, 2014 by | Tags: , ,

I was in a bike shop with a friend when something familiar came over the PA system: “If you want me, you can find me left of center off of the strip.” I knew the lyrics, but I was surprised to hear them as part of an unfamiliar song. I knew it from another song, Pill’s “On Da Korner,” produced by Needlz, from his 1140: The Overdose mixtape. I asked the clerk, and she said it was called something like “Left of the Center,” but she couldn’t remember who sang it.

It’s a good sample in a solid song off a solid mixtape that just recently re-entered the rotation. Pill was always a good complement to Freddie Gibbs. Where Gibbs had that grown-man nihilist perspective, Pill came with sheer unrepentant swagger. He’s gonna do what he’s gonna do, and that’s just how life is. Pill’s a dude other dudes tend to talk about in terms of realness, which is why you can see everything from wads of money to cooking crack to smoking in his videos. (Pill had the trap goin’ ham way before Kanye and Jay, too.)

I like the way the sample sits on the song. The subdued, almost melancholy vocals pair well with the driving beat and Pill’s verses. It’s an airy vocal sample sitting on top of a pounding song, the kind of combo that tends to lodge itself in my head. It’s a similar vibe to Vado’s “Badman” and “Off Hiatus,” both of which sample a couple of Lana Del Rey songs to give some flavor to crime raps.

The original song sampled in “On Da Korner” is Suzanne Vega’s “Left of Center,” a song from ’86 and part of the Pretty In Pink soundtrack. It’s a love song about being on the outskirts. It’s about being a little weird, but knowing that the person you like is a little weird, too. I’ve been spinning it since last night, and I like it. I like how Vega sings it, and I like what it’s about, too.

What I like the most, though, is understanding the difference between how Vega used her lyrics and the way Pill and Needlz did. “Left of Center” is obviously its own thing, and it’s successful at what it does. To make “On Da Korner” work, though, Needlz needed to find a sample that was not just exciting, but fit Pill’s milieu. On top of that, Pill needed to create a song that made the sample make sense.

Both songs use the same vocals, but have fairly different moods. “Left of Center” is full of longing and more than a little hope. “On Da Korner” uses Vega’s words as a statement of intent, and sounds more than a little prideful. Both songs are fundamentally the same—”If you want me, you can find me off the strip”—but Vega’s figurative usage contrasts with Pill’s literal usage.

As a kid, I found new music mostly by way of the radio and liner notes. Liner notes would point me toward artists that the original artist either dug, was partners with, or was influenced by. It let me spiderweb my way out into good music, and those habits carry on now.

I pretty much only get liner notes when I buy vinyl these days, but samples have quickly filled that gap for me. It’s like an impromptu history lesson, if I can source the sample and find the album. It goes both ways, too. Sometimes I’ll grab an old album or someone will recommend me something, and I’ll hear a line that makes everything snap into place and deepens my enjoyment. It’s like following breadcrumbs.

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One comment to “if you want me, you should find me [Pill x Suzanne Vega]”

  1. It sounds a bit like my experience with M.O.P.’s “Cold as Ice,” and then having a double-take when I eventually heard the original Foreigner version.

    I know that samples have to come from somewhere, but it’s like meeting your partner’s parents for the first time and realizing that they have the same eyes.