Cypress Hill are having a surprising late-career blip with their new single, “Armada Latina.” How did those old, insane-in-the-brain iron horses of rap make themselves relevant again? It’s all thanks to a producer who lives even deeper in the past than, well, Cypress Hill. Jim Jonsin, a veteran Florida-based studio engineer and onetime bass D.J. who sports an incongruous biker look, has become an in-demand producer in recent years (Beyoncé's "Sweet Dreams," T.I.'s "Whatever You Like," Lil Wayne's "Lollipop"), and he’s developed a nostalgia calling card: using classic-rock samples. "Armada Latina," for example, incorporates Crosby, Stills, and Nash's "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes." Jonsin somehow turned that harmonic baby-boomer chestnut into a warm, swaying Latino anthem, fitted with a Marc Anthony–sung chorus en Español, and a typically zesty guest spot from Pitbull. It's a curious song whose charms might surprise you.
What else has Jonsin been yanking off the FM classic-rock playlists to spin into pop-rap gold? Here’s a sampling:
Trick Daddy featuring Lil Jon, "Let's Go" (Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train”)
“Crazy Train" is hardly a typical reference point for rap fans. But in that brief time when Lil Jon was threatening an album (that was never released) named Crunk Rock, Jonsin's pairing of Trick Daddy and Jon with Ozzy's arena-metal anthem made for an aggro jam that hit No. 7 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 2004.
Slim Thug featuring Yelawolf, "I Run” (A Flock of Seagulls’ “I Ran”)
This 2009 song features more an interpolation than a sample: Sometimes those licensing fees can be hefty! The chorus has been re-sung by recent Interscope signee Yelawolf, an artist not unfamiliar with Jonsin's taste in unlikely sample sources.
Pitbull, "Hey You Girl" (The B-52's “Rock Lobster”)
South Beach rapper Pitbull has rarely been called to the carpet for shameless moves — his first hit was called "Culo." But this frantic 2006 collaboration with Jonsin, which lifts the springy bassline from "Rock Lobster," takes things to another level. And yet, it sort of works. Try to resist!
B.o.B, "Lonely People” (The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby”)
Jonsin may eventually be best remembered for shepherding to stardom the rising Atlanta rapper-singer B.o.B, the man with the No. 2 song in the country right now, "Nothin' on You.” B.o.B got his start as a teen emcee on Jonsin's Rebel Rock imprint, cranking out songs like this space-age update of "Eleanor Rigby." (Also check out his goofily glorious remake of the Outfield's "Your Love.")
Yelawolf, "Beer Buzz" (Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do”)
This Alabama emcee made some noise with his accomplished 2010 mixtape Trunk Muzik and just inked a major-label deal. But his roots with Jonsin and classic rock run deep. This song, from his 2008 Talladega Nights–themed (really) mixtape, Ball Of Flames: The Ballad of Slick Rick E. Bobby finds its hook in "All I Wanna Do." Okay, not classic rock yet, but give it a few years.