Friday, February 18, 2011

Puff Daddy & the Tuff Crew

You probably weren't expecting a Puff Daddy record to pop up on this blog, were you? But hey, two verses by Biggie and Busta Rhymes on a hook over a track lifted from the Tuff Crew? Even I would have to call you a "hater" if you couldn't appreciate that.

This is "Victory," more specifically credited to Puff Daddy & the Family, dropped on Bad Boy Entertainment in 1998 (from the '97 album, No Way Out). It's produced by one of Bad Boy's regular "Hit Men," Stevie J. But like I said, it's a big shameless lift from the Tuff Crew. The Tuff Crew started out their second (or third, if you wanna count Phanjam) album with an epic sounding instrumental to signal their triumphant return. They called it "Going the Distance," because the bulk of the instrumentation is taken from the soundtrack to Rocky, specifically a track called "Going the Distance."

Now, you might say, okay Werner, granted the Tuff Crew sampled it first, but lots of great rap songs have sampled the same records over the years. Or, to quote GURU, "rap is an art, you can't own no loops." But these guys didn't just coincidentally use the same song as a sample source, they both used it the same way, rather boldly playing the whole first minute of it through rather than a standard short loop, but still chop it at the same point. But even more importantly, Stevie J paired it up with essentially the same drums that the Tuff Crew did. He removed the handclaps (after all, this wasn't 1989 anymore), but otherwise he completely just lifted Tuff Crew's track and played it whole for Puff.

But I'm not mad at that. First of all, because the hypothetical naysayer above would be right in pointing out that lots of great songs got to samples second (or third or twenty-eighth), and that doesn't make them any less dope. And secondly because Tuff Crew underutilized it, making it an introductory instrumental, whereas Bad Boy turned it onto a proper song with vocals. And finally, because on some mixes (more on that in a sec) Stevie J does add a few extra elements, most notably some operatic female vocal sounds, that enhance the experience even more.

By the way, a quick aside while I'm on the subject... this record credits the wrong sample in the liner notes [see the label scan above]! It says it uses Bill Conti (he's the guy who did the Rocky music)'s "Alone In the Ring." But that's wrong,they're using "Going the Distance!" "Alone In the Ring" is a very subdued piano solo that sounds nothing like "Going the Distance" and doesn't appear even momentarily in the background of "Victory." It's all "Going the Distance."

Now, there's a couple mixes here, but they're essentially minor variations than whole-hog remixes. There is no version that doesn't feature the same "Going the Distance" music or the same verses by Puff and Biggie. The mixes only vary by about 20 seconds in length. And the radio edits also remove Puff shouting ad-libs through a loud-speaker-like distorted mic effect ("it's all fucked up now!"), which was pretty annoying anyway, so that's no great loss. The most distinguishing characteristic is that only the Drama mixes feature the opera chick.

An interesting aspect to the censored versions, by the way... while they just silence every curse word from the raps, rendering them pretty unlistenable, it's worth noting that the chorus has been completely redone. Busta energetically curses up a storm on the original, and I guess that was just too much to cut out for the clean versions, so he re-does it, saying things like "we've got a real live hit" and "where my soldiers at?" instead of "we've got the real live shit" and "where my niggas at? where the funk my bitches is at?"

There are actually multiple US 12" singles for "Victory" (four, by discogs' count), but if you ask me, this is the ideal one. The only thing it's missing is Nine Inch Nails' remix that's featured on a couple versions. But that remix is just a noisy, unappealing sonic mess, so you're not missing anything there. As far as I'm concerned, the non-Radio versiono of the Drama Mix is the definitive version, as it features all the elements, and that's on here. Plus, this 12" also includes the Instrumental, which is absent from most of the others.

One more thing, and then I'm out. All of the mixes - even the non-Radio mixes full of cursing - censor Biggie's line where he refers to himself as "the Son of Satan." Unfortunately, however, I believe this stupid edit persists on every 12" version of this single. And it's that way on No Way Out, too, so don't blame the singles. You know the one place where it's left intact? The Nine Inch Nails Remix. Fucking Hell, there's just no winning with "Victory."


  1. What did you think of the Intro on the EPMD Out Of Business album that also sampled Rocky?

  2. 1st off I wanna say - i think yours & other blogs really help keep our culture moving forward.

    i gotta tell you guys you HAVE TO count Phanjam as the 1st Tuff Crew album for one reason alone : it is ! LOL. --- a lot of groups opened their shows to the Rocky theme music in the late 80's & w/ Tuff Crew "going the distance" was how DZD (Danger Zone Dancers) took the stage : so it ended up on the album. ----- Puff's crew (stevie j/ d-dott) were NOT influenced by the Tuff Crew as much as I love how that sounds. and NO the drums are NOT even similar (LOL @ he took the hand claps out).
    this article was a serious "reach" but continue on your mission to expose the world to the real !!

  3. Oh yeah, I forgot about that EPMD one. That was cool, too; but it had more of a tinnier sound... I think because they replayed the music instead of sampling it direct? The scratches were a big plus on that one, though.

    @BrownBum - Okay, you're right; the drums aren't exactly the same (I went back and compared them; then I corrected my post). But they're almost the same; the Tuff Crew just doubles up a bit more. It's just the handclaps over the top that make the Tuff Crew's percussion sound so different.

    I don't know if it's a reach that the one influenced the other, though. I think it'd have to be a pretty big coincidence that they both took this 2 minute record and played a good full minute of it (I'm estimating), but still chop it and eventually loop it at the same place. It was certainly a very memorable moment when Tuff Crew put it on their album; so it's hard to imagine The Hit Men weren't influenced at all.

  4. Found myself revisiting these records -- and this post.

    Totally also irritated at the bizarre choice of censoring these guys chose, lol.

    Have you checked the "Hip Hop Remix" though?