We look at how a Hindi vocal sample ended up burrowing its way into Brooklyn drill, and beyond.
Timbaland was trending a few days ago, after Middle Eastern and North African DJ specialist Nooriyah broke down some of Timbo’s biggest records that sampled Arabic songs. This isn’t anything new if you’ve dug into the producer’s catalog, even slightly. These enchanting, yet unconventional samples to the Western world were commonplace in Timbaland’s greatest hits, and have since evolved into new rap traditions.
If you’re listening to the blistering sounds of the UK and Brooklyn’s drill sound, these hypnotizing vocal samples, largely coming from traditional music in the Eastern hemisphere, should also be familiar. CJ’s “Whoopty,” which has garnered praise from the likes of both Offset and Cardi B, among many other celebrities, was arguably one of the biggest drill tunes to close out 2020. It slowly began bubbling on the charts, earning the Staten Island rapper a major record deal with Warner. Meanwhile, "Whoopty," produced by pxcoyo, continues to blow up across platforms-- but CJ was far from the first to use that specific sample, though.
The Hindi vocal sample which finds an appearance in CJ's "Whoopty" beat, among others, comes from Arjit Singh & Mithoon’s “Sanem Re.” It was then morphed into a ghastly loop, one which has seemingly helped propel the homegrown turf of drill music.
“Sanem Re” is a love ballad, serving as the titular single for the soundtrack of Divya Khosla Kumar’s film of the same name. The guitars in the song naturally sound like they are a loop in some YSL-affiliate's record, making it an easily likable beat, while Arjit Singh’s euphonious melodies have been transformed into a riddim synonymous with the marginalized.
One of the earliest glimpses into King Von’s brilliant storytelling was on 2019’s “Exposin Me.” Though it arrived as the cusp of Von’s underground buzz, it was littered with local lingo and cryptic messages only fully comprehensible to O’Block and its surrounding areas. But drill, like love, is a language in and of itself.
Von and 600Memo swapped bars detailing real-life feuds and altercations in their neighborhoods, continuing to put a beaming spotlight on a neighborhood that has been largely disenfranchised. Personal shots were fired, neighborhoods were disrespected, and a response from the targets arised.
FBG Duck and Rooga retaliated fire with their own remix of the song, smoking opps and disrespecting the fallen. The reality of it is grim, and smoking opps ignorantly became the Internet’s most disrespectful meme. In the wake of King Von and FBG Duck’s death in 2020, these two diss tracks cemented a feud that was taken to the grave. Outside of their own feud, the track was also remixed by Tay600, FYB J Mane, and more in Chicago.
CJ’s “Whoopty” has more plays on YouTube than Von or Duck’s records combined, and even outside of the States, the production has been taken and flipped across several countries. Similar to the structure in Chicago’s frontrunners of the beat, Italy’s Rondo offered an aggressive, Mafioso-infused take on the record, sprinkling Von’s clean-cut flow with Duck’s aggressive tone in a record called “Face To Face.” It captures a recklessness and a sense of immortality and invincibility on wax, detailing the rebellion of gun-toting Italian youth, hanging out of Audi car windows in the city streets.
In the Netherlands, Morrocan-born rapper Lijpe tackles the same sample with a different twist, hollowing out the production for a more roomy delivery.
Frontrunners of Brooklyn drill’s movement have utilized this beat for their own community reporting, if you will. Bringing their audience into the volatile world of the streets. Pop Smoke and 22Gz had some of the most popular renditions out of the New York borough. However, under a microscope, it’s evident that the production, like Chicago, also took on a life of its own. Underground names like Curly Savage, Rah Swish, Eli Fross and Bklyn Bigz have further cemented in New York’s drill culture. And that extends out to places like the UK and Australia that harbor their own scene. Masked MC Richi, Simba Shore and #410 Smokey lit up the drill scene across London after remixing the song. A couple hundred thousand YouTube views later, Australia's Kush Mink gave an intimate glimpse into Melbourne, Victoria’s underworld in a little under 2 minutes.
The most infectious loop known in drill currently came ways from its birthplace of Chicago, over 8000 miles to be exact. Will Hansford, Steve Chea & WMD took Arjit Singh’s amorous hums and looped them into a symphony of violence and mayhem. Arjit’s original speaks to the diaspora of Hindi-speaking Indians in the language of love. Similarly, the “Exposing Me” beat spoke to the trenches across the world, from its birthplace in Chicago to New York City, London, Australia, and beyond.
Which version is your favorite?