The Mountain-Jay Z connection

MT. FILLMORE.jpg“I’ve got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one” — Jay-Z

Sounds like a line from a blues song, doesn’t it?

Seeing as how Goldmine is a classic-rock publication, with readers who view rap as the thing that killed music, a lot of you might not be familiar with the work of hip-hop godfather Jay-Z. One guy who is? None other than Leslie West of Mountain, and he’s a fan.

Today, I talked with West about a series of blues albums he’s done for Schrapnel Records with pals like drummer Aynsley Dunbar and producer Mike Varney for a future podcast and article for our print edition. Unexpectedly, the conversation veered off into Jay-Z’s sampling of West’s guitar riffs from “Mississippi Queen” for his single “99 Problems,” off The Black Album, the LP that was supposed to be Jay-Z’s retirement send-off.

“When I listen to ’99 Problems’ and he says, ‘I’ve got 99 problems, but a bitch ain’t one,’ that just hits me,” says West.

albumarea_th2.jpgAnd it’s not just the royalties from that bruising, hard-hitting song that make West smile. As the story goes, Jay-Z was going to retire, but before he did, producer Rick Rubin wanted the rapper to sample — pardon the pun — some metal music. He did and the rest is history, as Jay-Z weaved samples of West’s riffs in and out of the track in a style reminiscent of Run DMC’s collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way.”

albumarea_th3.jpg“I was thrilled with how he used that stuff,” says West. And Jay-Z isn’t the only hip-hop artists getting hip to Mountain. For his hit album, Graduation, Kanye West sampled some riffs from one of Leslie West’s solo albums.

So, what do you think? Is it sacrilege for hip-hop artists to sample such classic-rock scraps for their own use? Let me know what your stance is.

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