Music: When rappers sample songs you know (Part One)

Hip Hop by Tom NashThe sample. Nothing in music is more divisive. Some say categorically that anyone that uses samples is not producing art and cannot be considered a musician. These people tend to anger quickly, which is ironic considering the reputation of the genres they look to belittle and demonise. The rest of us, I don’t know, get worked up over more important issues, hopefully…

The most famous genre for sampling is, of course, Hip Hop. Without sampling, Hip Hop simply wouldn’t be a thing, making it as integral a part of the music and culture as ridiculous slang, big-ass bass and weird hand movements to accentuate rhymes… *Rap hands*

Think nothing good has ever come from sampling? I raise you a Paul’s Boutique by The Beastie Boys, a Three Feet High and Rising by De La Soul and an Entroducing by DJ Shadow… Never heard of any of these? Do yourself a favour and go catch up, as the ‘well-known’ samples below will probably be a mystery too. Run along, youngblood. Shoo; go learn.

Let’s face it, unless you know the source material, most of the time you wouldn’t even know you were listening to a chunk of some other song, unless someone pointed it out to you. Did you know the Arctic Monkeys have sampled Ennio Morricone (seriously- Google him)? What about Royksopp sampling Parliament/Funkadelic? Even bastions of whiny dad-rock U2 have sampled other artists (Harold Budd and Brian Eno, if you’re wondering).

When it comes to sampling, I guess ignorance really is bliss.

Anyway, I had a bit of think (the nosebleed cleared up after a few minutes) and came up with five Rap songs that take a well-known piece of popular music and create something new and awesome. Don’t worry, in the interest of objectivity, I came up with five that take a steaming dump on the source material too (we will listen to and wince at those together next time). As is the done thing in these circles, songs from ‘underground’ artists have not been included, as ya boy is not a ‘sample snitch’ and is not looking to be the cause of any lawsuits.

So, here are five choons (in no particular order) that use well known samples and, in my humble opinion, are at least tolerable:

**if a video or audio file isn’t working, refreshing the page should sort it, or you could use a better browser than IE… Just saying**

Nas – Made You Look

How can you not like anything that samples:
Apache by Incredible Bongo Band on Grooveshark

Which, of course, is a cover of The Shadows, but I’m not linking to anything Cliff Richard related… The chunk Nas samples starts about 1:46 in, but as Grooveshark won’t let you skip forward… It’s redundant me telling you, I guess. Listen to the whole thing, it’s brilliant.

De La Soul – Eye Know

(Sittin' On) The Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding on Grooveshark
and Peg by Steely Dan but I couldn’t find an embeddable file, plus more people probably know Otis Redding… Yep. The sampled bit is the whistling from the end of the original. Useless trivia: They used the instrumental for Eye Know on MOTD for quite a long time. THAT’s where you know it from…

Talib Kweli – Get By

Sinnerman (The Thomas Crown Affair) by Nina Simone on Grooveshark

Right. Those of you that get bored listening to a three minute song, prepare for mind-blow. Sinnerman is almost eleven minutes long.

MOP ft. Jay-Z and Teflon – 4 Alarm Blaze

Shut up, it’s AWESOME. Nobody does ignorant quite like the Mash Out Posse. They brought their friend Shaun along to kick some bars too. He’s not bad, either…

Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger by Survivor – Eye Of The Tiger on Grooveshark


2Pac ft Outlawz – Starin’ Thru My Rearview

2Pac, the first ever Emo rapper. Yes he was. Seriously, go back and listen; dude was precious. No video for this one, but we can all laugh at this person’s attempt at transcribing the lyrics…

In the air tonight by Phil Collins on Grooveshark

Never quite understood Hip Hop’s obsession with Phil Collins and in particular, this song. Someone even put together a bizarre compilation of ‘urban’ Phil Collins covers a few years ago, although the version of Sussudio that Ol’ Dirty Bastard (RIP) laid down for it is all kinds of amazing.

So there you have it. Five songs that don’t ruin the original, well-known, song they sampled.

Click here for Part Two, where we look at some terrrrrrrrrrrrible acts of sampling. And yes, Phil Collins features in that too.

Feel free to drop a link in the comments with an example of good sampling. Let’s just hope I haven’t got it earmarked as a bad example already, eh?

2 thoughts on “Music: When rappers sample songs you know (Part One)

  1. Tom

    While Cliff worked with the Shadows he’s not on their instrumental stuff so embedding the original version would be ok – really, it would, because while Nas doesn’t mutilate it that Incredible Bongo Band version you’ve used does – I’m no fan of Sir Cliff but Hank Marvin is rightly considered a guitar legend.

    You’ve probably got them down as doing terrible things, but I reckon two great samplings are Jay-Z’s uses of “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Anything” – he acknowledges the sample by using the title (acknowledging the sample is a key thing for me – young listeners who have no clue as to the origins of samples just piss me off – part of the genius of Hip Hop is the wide variety of sampling), his own lyrics are in keeping with the theme of the original, and, what’s more, you have to give serious props to a rapper (originally) from the hood who is willing to blatantly sample songs from musicals – even admitting to knowing such stuff exists is probably enough for a beating in some places in South Central or the Bronx!

  2. Tom Post author

    Boo! The Incredible Bongo Band is AMAZING!!! Had to include that version, as that’s the one Nas used in his track. But Hank does indeed know how to SHRED an axe…!

    You have a point with those Jay-Z tracks, thought they’d be too ‘obvious’ in this list though. I’ve noticed a lot of ‘underground’ artists start tracks with a snippet of the original, despite the litigious risks- I guess their following the same principle- do a bit of digging and learn but shhhhhhhhh!!!

    Thanks for commenting, Tom. Always good to get another point of view.

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