My recent Invisible Jukebox with Wu-Tang
Clan's The RZA (featured in The Wire 292, which has
just hit the streets) involved a train spotter's paradise of
sample-spotting and internet researching as I looked into the
building blocks of the great Wu-Tang albums of the mid-90s. One
sample I missed, sadly, was that "Ice Water" from the RZA-produced
Raekwon album Only Built 4 Cuban Linx featured a vocal
sample from none other than Bing Crosby, singing "White Christmas".
The langorous, grandfatherly "I'm...." from the first
line is cut off just before the second syllable, leaving only a
deep voice and wide vibrato that sounds like it's emanating from
the depths of the pyramids. It's one of the most gothic moments in
the whole of hiphop, using good ol' Bing's disembodied tones as an
unearthly, weirdly non-gendered siren call.
It's odd to think of a sample fiend like The RZA getting a kick out of Bing's voice, but dig deeper and there's a strange kinship between the pair. The RZA recently invested a large amount of his own money in vinyl-to-digital scratch technology; Bing Crosby was instrumental in developing early tape technology, by investing $50,000 in the fledgling Ampex company.