WVAU

Sample School: Billy Stewart

Photo Courtesy of Soulwalking

Photo Courtesy of Soulwalking

August Greenberg, Web Staffer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Sampled by: Jay Electronica, DJ Premier, J. Cole, Slick Rick, Ghostface

Billy Stewart grew up in Washington, D.C., and attended the Armstrong High School over in Truxton Circle. Born William Larry Stewart II, Billy created the Four Stewart Brothers, a vocal group consisting of himself and his three younger brothers, at only twelve years old. They managed to get their own radio program here in D.C. for five years.

Stewart made two legendary and important friendships in the late 50s. As he got older, Stewart became associated with soul group The Rainbows. Don Covay, the Rainbows’ lead, would later find greater success as a solo artist. But the bigger name to grace the group was legendary soul man Marvin Gaye. Additionally, rock & roll star Bo Diddley discovered Stewart playing piano backstage at an event, and asked him to join his band. Diddley and Gaye continued to be important players. Diddley played guitar on Billy’s first record for Chess, Billy’s Blues. Billy’s second record, this time for Okeh, was Billy’s Heartache, on which he was backed by the Marquees, a group that at Gaye was in at the time.

We only received three full-length LPs from Billy, all released between 1965 and 1967. Stewart’s silky falsetto made him particularly popular in the Chicago Soul scene, but his music contains many musical references to straight-forward rock & roll, as per his relationship with Bo Diddley. This line is one he toed throughout his career, embracing general lyrical themes and song structures from the soul movement, but keeping a distinct grip on the sound of the 50’s rock tradition that he was born out of.

Stewart would remain a musician’s musician up until his untimely death. After Duke Ellington heard the singer, he requested to produce a session for him. Unfortunately, before the session could take place, Stewart was killed in a car crash. Later, Bob Dylan revealed he was a fan of Stewart’s music on his radio show.

The earliest sample I could find of Stewart’s music occurred in 1991. Compton rapper Hi-C took a fat loop from “Sitting in the Park”, a track off of I Do Love You, Stewart’s second album. No disrespect to Hi-C, he worked with 2nd II None and DJ Quik back then, but this track comes off as a dated and cheesy song. Produced by Tony-A, Steve Yano.

“Sitting In the Park’”would continue to be his most-sampled work. Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh created piano stabs out of the intro for their ‘94 track of the same name as the original. Lo-Fi favorite Tomppabeats made the song his own just last year. Chicago MC Noname’s poetic flow and soulful imagery fit very well over the song. Pop star Lily Allen (and producer Show N Prove) totally transform the sound of the sample in “Cake”, which was released earlier this year.

A Stewart song with many more typical hip hop names in the sample list is “Summertime”, a cover of a George and Ira Gershwin composition that yielded the title of Stewart’s debut. Billy makes an odd vocalization in the cover, something MC Shy D uses in the song in 1987’s “Tearin’ it Up”.

DJ Premier heard the same sound and used it two years later on Gang Starr’s “DJ Premier in Deep Concentration”. Method Man and Redman used it on their collab album Blackout. The sound made an appearance on Public Enemy’s classic from 1989, Fear of a Black Planet. Although some tracks sample the music off of this song, most opt for this odd sound. Find it at (0:43).

The greatest cultural relevancy Stewart would reach in the hip hop age would come in 2009. Just Blaze took a Chess single called “Cross My Heart” and turned it into Jay Electronica’s masterpiece “Exhibit C”. This verse is easily a top 10 verse from any artist, but it’s the powerful instrumental that really makes the song soar.

Further samples and interesting readings:

Whosampled

Bio

Soulwalking

Navigate Left
  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    A Band I Should’ve Been Loving For Years

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    Mirror Master

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    Bohemian Rhapsody For Dummies

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    An “Alternative” Horoscope Because HARD TIMES Already had a Punk One

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    Earl Sweatshirt is Back and Better Than Ever

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    Why We Need Kamasi Washington Right Now

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    Why I Cover: “Blitzkrieg Bop” by the Ramones

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    Empowering Women in the Music Industry

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    In Our Feelings: The Illusion of “No Regrets”

  • Sample School: Billy Stewart

    Current Columns

    Genuinely Meaningless?

Navigate Right
AU's Student-Run Internet-Only Radio
Sample School: Billy Stewart