When asked what I listen to, I always explain how my musical progression coincided with my love of vinyl by stating: “I started looking for hip-hop breaks and now I listen to soft psych-folk”. Indeed I’ve expanded my horizons over the years, certainly the case when it comes to the 1967 song called “The Visit” from American group The Cyrkle.
I used to think my newly acquired tastes were mutually exclusive, until two of the most innovative minds in hip-hop Q-Tip and J-Dilla (who came together as The Ummah with Ali) opened my eyes. The Cyrkle track has everything I love about psych-folk namely mellow guitar strums and baroque influenced vocal harmonies. Its a catchy, well crafted song that evokes almost gregorian chant like delivery of an ode to a lost love.
On Get a Hold, Dilla and the Abstract flipped the vocal sample and transformed it into an intricate and reflective beat. Both songs are very different and people dont usually pickup the sample right away, but this is the perfect song to open friends’ minds and have them dabble into another music genre as well as understand why vinyl/sampling is an intricate part of musical creation. For the rest, this song falls in the line of the countless unexpected and genius Dilla sample flips where the source material is as high quality as the beat itself.
When ATCQ’s Beats, Rhymes & Life came out, it was met with mixed reviews for being a drastic departure from the former album sounds, I think it was just artists maturing and tastes becoming more emcompassing. Revisiting the sample source, almost a decade later, confirms what we all knew already;Dilla was ahead of his time.
The Visit (She Was Here) is certainly in my Top 10 songs of all time, possibly Top 5. It is virtually the perfect song, with all the elements that I look for: solid instrumentals (acoustic guitar, jazz-inflected drums), vocal harmonies (both angular and beautiful in this case), lyrics that convey a message or tell a story (did I imagine this, or was it real?), an intensity-increasing key change prior to the final verse, and a great “middle 8”, with an unusual and mellow French horn solo). I’m amazed that someone is sampling it 5 decades later.