Hip hop simply would not be what it is today without samples. An essential part of hip hop music is the act of taking parts from other songs and integrating them into one’s own – often without listeners knowing. From Biggie sampling up to ten tracks on a song that proceeds to be sampled dozens of times to the crucial role sampling plays in Kanye West’s production (often using five in one record), the use of sampling in hip hop proves that we can all take inspiration from history.
Here are ten of hip hop’s most popular samples.
10. Ex-Factor – Ms Lauryn Hill
An icon in her own name, but you may not immediately pick up on the loop that characterises one of 2018’s biggest tracks. Off Lauryn Hill’s famous album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, ‘Ex-Factor’ provides the mesmerising vocal loop on Drake’s hit, ‘Nice For What’. Sampling continues to thrive in hip hop today, and Drake is no stranger. From Sampha and Ellie Goulding to old school tracks from the seventies, this is just another example of how Drake’s production thrives with sampling.
9. The New Style – Beastie Boys
The Beastie Boys were a famous hip hop group who ran the scene in the eighties. Naturally, they were fans of sampling, and other artists quickly started sampling Beastie Boy tracks too. Their Rick Rubin produced hit ‘The New Style’ contains five samples itself including tracks from AC/DC and Run-DMC, and the cycle continues – since its release in 1986, ‘The New Style’ has been sampled in nearly 300 different tracks. Artists that have taken elements of the song for their own include Ice Cube, G-Eazy, Jamie Foxx, Outkast, and most recently Travis Scott on Astroworld’s ‘Carousel’.
8. Gimme The Loot – The Notorious B.I.G
‘Gimme The Loot’ is a true nineties hip hop classic and showcases the strength of sampling culture in hip hop. The Biggie hit stars a whopping seven samples in it from legends like Ice Cube, A Tribe Called Quest, and of course the sampling staple, James Brown. Fast forward 25 years, and ‘Gimme The Loot’ has been sampled by rappers like The Game, French Montana, and is also one of the star samples on ‘SICKO MODE’ with heavyweights Travis Scott and Drake. Astroworld relies heavily on samples, so it’s no surprise Travis Scott turned to the hip hop classics for inspiration.
7. Funky President (People It’s Bad) – James Brown
This groovy tune from 1974 is about the American President at the time, Gerald Ford. The political track has been used to reiterate its original messages through sampling, and other times just to create a fun beat. James Brown is one of the most sampled artists ever, and Kanye West is the king of sampling. As a producer, collaborator, and solo artist, Kanye West has sampled this particular track in four separate records he’s worked on – most notably in 2012’s ‘Clique’ with Big Sean and Jaz-Z. ‘Funky President (People It’s Bad)’ has been used in several other big hits, like old school classic ‘F*** Tha Police’ by N.W.A, ‘3005’ by Childish Gambino, and even in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air outro song.
6. Impeach the President – The Honey Drippers
The simple yet versatile drumbeat of this track has been chopped and changed for an array of songs throughout the years and has found itself on classics by the likes of Biggie and Nas. The list goes on – Shaggy, N.W.A, J. Cole, Dr. Dre and Janet Jackson have all used this beat on their tracks too. With so many of hip hop’s greats sampling this song through the years, ‘Impeach the President’ certainly has earned its spot in the hip hop hall of fame.
5. Think (About It) – Lyn Collins
You would be blown away if you knew how many times you had heard some element of this Lyn Collins number – it’s been sampled over 2000 times, making it one of the most sampled tracks to date. Another tie beat master James Brown is that this track was produced by him. Just a handful of the hip hop legends who have sampled ‘Think (About It)’ are Janet Jackson, J Dilla, Run The Jewels, and Nicki Minaj. Kanye West also jumped on the bandwagon, using it on his track ‘Lost in the World’ and again on the collaborative number ‘So Appalled’ with Jay-Z, Pusha T, and more.
MELODOWNZ – ‘Pray For More’ (Stripped) ft. Lisi, Mikey Dam
4. ‘Here We Go’ – Run DMC (Live at The Funhouse)
Released in 1984, ‘Here We Go’ was a hit in its time, and the influence of it to this day is apparent through its popularity in sampling culture. Clocking in at nearly 800 samples, it seems everyone from J Dilla, Beastie Boys, Princess Nokia, and Earl Sweatshirt have taken elements from this track since it was released. Run DMC even sampled themselves on their collaboration with Jason Nevins using their ‘…and it goes a little something like this’ line a second time around.
3. Bring the Noise – Public Enemy
Public Enemies ‘Bring the Noise’ was the politically fuelled soundtrack to hip hop in the eighties and has remained relevant to this day. The track kicks off with activists Malcolm X’s words “too black, too strong” from a 1963 speech, which sets the tone for the high energy hit. The track includes nine samples itself, including two songs from the iconic James Brown. Since the release of ‘Bring the Noise’ in 1987, it’s been sampled hundreds of times by Ludacris, Eminem, and famously on Kanye Wests’ track ‘Everything I Am’ from his 2007 album, Graduation.
2. Funky Drummer – James Brown
Since 1970, this sample has been a go-to for producing gurus like Dr Dre and Kanye West and has been sampled over 1500 times. James Brown is the most sampled artist in the world, and ‘Funky Drummer’ is perhaps his most popular sampled song. As the name would suggest, the infectious drum beat provided by Clyde Stubblefield proves to be a very versatile bassline. The influence of this iconic beat expands far beyond hip hop – it’s been used by Ed Sheeran, Britney Spears, and more throughout the years.
1. Change the Beat – Beside / Fab 5 Freddy
The number one spot goes to the track that has the numbers to back it up. One of the most sampled tracks in history, it’s been sampled very creatively through the years – whether it’s for its industry-standard scratching segment or the iconic line ‘Ahhh, this stuff is really fresh’, musicians have had no trouble getting inspiration from this 1982 hit. Some hip hop stars who’ve incorporated ‘Change the Beat’ include OutKast, Eminem, T.I., Eazy-E, and Missy Elliott.