Know Your Samples

Know Your Samples: Melvin Bliss

In 1973 Bliss cut a record oddly named "Synthetic Substitution." The track was named by its producer, Herb Rooney, who also never revealed his inspiration for the title. Perhap he didn't know himself. The famous beginning drum break was performed by Bernard Purdie, the acclaimed session drummer whose client listed included James Brown, BB King, Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis.

In the Hip-Hop world, many of the music’s founding fathers and significant predecessors go unnoticed today. One of those figures is Chicago singer Melvin Bliss, who just passed away at the age of 75. While not a popular figure in hsi 1970s heyday, Bliss would reach immortality through one enduring contribution to Hip-Hop culture.

In 1973 Bliss cut a record oddly named “Synthetic Substitution.” The track was named by its producer, Herb Rooney, who also never revealed his inspiration for the  title. Perhap he didn’t know himself. The famous beginning drum break was performed by Bernard Purdie, the acclaimed session drummer whose client listed included James Brown, BB King, Aretha Franklin and Miles Davis.

Those drums would become the backbeat for a prodigious number of Hip-Hop songs. Some of them were chart-toppers like Naughty By Nature’s 1991 single “O.P.P.,” and other were simply classic production creations like DJ Premier’s work on Gang Starr’s “Dwyck”

In his pre-Death Row days, Tupac utiltized Bliss’ work as well.

Erick Sermon went further than just the seminal drum break, and pulled his sample from the second piano-led break in the middle of “Synthetic Substition” as the basis for Redman’s “Jam 4 U”

De La Soul producer Prince Paul also saw the value in other parts of the song, and incorporated the first beat drop as a transition rhythm in “Potholes In My Lawn.”

Bliss was still an active performer living in New York at the time of death. The below trailer is for a documentary that is believed to have been finished this year. If so, Melvin Bliss’ shrouded history may finally be told, and in his own words. On behalf of myself and Beats, Boxing and Mayhem, I would like to send condolenses to the Bliss family. Thank you MR. Bliss for your essential contributions to Hip-Hop.

Melvin Bliss Sample List (Courtesy of

single: (Sunburst 1977)
* “Synthetic Substitution” (Drums)
     3XDope – “Funky Dividends”
     Alkaholiks – “Bullshit”
     Alkaholiks – “Turn the Party Out”
     Almighty RSO – “One in the Chamba”
     Big Daddy Kane – “Just Rhymin’ with Biz”
     Big Daddy Kane – “Looks Like a Job for. . .”
     Biz Markie – “Cool V’s Tribute to Scratching”
     Blessed Union of Soul – “Let Me Be the One”
     Boss – “Comin’ to Getcha”
     Brotha Lynch Hung – “24 Deep”
     Brothers Like Outlaw – “The Real McKoy”
     Chubb Rock – “My Brother”
     Chubb Rock – “The Night Scene”
     Coolio – “I Remember”
     Criminals at Large – “Times are Getting Hard”
     Da King & I – “Flip Da Scrip”
     De la Soul – “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa”
     De la Soul – “Potholes in My Lawn”
     De la Soul – “Sh.Fe.MC’s”
     Deee-Lite – “I Won’t Give Up”
     Def Jef – “Black to the Future”
     Depeche Mode – “In Your Room”
     Digital Underground – “Tie the Knot”
     DJ Honda – “Out for Cash”
     DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince – “Groove”
     DOC – “Mind Blowin'”
     Dr. Octagon – “A Visit to the Gynecologyst”
     Dr. Octagon – “Wild and Crazy”
     Eazy-E – “Eazy Street”
     En Vogue – “Hold On”
     EPMD – “Mr. Bozack”
     EPMD – “Scratch Bring it Back”
     Gang Starr – “Code of the Streets”
     Gang Starr – “Dwyck”
     Ghostface Killah – “Deck’s Beat”
     Ghostface Killah – “Mighty Healthy”
     Goats – “Do the Digs Dug”
     Gravediggaz – “Bang Your Head”
     Gravediggaz – “Nowhere to Run, Nowhere to Hide”
     Group Home – “So Called Friends”
     Guru – “Take a Look (At Yourself)”
     Guru – “Transit Ride”
     Ice Cube – “2 N the Mornin'”
     Ice T – “Depths of Hell”
     Ice T – “Original Gangster”
     Imani Coppola – “It’s All about Me, Me and Me”
     King & I – “Flip Da Scrip”
     Leaders of the New School – “Bass is Loaded”
     LL Cool J – “Crossroads”
     MadKap – “Here Comes the Break”
     Masta Ace – “Saturday Nite Live”
     MC Lyte – “Never Had Nothing Like This”
     Mellow Man Ace – “Silly Rabbit”
     Method Man – “All I Need”
     Naughty by Nature – “O.P.P.”
     Naughty by Nature – “On the Run”
     Naughty by Nature – “Yoke the Joker”
     Nice & Smooth – “Cake & Eat it Too”
     Nice & Smooth – “Pump it Up”
     Nikki D – “The Beauty Shop”
     NWA – “Alwayz into Somethin'”
     NWA – “Real Niggaz Don’t Die”
     ODB – “Cuttin’ Headz”
     Onyx – “Nigga Bridges”
     Onyx – “Throw Ya Gunz”
     Orb – “Supernova at the End of the Universe”
     Papa Chuk – “Make Way for the Rudeboy”
     Peanut Butter Wolf – “I Will Always Love H.E.R.”
     Penthouse Players Clique – “P.S. Phuk U2”
     Pharcyde – “Ya Mama”
     PM Dawn – “On a Clear Day”
     Public Enemy – “Don’t Believe the Hype”
     Public Enemy – “Miuzi Weighs a Ton”
     Redman – “I’m a Bad”
     Redman – “Jam 4 U”
     Run-DMC – “Wreck Shop”
     Scarface – “For Real”
     Scarface – “Murder by Reason of Insanity”
     Schoolly D – “Saturday Night”
     Slick Rick – “Venus”
     Sloan – “Stove”
     Souls of Mischief – “A Name I Call Myself”
     Special Ed – “5 Men and a Mic”
     Tim Dog – “I Ain’t Takin’ No Shorts”
     Tone Loc – “On Fire”
     Too $hort – “Hoes”
     Tupac – “The Streetz R Death Row”
     Tupac – “When I Get Free II”
     Ultramagnetic MCs – “Ego Trippin'”
     Ultramagnetic MCs – “Pluckin Cards”
     WC & the Maad Circle – “A Crazy Break”
     Wu-Tang Clan – “Bring Da Ruckus”
     Wu-Tang Clan – “Clan in Da Front”
     Wu-Tang Clan – “Method Man”


  1. About 6 years ago I used to play a trio gig — a straight ahead jazz gig — in the Cambria Heights section of Queens. Mel Bliss would come in regualarly and sit in with us and I ended up playing a few gigs with him in which we performed standards – Gershwin, Cole POrter etc.

    I had no idea about Substitution or his renowned past and his legacy with hip hop. Go figure…

  2. @ keithosaunders

    great story bro… thats dope you played with him… ive been buying alot of cd’s over the last year or so of musicians that i have found thru looking at album credits and finding out who the artists have sampled…

    i also bought and got introduced to alot of great albums buy listening to a couple ‘phil most chill’ mixes/sets, when a dope soul of funk tune came on i liked i used an app on my iphone called ‘Shazzam’ and put the phone to my speakers and alot of the time it identified the tune, then i just went and copped the artists music off the net somewhere lol great little app haha

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