The Argyle Album: The Samples

The Argyle Album

Ten years ago on this day, I released The Argyle Album. There were literally hundreds of producers attempting a full-length remix of Jay-Z’s Black Album at the time, mainly because he made such a production of releasing the acapellas, and hinted at his retirement from the rap game. It was an interesting cultural phenomenon that gained a lot of steam once Danger Mouse released his now-infamous Beatles mashup album, The Grey Album. The other two I remember distinctly, and fondly, were Kev Brown’s Brown Album and Kno’s White Album.

The Argyle Album

I was a bit late to the game; most of these remix albums came out in 2004, and mine dropped in 2005. However, I don’t think there’s a more accurate reflection of the wild and weird influences in my head at that time. I don’t have a lot of photos, or journal entries, or letters from that time in my life. But I have this document that reminds me of all the different ways I was listening to music as a college student.

100dBs at University of Maryland

Digital production has changed so much over the last decade. At the risk of sounding like an old man, I’m gonna say I remember having to push and pull the acapellas around a lot. Time-stretching was pretty new then, and not quite reliable, especially in terms of flow in rap vocals. A lot of times you have to force a phrase to fit on a beat if it’s not really the same “feel” as the original, even if they’re the same exact tempo. Being a DJ certainly helps with this in the studio, but tools like Ableton’s “warp” function make this a much simpler task now, as opposed to the agonizing methods I had to use then. I swear, half of the time I spent working on the album was moving acapellas around.

My old Roland SH-101

The reason this release (my first full length production under the name 100dBs) was so pivotal for me is because I effectively learned how to chop samples by making it. Previously, I had been synthesizing almost everything from scratch. I was listening to a lot of classic hip hop at the time: Gang Starr, A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Nas, and all of the other usual suspects. I listen to a lot of different rap, and more generally a ton of different music, but NYC hip hop became the blueprint for what I loved about production at the time. I didn’t really get heavily into rap until college, and I had been listening to reggae and dub since I was a young teen. That backdrop definitely looms large in combination with the hip hop influences on this album, and was carried forward in my two releases with Ryan-O’Neil.

Old Moog at University of Maryland

Some of these are so simple that they could actually be considered mashups, and others are much more nuanced in their culling of existing material. There was a significant amount of drum and synth programming that went into some of these cuts, and I certainly can’t remember where many of the single-hit drum samples came from. I had access to the electronic music lab at University of Maryland at the time, and sometimes I would work there alone after teaching a class. It wasn’t until after I released The Argyle Album that I started becoming more organized about my workflow and record-keeping in the studio. I hope anyone reading this enjoys my breakdown of how each track got put together:


I think this little intro was actually one of the last things to get finished. I had recently picked up a copy of Seals & Crofts’ Greatest Hits LP, probably at a dollar bin in the College Park CD/Game Exchange. Shout to Jeff and Isaac who used to work there and hook me up with tons of cheap buys. Anyway, I was needle-dropping on the record at home, and I remember having this moment where I realized “Summer Breeze” was actually a really dope tune, but I didn’t wanna take it wholesale. I always loved the horns, so I chopped those up one afternoon.

It was only after I finished the arrangement that I came up with the samples that kick off the album. The vocal snippets are all references to landmarks in my life: “home of the Terrapins” (University of Maryland), Israel (where I was born), and Long Island (where my family moved when I was just one year old). The radio fuzz and static were just samples I took from my own tuner.

Prince Paul (widely credited as being the inventor of the hip hop skit, for better or for worse) was a huge influence on me. I also became fond of the way DJ Premier and Pete Rock used short instrumental beats to break up rap albums a bit. This was basically my attempt to do something along those lines, relying heavily on an existing KMD skit.

Public Service Announcement

This one was pretty straight-ahead. I don’t remember much besides programming the 808-style drums, and that I had to tweak the “feel” of his vocals a ton to get em to sit right on this track by Fischerspooner.

December 4th

I always loved the lyrics on this track, so I think I took extra time to give it the proper treatment. The main portion is “Yellow Calx” by Aphex Twin. It’s reversed, and I almost like it better that way. I programmed these drums, and there’s a few synth parts in there too – I just tried to complement the vague melody that permeates the Aphex sample. The reggae drums in the background come from an old Upsetters dub, and the piano is just some random part I played and sampled.

99 Problems

I was getting heavy into old Modest Mouse around this time; there are actually two of their tracks in here. A short snippet of Isaac Brock singing “Cowboy Dan’s a major player” is buried at the beginning, and the main loop is from “Heart Cooks Brain.” I don’t think I had to add much of anything drum-wise, but there’s some weird fuzzy synths overdubbed on this.


Yes, this one is basically just “Kid A” with some mediocre cutting and added percussion. If memory serves correctly, I had to re-pitch the vocals to get them vaguely on key.

Change Clothes

Super simple to make, but I like this one a lot. “Arch Carrier” is one of my favorite Autechre tracks, and it knocks hard without much help. I added an arpeggiated synth in the same key, but besides some light editing and key shifting, this track is basically a blend.


I had been listening to Choking Victim since high school, and the minimal drums and bass on the intro of this track were too irresistible for me to ignore. I built the track around that basic loop, and spliced in the breakdown for no real reason. Another one that’s effectively a mashup, although I programmed a synth at the end.

Justify My Thug

I don’t wanna brag, but I sampled this particular King Crimson song a full five years before Kanye West did. It’s a ridiculous guitar riff that’s hard to forget once you hear it. I doubled the melody on weird modular software synth I patched up. I absolutely hated the hook on this song, so I had to find ways to complete the verses. This involved doing a cut or fade before the last line in most cases, or completing the line with a sample that rhymed. For example, one was a snippet from “The R.O.C.” (a totally unrelated Jay-Z track). That bit at the end is some random Lee Perry interview.

What More Can I Say

The first time I heard The Cure’s “Lullaby” I immediately thought it would make a great sample for a rap track, with some drums to beef it up. I really like the way this one turned out. There’s some subtle synth work here too, and the cymbals are from “Alberto Balsalm” (another Aphex Twin sample). Fun fact: I later used that whole track for a mashup featuring Snoop Dogg.


Sample nerds: there are levels here, and this is kind of a weirdo mini-skit in front of an actual song. The original Jay-Z track (produced by Kanye West) features a sample of Max Romeo’s Chase The Devil. From some mixtape I can’t recall, I ripped the intro where they’re talking about that sample. Prince Jazzbo’s version of that track, “Croaking Lizard” is one of my favorite deejay tunes, and drops shortly after this; I sampled this later on again. You can hear The Upsetters’ “Jungle Lion” (itself an interpolation of Al Green’s “Love and Happiness”) playing in the background leading up to this moment. Then, finally, the track unfolds around a sample of “Long Sentence” – also by the Upsetters, and sped up just a bit too much. That’s a lot of Lee Perry samples, but what’s even more ridiculous is that the original version of this remix was built atop his “Noah Sugar Pan” dub.


Unbelievably, this one is a Leftover Crack sample (successors to Choking Victim). There’s this beautiful breakdown in “Life Is Pain” that you’d never expect, and I looped it wholesale in combination with some piano parts and simple drum programming. I remember working on this beat in my dorm room one late afternoon. It was hot and my window was open. I paused the beat for a minute to rest my ears, and I heard someone yelling “hey” outside. I looked out and some dude was sitting out there. He asked if that was me working on something; I guess he’d been there for I while and heard it repeatedly. I admitted it was me, and he complimented the production. Super random, and refreshing. I think I finished the beat an hour later, and went to the campus diner shortly thereafter. The shot samples in the hook are from a Notorious B.I.G. skit on Ready To Die, and the introductory vocal snippet is from GZA’s “Liquid Swords.”

Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Another reversal, and another Radiohead sample… this is “Like Spinning Plates” – but it’s definitely reversed. The first time I heard their recording, I got curious about what it was before they reversed it, and I saved an edit of it. I used to listen to it more than the album track. This is one of my favorite remixes on the album, and it’s essentially me trying to sound like Timbaland. There’s a lot of drum and synth programming on this, and I remember finishing it in McKeldin Library on my laptop, just as its battery was dying.

My 1st Song

This was one was so tough to get right! It’s in 6/8 time signature, and I remember feeling at the time that a lot of other producers phoned this one in. I won’t name anyone, but there was one popular remix album where this track was literally just random noises. Dude didn’t even try to make a beat for it. It eventually became clear to me that somehow, beatmakers weren’t caught on to the fact that this wasn’t in 4/4; there were lots of producers who just didn’t know anything about basic music theory. I also heard a lot of remixes that were attempted in 4/4 time, all of which were even worse than the brazen non-attempts. I tried to really nail the flow and feel of this one with dirtied-up samples of 60s legends The Zombies.

There’s one track I didn’t touch at all: “Moment of Clarity.” I just didn’t like it. I thought the hook was wack, and it just never sat right with me. Other than that, I really tried to give each track its own personality. Many of them started with different beats entirely that I ended up trashing. Overall, The Argyle Album was an eye-opening experience that sharpened my studio techniques, and laid the foundation for everything I worked on after it.

Valentine’s Day: The Breakup Mix

Love is hard. Download my new mix.


Music Video for “Wait a Minute”

It’s here! Check out the music video Ryan-O’Neil and I shot for our single “Wait a Minute,” and if you dig it, go buy a copy of Tea & Spliffs.

Special thanks to DJ Far East for his role in this project.

Tea & Spliffs is here!

Five years in the making, today Ryan-O’Neil and I are proud to present our second LP, Tea & Spliffs.

Tea & Spliffs

We’ve just leaked a third tune called “Makin’ Moves,” and you can listen to the whole album and buy it here. The best way to order a physical copy is probably through Underground Hip Hop. You can also find us in the new music section on iTunes today:

Tea & Spliffs coming soon

It’s hard to believe it’s been half a decade since Ryan-O’Neil and I self-released our debut album, The Adventures of The One Hand Bandit and The Slum Computer Wizard. It’s equally hard to believe that we decided on such a long title for our first release. That album also clocked in at over an hour of music, a sprawling endeavor for a hip hop album without a ton of skits or bonus material.

This time, we wanted to keep everything short and sweet. On November 27th, we’re releasing our second collaborative effort, titled Tea & Spliffs.

Tea & Spliffs

The first single just dropped, and it’s called “Wait a Minute.” It’s a song about trends, and youth adhering to mob mentality instead of individuality. The video is being edited at the moment and likely will be ready for the album release date, but for now you can check the tune on DJ Booth and preorder Tea & Spliffs on iTunes.

This album is being released on HiPNOTT Records by Kevin Nottingham, and we hope to have a wider reach this time, with his assistance. We know that five years is a long gap, and if you’re still checking for us, we think you’re gonna like this one even better than the first. Thanks for your support!

Glen Pine’s First Solo Release on Color Vinyl

Glen Pine (of The Slackers) and I have just finished pressing my new label’s first release, a psychedelic color 7″ by The Hall Trees for Pickle Don recordings. There are only 400 in existence, and each one is hand-stamped and numbered by us in a grueling two-man assembly line. Buy it online, or see me in Brooklyn or Pine on tour to save on shipping costs:

Nice It Up at The Monro Pub

Nice It Up at The Monro Pub

Saturday, June 30 – The Monro Pub – 481 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, New York – No Cover

The Monro Pub

The Monro Pub's menu

I’m launching the first DJ night at the brand spankin’ new Monro, a British pub with great ales on tap and meat pies in the toaster oven. Located right at 5th Ave and 11th Street in Brooklyn, I think this is going to be one of the coolest little spots in the southern part of Park Slope.

Vinny, owner of The Monro Pub

Vinny, the owner, came to Brooklyn from Liverpool and wanted to bring a bit of his own flavor with him. I’ll be spinning there this Saturday from 10:00 PM onward with the inimitable Ticklah also joining me on the decks!

Earlier on Saturday, from 2:00 til 4:00 PM, I’ll be helping President Carter out with his show Antiques Roadblock at Miss Lily’s. Stop by to hang out and eat, or just tune in online at

In other news, the Frightnrs (formerly known as the Frighteners before threat of a lawsuit) have just digitally released their debut EP. Recorded at Ticklah’s studio and produced by Agent Jay, this release really displays how tight this young group is. They’re no longer a secret. Grab it here.

The Slackers Holiday Show 2011

Yes, it’s that time of year again. The Slackers Holiday Show is this Saturday, and I’ll be DJing at Irving Plaza between sets by supporting acts The Pietasters and Bomb The Music Industry. Get your ticket now, cuz I predict this one will sell out.

The Slackers Holiday Show 2011

I’m proud to say my man Tom over at Whatevski did a fantastic job promoting The Slackers’ new record full of covers, The Radio. When the due date for funding came around, the goal of $5,000 was more than doubled! Tom can now buy a used car with the extra dough. In all seriousness, this is a great sign for the band, Whatevski as a label, and crowd-sourced funding in general.

Unfortunately, someone amongst the approximately four hundred supporters decided to put an exact copy of the release on a pirate site for free download.

The troubling fact here is that it was a true fan; at least, that’s who it appears to be. With all due respect to the members of the band, they aren’t nearly big enough a target for someone from the outside to bother with this sort of tactic. This means someone on the inside thought it was cool to support the project via Kickstarter, then turn around and stab them in the back. I’m not going to sit here and preach about the wrongs of piracy, as I’m pretty sure everyone reading this has done it at some point in their life. But when you do it in such a small bubble and within less than 24 hours, it feels personal and very wrong.

This reminds me of an experience I had with Ryan-O’Neil when we were finished with our first album. We were excited to see orders pouring in on release day, both for our physical CD and the digital download. One week later I came across a Russian download site that had our full album available for download, including scans of the CD and booklet itself! Needless to say, we were floored. If The Slackers are considered a small independent group, then by comparison Ryan and I are infinitesimal.

I was impressed by the pirate’s dedication in bothering to scan the physical product, but I felt cheated. This wasn’t really about money. This was about someone within our circle who felt it was right to give away our hard work for free. If you know me at all, you know that most of what I make is freely available and what I do charge for is very reasonably priced. I don’t chase down bootleggers and I don’t realistically think that my art is above piracy. However, I would have really loved to believe that our fans wouldn’t insult us like that.

Tom is asking whoever did the act to step forward in exchange for full amnesty. Otherwise, he’s threatening to cut off the official download links, and will probably look into the issue more deeply. So here I am, asking the same thing. I love this band and if you do too, you’d step forward now. By refusing to do so, you’re discouraging artists from releasing special projects and depriving everyone else of that beauty.

See you this Saturday.

Saturday, December 17 – Irving Plaza – 17 Irving Pl, New York, NY
– $17.50

Pour Mes Francophones

French Music Explored

Whether you’re familiar with the French language or just beginning to appreciate its charms, this mix is a jambalaya of flavors from L’Hexagone. With bits of yé-yé pop, funky soul, psychedelic rock and distinguished jazz, it’s evident that the French have conquered it all, musically speaking.

Download this mix now:

Pour Mes Francophones Mix