Friday, December 28, 2012

2012's Top Fives

No intro; you know what it is. The ones with links are the ones I've blogged about in depth already, so clicky to read more.

Top Five New Albums:

Young Zee - One Crazy Weekend is easily the album of the year for me.  I feel like I'm one of only a handful of people who even know this actually came out, which is a real shame, because it's delightful.

Low Budget - Poolside I wasn't expecting to like this album nearly as much as I did. It's pretty great and I urge you to check that out.

Freddie Foxxx - The Kolexxxion I didn't blog about this one during the year, but it's pretty obvious combining Freddie Foxxx with DJ Premier is going to be a rewarding endeavor; and they came through like we knew they would.

Mad Child - Dope Sick There was a period where Mad Child turned into a Christian rapper and Swollen Members were a mess, but that period is long gone and their stuff is worth checking for again.

Rime Force Most Illin' Perhaps the only release more slept on than Young Zee's; but it's a must have little EP.

(Also Noteworthy New Music:)

MA Doom - Son of Yvonne I saw an interview where Ace said this was meant to be a mixtape and that explains everything. Ace is a top MC... the beats are old, previously released Doom tracks (his Special Herbs and Spices stuff), which are still good, but it all feels undercooked. A solid mixtape-level venture, but don't expect it to stand alongside Ace's other albums. Kane's appearance is a let-down, though.

Nas - Life Is Good People seem to get amped for every Nas album, shouting "next Illmatic," and then a few months later, everyone looks back on it like, "okay, not really."  But like his last album, there was some nice stuff on here, like "Loco Motive." Leaving off "Nasty" was just stupid, though.

Large Professor - Professor @ Large
I'd put his single as a best of for sure (it's not here, though, because it was 2011). The full-length is not so mind-blowing, but still a very respectable outing, with some highlights like a posse cut with Grandy Daddy IU and Cormega.

Craig G - Ramblings Of An Angry Old Man Not a masterpiece to hold up next to his Atlantic stuff, but a pleasant surprise for sure. Even if you've been bored with Craig in the last, oh, decade or so; I recommend giving this a try.

Kendrick Lamar - good Kid, m.A.A.d city He deserves all the attention he's getting for lyric writing, but his production (and sometimes his voice/flow, depending on the song) are keeping me from putting this on regular rotation. But you should at least listen to it once.

Sole - A Ruthless Criticism of Everything Existing Kind of a mixed bag, but an interesting, compelling one. Unless you're a hardcore, dedicated Sole fan, you can skip a bunch of Sole projects without missing out on anything important. But for the rest of you, this is probably the one it's worth checking in on. A little (lot?) too preachy this time around, but the production makes up for it.

Jay-Z and Kanye West - Watch the Throne Didn't expect to see this here? Hey, I dug the "Otis" beat as much as everybody else. The album would be a million times better without Kanye rapping on it, but you still can't really sleep on this.

The Top Five New Releases of Previously Unreleased Music:

Phase N Rhythm - The Force Of the Matrix I'm still doing the happy dance over this.

Craig G - I Can't Stop This one got a lot of flack, and I'm probably surprising a lot of people by including it in the Top 5 above other possible titles. Well, I do agree that 7"s are a disappointment; but regarding the questions about this song's authenticity? This track's great, and it's a nice little presentation. Even if it's a "Top Shelf"-style phony (which I'm not convinced about), it's still great. Just like Top Shelf 8/8/88 was.

Natural Elements - Lost Demos & Instrumentals Not as amazing as the previous release; as this is more instrumentals, promos and solo stuff than the classics on the last EP. But this is still some brilliant, vintage NE material we've never heard before.

Jorun Bombay - Instrumentals DWG totally sneaked this one under the radar... hip-hop's all-time most important, unreleased instrumentals perfectly recreated, and it was just a bonus record in a set. Wow.

JVC Force - The 1992-1993 Unreleased EP Chopped Herring was winning in 2012, no doubt. Seriously fantastic material finally sees the light of day.

The Top Five New Releases of Previously Released Music:

Def Rhythm Productions - Back To the Lab The defining assets of records on this list is the rarity and, of course, the quality of the music. Well, Back To the Lab was on everybody's wishlists for a reason, and this reissue did it right.

Payroll Records - Rare Tracks Just like Chopped Herring was winning in previously unreleased vinyl this year, Dope Folks definitely owned the category of previously released reissues. A terrific compilation of very desirable material.

Lord Finesse - Signature Sevens Series It's frustrating when releases you really want are stuck out on 7" rather than 12", but Slice of Spice did the best 7" job possible with their collection of super rare Finesse tracks that had previously been cassette only, or otherwise in dire need of a vinyl release.

Wizard of Rap - Escape from East New York Seriously, Dope Folks cleans up in this category; this is an amazing record that, let's face it, we were never going to find an OG copy of.

Danger Zone Mobb Sqwad - TL Back To Yell I feel like I should put something other than another Dope Folks release here; but who amongst us hasn't been on the edge of their seat for a reissue of this material since it was first hinted at years ago?

I'm not gonna do a noteworthy list for the unreleased and reissue stuff, because it's pretty much everything... certainly, if you somehow missed DWG's Latee release, or the nice little 7"s from The Legion, you'll want to catch yourself up. The Fat Boys in a pizza box looked pretty cool.

All in all, I'd say not a bad year. New music seems to be experiencing a bit of an upswing, and the issuing of "lost" hip-hop still seems to be growing, when years before I would've assumed we'd plateau by now. All in all, I'm optimistic for what we'll see in 2013.  :)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Nu News Is Good News

A few months back, I blogged about how The 2 Live Crew passed off a bunch of Balli and the Fat Daddy songs as rare 2 Live recordings from back in the day. One of those songs wasn't a Balli and the Fat Daddy song, though, it was by some group I'd never heard of called The New Born Clan. Well, now I know who they are, too. I just got their record!

See, Macola got their name a bit wrong (fairly minor compared to everything else they got wrong!); it's actually The Nu Born Clan; and like Balli and the Fat Daddy, they're another act down with Fresh Kid Ice's Ice Cold Productions crew. They're not on the Ice Cold Productions' collective album Masters of Bass that I just recently reviewed, but they are mentioned in its liner notes as being on their roster.

This here is their (I'm reasonably confident) sole outing, a four-song 12" on Underground Records It's also, as far as I know, the label's sole outing. There's no year here, but considering the ICP's history, I'd say circa 1992 is a fair guess. And, combined with "Serious Conversation" from those "Rock On Crew" albums, this seems to constitute their entire discography on wax.

Who makes up the Nu Born Clan? Well, the jacket is very helpful in that regard. It's a picture cover showing five people, and right on the front it lists the members, sort of... the way it's laid out, it looks like they're saying I.C.U. is the name of five members. But "I.C.U." is the first song on the 12", and I think it's actually just supposed to be the title of the 12". Actually only two of the people on the cover seem to be actual members...  the girls are just models, I guess. They're named on the back cover: Sherry Bogle, Ava Bogle and Colleen Vieux. So I think that leaves the Clan's line-up as Double *07, Dyce, D.I. and 40 Dog (possibly the same 40 Dogg from that Silence record?). Double * 07 (I'm using an asterisk, but it's actually a big dot floating in the center like a hyphen) and Dyce are the MCs, and presumably the guys on the cover.  40 Dog is referred to in one of the songs as DJ 40 Dog, though the only scratching on here is provided by a guest DJ named DJ Altimate. So I guess their role in the Clan's a little more vague (maybe why they didn't get to be on the cover), probably involved in the instrumental aspects... though they're not the producers either, because the producers of this record are spelled out as Darren Moise, Shawn Pittman and L.O.S. Production, plus an executive producer named Rebel T.

Okay, I'm finally done overwhelming you with names we've never heard of. So, how is the actual record? It's pretty good... They sound a bit too low budget, especially on the title track (which apparently just means "I see you" in the context of this song), so you wind up with a bit more of an amateur vibe than you'd normally like. They also go a bit overboard on the "diggity diggity" Das EFX rip-off delivery, which certainly can't be accused of having aged well. Fortunately, they hang that up quick, and most of the rest of the 12" sounds better. "Let's Run It" is a lot like the first song, only little tighter with deep bass drops and hectic scratching, and "Hot Nut" is just about kicking some amusing stories over "The 900 Number" loop. "Pussy Bent" is in some ways the best song, though they lift a large chunk pretty shamelessly from The Ohio Players' "Rollcoaster." But with a fun dirty hook by Sherry (maybe the same Sherry from the picture cover?), Gene Ann and Adrian Jones, and even nicer cuts than "Let's Run It," this just feels the most like a richly produced rap song that works on all levels, leaving behind the amateurish vibe from earlier. It also shows they're not the preachy church nerds you might've assumed from hearing "Serious Conversation."

Overall, their hearts are in the right place, with semi-fast, hardcore deliveries over pure hip-hop tracks, rebelling against the booty music expectations that's become sadly inseparable from the Miami stereotype. They're not the best MCs, and the production isn't terribly innovative, but it's solid stuff. I could easily see "Let's Run It" turn up on a random rap mixtape, a la DJ Ivory's Hear No Evil series, turning this record into a really expensive collector's piece. Personally, I'm glad I got in early.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Unreleased Boxcar Sessions

We're living in a bit of a golden era (hopefully just the beginnings of even greater things to come) thanks to labels Freestyle Records, Chopped Herring and DWG... but even before, we have occasionally seen otherwise lost hip-hop from a bygone era get thankfully released many years later. Today's case in point: Unreleased Boxcar Sessions, by Saafir.

Now Saafir's been in the game for a minute, and released a bunch of albums and projects both on his own and collaboratively. But he did kinda peak with his legendary full-length debut, Boxcar Sessions, on Qwest Records in 1994. Even when he releases something hot, you have to add the disappointing caveat, "but it's no Boxcar Sessions." Just like Nas with Illmatic, he'a great MC; but he can just never escape that looming shadow of his first album. So when you see "Unreleased Boxcar Sessions" pop up for sale on your favorite little indie hip-hop retailer site, you do a spit take on your keyboard, spin around in your chair a few times, and then quickly paypal them before they sell out.

This is a completely self-released LP from Saafir, a CD-R with black and white paper artwork, though at least a professional sticker label. 2002, Hobo Records. "For promotional use only," it says; but I doubt many copies exist that weren't sold commercially. Eight full-length songs from 1993-1994, produced by his usual Junction crew who made Boxcar Sessions, plus a bonus new song to show you that Saafir still had it.

I guess let's talk about that bonus track first.  It's called It's called "Whomp 2000." Like several other tracks here, it's produced by J-Groove, but it sounds nothing like the Boxcar Sessions material. That's okay, though, because it's dope. The production is rugged but funky, with a big "whomping" bass sound, and Saafir spitting crazy, freestyle battle rhymes:

"I love rappin'; it's just like scrappin', and when you burn a nigga, it sounds like fire when it's crackelin'... in the millennium I'm a get 'em like a pit with rabies on my tongue and sores from eating my dung, I'm spitting bacteria, I'm sic'ing for you niggas in the cafeteria. That's it, give me your lunch money, quarterback. I'm about to intercept and have these fag rappers dressed in drag strippin' on the internet. Is it winter yet? Nah." 

...If only Good Game was like this!

Okay, so now the actual Boxcar sessions. We have three tracks that are earlier mixes of songs from the main album: "Light Sleeper," "No Return:" and "Joint Custody." Of course the original "Light Sleeper" is better... or I should say, the version we've all come to know, as this is actually the original, strictly speaking. There's a reason they picked that one as the lead single. But this is still a tight alternate version, also produced by Jay Zee, that would've been a very welcome B-side in '94 - moody and tough.\

J Groove handled both versions of "Joint Custody," which use the same basic samples. The drums sound different though, and the vocal samples on the hook are completely different. You'll hear instantly why it's referred to as the "Spliff Mix" in the track-listing.  It's hard to one better than the other, and this version isn't a huge revelation; but it's cool to have this as a point of interest.

The instrumental to Jay Zee's "No Return," on the other hand, is completely different. I liked how the album version used the atmospheric photograph sounds from the opening of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre to open that version; but I like this (very dusty) piano sample even better than the final mix's, and in the end probably prefer this mix.

Now that leaves us three, four... five more songs. These were all recorded for Boxcar Sessions, but left off the album. In other words, they're entirely unheard, vintage material - the most exciting stuff. Production is divided by J Groove, Jay Zee and fellow Junctioneer Big Nous. The tracks all feature that chunky, broken jazz 90's style that also feature Saafir kicking his crazy , staccato, unpredictable flow and abstract battle rhymes: "Another flick of the wrist, I'm pissed, gotta look at the statistics. Ballistics have... no report of a body because watch tower just watched me pass a flower bath. I don't bathe. I'm narrariater[sic.] by trade, I pave... graves."

The track "In the Future..." is a rhyme we've actually heard on one of the first Wake Up Show Free Style LPs, and it was one of the stand-out moments there. Now we get to finally hear it as a fully produced song with a sick, bass-heavy Big Nous beat - it's a killer. These songs aren't just cuts that didn't quite make the roster on Boxcar Sessions... these would have been some of the best moments! Granted, this disc errs on the inclusion side... some of the remixes are just sorta interesting rather than mind blowing. But I always prefer extra over less. And the mind blowing is in here.

This disc is pretty rare... the kind of thing, as soon as you see it, you know you'd better snatch it up quick because you might never get another chance. Well, that goes double now that it's a decade old; so if you come across a copy snatch it up and bark like DMX at anybody how tries to wrest it away from you. Because we may've had to resign ourselves to the fact that we'll never see another Illmatic; but we did get additional Boxcar Sessions.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Fake Snagglepuss

(Youtube version is here.)
Update 12/19/12: Snaggapuss himself hit me up on twitter to fill us in on this mystery: "wc is my dude when i met him we talked about it he didnt know till preemo told him!lol"

Friday, December 14, 2012

Return of the Green Won

Pace Won and producer Mr. Green are back with their follow-up to The Only Color That Matters Is Green, titled The Only Number That Matters Is Won. If they make a third album, they're going to have to come up with a new title gimmick. But this album's dope enough that I hope they do.

The Only Color had some strong tracks, but it started to sink downwards about halfway through. Frankly, all of his solo outings have been kinda mixed... at first I assumed, to quote Canibus, "motherfuckin' Wyclef spoiled it." But then I thought Telepathy was pretty flat, and that Team Won album was kinda cool, but it didn't exactly knock me over either. Maybe Pace got too much of his power from his Outsidaz crew, and without them...?

Well, to some extent, I'm not sure that isn't true... Pace Won seems to have been struggling to find his role in "grown man rap" since his first solo endeavor, where he's just not spitting wild line after wild line on sick posse cuts. He still has clever rhymes, but they're always spread a lot thinner an Outz fan would like. Not many lyricists can really raise above the level of generic... I mean, we often give those rappers a pass anyway, because they still sound good over a dope track. But when Pace isn't spitting vicious battle rhymes - which is most of the time on all of his solo albums to date - you start to wonder how much longer until we have to revoke his pass? I feel like half of what's holding his albums up for me is my compulsion to want to like them as an Outz fan. And so when I hear his hook to "Fresh Air:" "these rappers are nondescript," it's tempting to suggest he not throw stones.

And seeing that his guests include Snoop Dogg, Elephant Pelican (a nondescript label mate), Freeway and Rival - who for some reason goes uncredited here, but he has a verse on "My Song" - doesn't exactly inspire confidence. Of course, Master Ace is on here too, so you know this album will at least have a highlight or two.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that, while he hasn't completely shed his growing pains yet, he's made progress. Relationship raps mixed with excessive pop culture references and name dropping for name dropping's sake still abounds, but he's.definitely more consistently compelling here.

Of course, that might be because Mr. Green has really stepped it up after their last album. The last album had definite moments; but this one is one giant moment. No downward sinks here, and thankfully he's finally stopped dissing Eminem (not that I'm defensive of Emzy or anything; but after three songs and only one worthwhile line between them, it's time to call it quits). Even when they're just updating Chaka Demus's "Murder She Wrote," it works. Granted, I still had more fun with Mr. Green and Young Zee's album (which was released practically in secret); but honestly, every song's a head nodder and I do recommend it.

Specifically, I recommend the vinyl. Not just because vinyl > CD any day of the week, but because this wax version features six exclusive bonus tracks. Two of them are just instrumentals, but the other four are proper songs completely up to par with the rest of the album. There's even some noteworthy guests (Tek of Smif N Wessun and Malik B of The Roots) hidden away on the vinyl exclusives. It's a nice, double LP in a full color picture cover, and it's limited to a run of 500, available exclusively from Good stuff.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Don't Sleep On the REAL I.C.P.

This is an album that flew so under the radar, it probably managed to hide itself from 90% of its core audience, thus becoming a failure. Which is a shame, because it's good stuff. See, it looks like just another generic bass compilation of marginal bass hits we've all heard a million times before, probably all owned by the same label. Masters Of the Bass, on Joey Boy Records. What a bland title, and look at that generic cover - another boring compilation you wouldn't even bother to focus your eyes on when you saw it your local Sam Goody's.

But it's actually an original album of all new music by the ICP crew. No, not the Insane Clown Posse. I'm talking about Ice Cold Productions, Fresh Kid Ice's team, probably best known for encompassing Balli and the Fat Daddy. The year between their Master Plan album, and Ice's solo debut, The Chinaman (an album I gave a surprising recommendation for as a guest post on Hip Hop Isn't Dead), they released this crew album, like The Juice Crew's In Control Volume 1 or First Priority Music Family's Basement Flavors. I mean, okay, it's not as incredible as those two albums, but it's good stuff.

In my Chinaman write-up, I talk about their compelling display of their proficiency in all types of production styles: classic old school (even disco era) throwback, traditional bass styles, metal influences, and even some pop themes. This album doesn't really go for any of that, it's a lot more street. It has some bass elements to it, especially in a couple songs; but most of it's just gritty and hardcore stuff. This isn't the lost prequel to The Chinaman; it's just a showcase for all their artists, most of whom got too little chance to shine elsewhere.

There are three songs generally billed as being by I.C.P.; then the rest are specifically credited to the individual artists who perform them. You might expect that means these are some sweet posse cuts, but no. These are Fresh Kid Ice's solo songs. I assume they're only labeled this way because Ice was still signed exclusively to Luke Records at the time. Anyway, not surprisingly, these are pretty much the worst songs on the album. The ICP were able to elevate Ice to levels on The Chinaman that he doesn't reach here.

Don't get me wrong - they're not bad. Despite its title, "Dick In Ya Mouth" features a surprisingly tough, gangster beat. Seriously, it would make a hot NWA track. Unfortunately, once Ice starts rhyming, it sounds... like you'd expect a single member of The 2 Live Crew to sound on his own. Tired, cliched sex raps, even recycling some of his lines from past songs that weren't appealing the first time ("nibble on this dick like a rat does cheese"). Damn it, I want to hear Fat Daddy on this cut! Oh well...

"Hey Ho" is a more traditional Miami bass song with lots of "Planet Rock," and a shout and call chorus. More cuts would've helped, but it's still a solid Miami staple. "Ice Cold," then, has Ice trying his hand at harder, freestyle rhymes more in line with the rest of the album. He's still the weakest MC here, but he manages to just squeak by. The instrumental is awesome enough. And there actually is another MC on the mic with Ice on these cuts, but Ice gets the majority of the mic time. More importantly, they sound pretty similar and lyrically they're interchangeable.

Actually (disappointingly), Fat Daddy doesn't rhyme at all on this album. He was definitely down with ICP at the time - he's even listed as being on their roster in the liner notes - but for some reason he doesn't check in. No, the real star of this album is Shake G. He's tied with Ice for having the most songs on this album (three), and they're pretty much the three best. We heard Shake G on The Chinaman, too; but not like this. He's on some Willie D meets JT Money roughneck gangsta shit on here. And the production matches - like "Dick In Ya Mouth," "Grand Larceny" and "Niggas From da Crib" are some seriously hard shit with banging beats and wailing sirens, except this time the vocal tracks live up to the instrumentals. Think "Do It Like a G.O." Good shit! And "Fuck You" is some lighter, bugged out shit, that still actually sounds the most Willie D-ish. Damn, why didn't Shake G ever get an album?

Who else is on here? There's a crew called Underground Regulators, featuring an opening verse by an MC from one of Dem Boyz (or "Dem Boiz," as they spelled it on their Critique single), which is pretty funky yet tough. A group called Da Big Boyz has a song called "Smokin Head." It's got heavy bass and the deep voiced MC from "Christmas Freestyle" on Luke's Christmas album - it's a bit ridiculous, but still dope. An MC named Top Rank closes the show, coming with a hardcore delivery and early 90's backpacker rhymes (expect to hear a lot of words like "electromagnetic" and "ninety-degree angles") on "Immortal." He brings a different style, welcome to the album, but the lyrics haven't aged so well. I remember him being impressive in '91, but listening to him now, he's pretty corny. It's still enjoyable, though. Again, the production raises it to a higher level than it perhaps otherwise deserves.

Oh, and there's one more song on here. I lamented the lack of Fat Daddy on this album, but his partner Balli has a solo joint. It's a dance track called "The Overtown Hop." This came out the same year as Eerk and Jerk's single, "The Overtown Hop," and it's not the same instrumental, but they're definitely in the same lane. I bet there's a story there. Anyway, the two are definitely similar enough that if you liked E&J's "Overtown Hop," you'll like this one; but they're different enough that you don't feel like you're just listening to a minor variation of the same song. Balli sounds nice on the mic (and a little Larry Larr-like), and there are some nice cuts.

Seriously, do yourself a favor and track down a copy of this sleeper. You'll be surprised.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Finsta Bundy's Unreleased LP EP

Midsummer, I blogged about how Finsta had not only reissued his rare, debut single, but he'd also included an unreleased track from that same period as a bonus track. That was pretty awesome, but it still left his vaults with some gems left to be excavated. Thankfully, Chopped Herring - the label that blew my mind with their Phase N Rhythm 12" released at the same time - has taken care of that.

Tracks we knew existed, because they'd been released in part on Finsta's Neva Say Never mixtape from the 90's are here, along with tracks we'd never even heard of before.  Now, these are Finsta Bundy tracks, meaning they were recorded after that first 12" (1996-1999) and Finsta'd hooked up with his partner, so these are all two MC songs, just like their most enduring classics. Most of these tracks were meant to part of a full-length Finsta Bundy album that, sadly, never happened - hence the title, The Unreleased Album EP.

So, if you remember Neva Say Never, you'll recognize "Who Wanna Rock" and "Love and Hate;" and it's great to finally have these bangers, complete and unblended (into other songs) on vinyl. But whether you've heard these songs or not, the pattern is consistent, gritty, minimalistic soul sampled tracks produced by exactly who you'd expect: Rich Blak, Baby Paul, Mr. Walt and Finsta himself, plus a track each by lesser known producers Chocolate Ty and Fatal Son, whose work blends in seamlessly. If they're not just as good as The Beatminerz' crew stuff, they at least come close.

I have to say, though, there were no real head popping surprises - the best songs I found were the ones I went in already being familiar with. The other tracks are still quality Finsta Bundy material, with both of them coming consistently nice on the mic at all times; but you can see why these weren't chosen as singles like the songs we've all come to know. It's probably also no coincidence that these are the more modern songs ('98-'99, as opposed to '96-'97). No doubt Finsta fans will be quite pleased with this EP (and, come on, who isn't a Finsta fan?), but don't expect Greatest Hits material.

Sound quality-wise, it's terrific.  Six of the songs come from their original D&D Studio masters and sound perfect.  The other two (marked as such on the label) are old 4-track mixes, so they do sound a bit rougher and more "tapey," but that's how they were originally recorded. ...It's just an unfortunate coincidence that those two 4-Track Mixes happen to be "Who Wanna Rock" and "Love Or Hate." But, still, it's the best they're ever going to sound.

Just like it's sister release, this one comes in a smart sticker cover and limited to 350 copies. 200 on black, 75 on clear (clear) wax and 75 red. Chopped Herring is doing amazing things these days, and I'm constantly at the edge of my seat for what they're going to release next.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Simple Mystery That Is Flo Rida

This post is essentially a response to this video. Hopefully it can also be a larger, more open discussion on the artist known as Flo Rida, and even some hip-hop principles in general.  But you probably won't fully appreciate it if you don't go and watch that video first.  And I have to begin by saying that the chorus to "I Cry" doesn't match the rest of the song because it's just another line from another big 80's song (like "you spin me right 'round" etc) - specifically "Piano In the Dark" by Nina. Flo's just sticking with his pattern of taking the most memorable pieces of older dance hits and turning them into contemporary club jams.
"Let It Roll"'s hook comes from "Let the Good Times Roll." "Turn Around" is using "Din Da Da" by George Kranz, which is a song I only know because so many hip-hop artists before have sampled it over the years. "Good Feeling" samples an old Etta James line for its hook - and not just any Etta James song, but predictably, her biggest hit. "Run" uses Bryan Adams' "Run To You." I'm not gonna break down every single Flo Rida song ever - because that would require listening to every single Flo Rida song ever, which is simply asking too much - but you can tell that this is a recurring theme.
Now, I'm not trying to play "music trivia one-up-manship" here.  You guys know I'm terrible at naming samples, for one thing, because hip-hop is pretty much the only genre I know.  So I can't exactly throw stones. Heck, I don't mind admitting that I had to google who did "Piano In the Dark" just now.  But it's kind of essential to know the origins if we're going to discuss "I Cry," because it's the missing piece of the puzzle presented in the video.  We're not just talking about some sampled riff buried deep in a layered track; this is a song built as a direct play on another song, essentially an uncredited remix. You can't just breeze over it. I mean, the question that's asked is why this song is a hit despite Flo Rida's lack of fanbase, lyrical credibility, crew association, etc. And the simple answer is that people just like hearing that "Piano In the Dark" line freaked in a club.
And don't get me wrong, I'm not even mad at that practice. One of the core elements of hip-hop is how it re-purposes music from other genres, taking the elements that a hip-hop fan would enjoy and removing all the crap we, frankly, don't want to listen to. Is there an awesome break in an otherwise cheesy dance song? Hey, that's how the whole genre started!  Did you find an awesome riff in an otherwise rambling, unappealing funk song, or an apropos vocal snippet in a feature film?  Sample 'em!  Who among us didn't love "Jackin' for Beats?"
One of the cool things about hip-hop is that I know if I hear a cool sound in an otherwise wack song, all I have to do is wait, and that sound will come around again in a new, hopefully better, song. People like when hip-hoppers sample "Din Da Da" because everybody enjoys that line of the song, but nobody misses the stuff where he shouts incoherent nonsense for three minutes. Take that piece, and streamline it, and give it some verses which have some flow. Mr. Rida may not be an amazing lyricist, be he's adept at different styles and matching them to the instrumental... and thankfully he doesn't have that affected nasal drawl that seems to be in vogue these days. I'll take him over a lot of current successes.
All he's doing is following a long tradition. I love 'em, but I doubt many people knew who The Future MCs were. They just got amped when they heard rap lyrics to Prince's "Erotic City" in the club.  When the Fugee men all started releasing rap versions of "Stayin' Alive," "Electric Avenue" and "99 LuftBallons," I certainly wouldn't have given them props as bold artistic visionaries; or even considered myself a fan of theirs; but I was happy to have rap versions of all these songs.  So I bought the singles, just not their crappy albums surrounding it.  Flo Rida is making his entire catalog with these songs, and forgoing most of that filler, which I definitely appreciate.
The only thing that really separates Flo Rida from, say, the King MCs of back in the day, is that Flo Rida actually works with/ for the labels that own these songs.  Back in the days, the labels might've released them as dance remix singles of the original songs (what percentage of the songs he revamps do you think are under the umbrella of the label he's signed to?). Now they're packaged as Flo Rida original works. And why not? He does write (I assume) all his own verses, etc. I mean, it would be nicer if those verses were more deft, substantive or interesting... I'm always on the market for another Rakim. But he really doesn't need to be. Not for millions of music fans, clearly, or for sales or airplay. What he's doing is working for him. Not every successful MC has to be a brilliant urban poet. In fact, there's not even that much overlap. And the secret to his success? Not so mysterious.