The Christmas season in in full-swing, New Year's Eve is just around the corner, and the legendary band War is coming to funk up Anaheim! For the past few years, the classic sounds of singer/keyboardist Lonnie Jordan and crew echo through the walls of the City National Grove after the holidays. This Friday is no different, save for War low riding into Anaheim armed with Evolutionary their first studio album in 20 years since 1994's Peace Sign. Looking back at their acclaimed body of work, the LA-bred band created a living legacy by mixing genres with funk. Jordan calls the concoction "universal street music" and it has withstood the test of time now enjoying a multi-generational appeal.
It comes as no surprise that hip-hop producers and artists dug into the crates over decades to sample from the War. The band even gave their blessing to a 1992 album Rap Declares War dedicated to the practice. The Weekly did its own digging ahead of Friday's show in presenting the 10 best hip-hop samples of War. Enjoy! And don't let no one get you down!
10. Funky Aztecs f/ 2Pac – Slippin' into Darkness
War is the ultimate black and brown unity sound. When morphed into hip-hop, the mutual affection both communities have for the band plays out with collaborations over sampled songs. Case in point: Chicano Rap pioneers the Funky Aztecs tell grim barrio tales with 2pac taking over at the end. The chorus soulfully beams with "Slippin' into Darkness," a War classic for the ages.
9. Kid Frost – Ya Estuvo
Kid Frost used the smooth bass line of El Chicano's "Viva Tirado" for the hit "La Raza" off his 1990 debut Hispanic Causing Panic. Further down the track listing he summoned War for "Ya Estuvo." It showcases Frost as a dynamic bilingual rapper beyond his rap radio smash single. For the curious ear, the funky bass line belongs to War's "Smile Happy." And if that sounds familiar, it because years later Shaggy used it again to propel his chart topping hit "It Wasn't Me."
8. A Lighter Shade of Brown – Spill the Wine
The Chicano hip-hop generation showed their love for War once more when A Lighter Shade of Brown dialed back to the earlier days when Eric Burdon fronted the band. On "Spill the Wine" off the rappers' 1990's Brown & Proud debut album, Burdon's stream of consciousness acid poetry in the original of the same name is transformed into drinking tale rhymes from the duo. The bluesy harmonica layered funk jam meshed perfectly with the shuffling high-tempo hip-hop beats.
7. Brand Nubian – Feels So Good
War's mega hits are easily recognizable in the world of hip-hop sampling. But their catalog is so extensive and funky that rarer gems like "Sing a Happy Song" can be looped into perfection. The critically acclaimed group Brand Nubian knew this when they rolled out their 1990 debut One For All (There seems to be something about debut albums in the early 90s that demanded sampling War!) Sadat X, Gran Puba and Lord Jamar trade verses on "Feels So Good" in between Lonnie Jordan's sampled singing of that line!
6. Cypress Hill f/ Method Man and Redman – Cisco Kid
Rappers Method Man and Redman teamed for the 2001 stoner flick How High and tapped the talents of Cypress Hill for the accompanying soundtrack. The rhymers traded weed-laden lyrics over a funky ass sample of "Cisco Kid." Like the Funky Aztecs and 2Pac collaboration, this track provided another space for black and brown to get down together!
5. Beastie Boys – Slow Ride
The cowbell hits that jump start War's best known song "Low Rider" can send any audience into a frenzy. But when the Beastie Boys chose to pick from the song's sonic pallet, they went for its iconic saxophone section. "Slow Ride" became a part of the hip-hop group's 1986 debut License to Ill that blasted off to become the first rap album to top the charts.
4. Geto Boys – The World is a Ghetto
It only seemed natural when the Geto Boys released a track taking its inspiration from War's "The World is a Ghetto." No one in hip-hop could do it better and no one ever will. The funky guitar licks accompany the uncompromising street stories spun from the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas where the Geto Boys grew up. The song appeared on the group's The Resurrection album and took Scarface, Bushwick Bill and Willie D back to the top 100 charts all together for the first time since the Texas trio's classic "Mind Playing Tricks on Me."
3. De La Soul f/ Busta Rhymes – I.C. Y'all
War took funk into outer space when "Why Can't We Be Friends?" got beamed by NASA for U.S. astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts working together on the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975. Two years later, "Galaxy" imagined a futuristic funk soundtrack to the stars above. De La Soul took its irresistible dance-inducing bass lines and added a fuzzier buzz to them in fleshing out "I.C. Y'all." Put Busta Rhymes on the chorus and all is good!
2. Warren G f/ Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, B-Real and Side Effect – Get U Down
Rapper/producer Warren G assembled fellow West Coast heavy hitters to get down on a track he dedicated to survivors of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. With racism rising as high the waters that flooded black New Orleans, the all-star assembly spoke against the hard times everywhere. Warren G did what he does best in sampling War's "Don't Let No One Let You Down" to perfection. Ice Cube took the occasion to once again drive home a message of black and brown unity–something that happens often when War is in the hip-hop mix in case you haven't noticed already.
1. Gangstarr f/ Scarface – Betrayal
I don't know if it's because "Deliver the Word" is my favorite War song ever, but the way DJ Premier masterfully chops it up delivers like no other. The producer behind Gangstarr laid down the track for the late Guru and Scarface to trade rhymes about back stabs on "Betrayal." There's a methodical approach in the way that Premier sped the slow groove of Lonnie Jordan's keys up just enough that it translates into a pure hip-hop sound unparalleled by other efforts.
War performs at the City National Grove of Anaheim, 2200 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim; www.citynationalgroveofanaheim.com. Fri., Dec. 26, 6 p.m. $37.50-$52.50. All ages.