The Mountain-Jay Z connection

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"I've got 99 problems, but a bitch ain't one" — Jay-Z

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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.

And 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."

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"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.

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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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