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Sampling Makes the Hip-Hop World Go Round

Photo by: (Left) Otis Redding by Bettmann/Contributor (Right) Kanye West by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images.

Photo by: (Left) Otis Redding by Bettmann/Contributor (Right) Kanye West by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images.

Continuing the celebration of Black Music Month, we must look at the genre that made it cool to sample music, Hip-Hop!

When analyzing the history of sampling within the Hip-Hop genre, the genre was born from sampling.

DJ Kool Herc was an early pioneer, extending instrumental breaks by switching between two copies of the same record. He also speaks rhythmically over the beats, as many black entertainers have done for a long time.

Rap music appears out of nowhere. And it begins to grow.

Sylvia Robinson notices the new craze and gathers a group to produce an actual rap song. She forms The Sugarhill Gang, who borrows the rhythm from Chic’s “Good Times” and scores the first rap hit, “Rapper’s Delight.”

As a result, sampling became normalized in the hip-hop culture and continues to be practiced today. To see our favorite sampling work in hip-hip, keep on reading!

1. “Why Can’t We Live Together” – Timmy Thomas

Inspired by the Vietnam War in 1972, the late R&B singer Timmy Thomas wrote “Why Can’t We Live Together” in pleading to end wars after hearing Walter Cronkite say ‘35,000 Viet Cong died today, 15,000 Americans.’

Later became “Hotline Bling” by Drake

Although numerous artists have sampled the song, Thomas was honored to hear his song be sampled by Toronto legend Drake.

Deciding to use “Why Can’t We Live Together,” Drake became inspired to flip the sample and write about an old flame he saw taking lavish trips and living a plush lifestyle as he scrolled through her Instagram feed.

Needless to say, Timmy Thomas loved that Drake didn’t use his work to promote in a discourteous way.


2. “I Like It” – DeBarge

The beloved single “I Like It” by DeBarge will forever be a classic!

When “I Like It” was published in August 1982, it became the group’s first big hit, reaching number two on the R&B singles chart and peaking at number 31 on the pop singles chart while also helping their All This Love album reach gold status.

Since its release, it has consistently been covered and sampled in R&B and hip-hop music, and some of its lyrics and melodies have been added to or sampled in other songs. It’s been frequently recited that the song’s famous bridge sung by El DeBarge, “I like the way you comb your hair/and I like the stylish clothes you wear/it’s just the little things you do/that shows how much you really care,” is the most sampled lyric out of the song.

Later became “Ride Wit Me” by Nelly feat. City Spud

And in 2001, St. Louis rapper Nelly did the song justice as he incorporated the famous bridge into his “Ride Wit Me” single.

One of Nelly’s first songs to gain widespread recognition was “Ride wit Me.”  Nelly flipped the bridge of “I Like It” by DeBarge and cleverly flipped Bill Clinton’s catchphrase during his campaign “Hey, must be the Economy, Stupid!”


3. “Didn’t Cha Know” by Erykah Badu 

If you’re a super-fan of Neo-Soul music like us, then you know that any samples of the Neo-Soul classics are a gift that keeps giving.

“Didn’t Cha Know,” the second single from Mama’s Gun, Erykah Badu, and the late genius producer J. Dilla created magically together in 2001.

The song illegally samples Tarika Blue’s 1977 song “Dreamflower,” which led to a settlement outside of court.

The song received a nomination for Best R&B Song at the 2001 Grammy Awards and peaked at number 28 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs list.

“Didn’t Cha Know” is a cult favorite of many Erykah Badu fans.

Nine year’s later, we hear a unique sample of “Didn’t Cha Know.”

Later became “Too Deep for the Intro” by J. Cole

Friday Night Lights opens with a motivational and personal song from J. Cole about never giving up on your aspirations, set to a sped-up, soulful sample of Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know.”

In his three verses, he raps about growing up in poverty, meeting a female for the first time (a scenario somewhat different from “Wet Dreamz”), and wanting to accomplish his life’s objectives.


4. “A House Is Not a Home” – Dionne Warwick 

“A House Is Not a Home” by Dionne Warwick is an example of a great song that can be sampled to create other great pieces.

This song, included in the 1964 album Make Way For Dionne Warwick, would become one of her most famous singles. The song Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote explains what it means to be at home: safe and cherished.

Later, many artists would cover the song, including Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, and most notably, Luther Vandross.

Let’s face it, “A House Is Not a House” will go down in history for being one of the best slow jams written and performed.

R&B and soul musician Luther Vandross recorded the song for his 1981 self-titled debut album.

The song, originally scheduled to last seven minutes, was published as a single, became an R&B smash, and eventually became one of Vandross’s defining songs.

Warwick broke down in tears during his rendition of the song during the NAACP Awards ceremony in 1988.

Later became “Slow Jamz” by Twista feat. Kanye West & Jamie Foxx

The magic of the song was used to create one of the sample king’s second singles.

Kanye West’s hit “Slow Jamz” is a soothing, melodic track featured on his debut album, College Dropout. Some of the song’s more memorable moments include Twista’s fast spitting verse over the fantastic sample and the hook by Jamie Foxx.


5. “Through the Fire – Chaka Khan 

The song “Through the Fire” can be found on Chaka Khan’s sixth album, I Feel for You, released in 1984.

This love ballad is about a woman who is so convinced that she has found her true soul mate that she is prepared to put her belief to the ultimate test.

It was one of only a handful of Khan songs that reached the Adult Contemporary chart.

Later became “Through the Wire” by Kanye West

In his 2002 song “Through the Wire,” Kanye West notably sampled the hook.

In October 2002, Kanye was involved in a catastrophic car accident that almost killed him and shattered his jaw three times. He underwent an urgent procedure to have a metal plate implanted in his chin.

Chaka Khan’s song “Through the Fire” was playing in the background on a CD player while he lay in his hospital bed with his lips wired shut. He was relaxing when he overheard her singing the phrase “Right down to the wire, even though the fire,” which inspired him after his tragic car crash.

The song, which features samples of Chaka Khan, was written and recorded by Kanye because of its emotional appeal.

Although Chaka Khan has publicly blasted Kanye for using her song’s sample, hip-hop fans still love and appreciate Kanye’s “Through the Wire.”


6. “Do What I Gotta Do” – Ralph Tresvant 

“Do What I Gotta Do” was the third single from Ralph Tresvant’s self-titled debut album, released on May 13, 1991.

Despite failing to peak on the pop charts, the song about unwillingly calling it quits on a romance became a #2 R&B record.

Later became “Money Showers” by Fat Joe & Remy Ma feat. Ty Dolla $ign

In 2016 Bronx natives Fat Joe and Remy Ma sampled the song for their joint project “Money Showers,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign.

“Money Showers” is the third single from Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s collaborative album Plata O Plomo.

The two calmed down the tempo for this R&B-influenced single after whipping up the party anthems “All the Way Up” and “Cookin.”


7. “That Lady, Pts. 1 & 2” – The Isley Brothers 

Photo by: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Isley Brothers’ song “That Lady” became well-known in 1973 as it underwent a funk-rock makeover.

The Isley Brothers, influenced by the Impressions, first sang the song “Who’s That Lady?” in a traditional R&B vocal style in 1964.

“That Lady,” which spent three weeks at number six on the pop chart and peaked at number two on the US R&B Singles chart, marked the Isley Brothers’ first Top 10 pop hit since “It’s Your Thing” in 1969.

The RIAA gave the song a Gold certification in October 1973. The song was a cross-Atlantic success for the group, peaking at number 14 in the UK.

That Lady’s powerful electric guitar line contributed to Ernie Isley’s rising stardom as a performer.

Later became “i” by Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s third studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly, features the lead single, “i,” which contains samples of “That Lady.”

The song’s studio rendition won Kendrick two Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance at the 57th Grammy Awards.

Kendrick claimed that “i” is the best song he’s ever written in a Hot 97 interview.

He explained that after growing up in Compton and being exposed to so much negativity, he never imagined that he’d be in the frame of mind to write an upbeat song.


8. “Try A Little Tenderness” – Otis Redding 

Photo by: Sulfiati Magnuson/Getty Images

The song “Try a Little Tenderness” has been around for years.

The song has seen many renditions from The Ray Noble Orchestra with Val Rosing to Frank Sinatra’s 1946 self-titled first album.

Soul musician Otis Redding released a well-liked version in a whole unique style in 1966.

Isaac Hayes contributed to the arrangement for Redding’s rendition of the timeless song.

Redding’s song incorporates elements from Duke Ellington and Lee Gaines’s classic “Just Squeeze Me (But Please Don’t Tease Me)” as well as the lines “sock it to me” and begins with a calm, soulful introduction that eventually escalates into a fierce R&B ending.

Redding’s version is so popular that it was featured in Rolling Stones’ 100 Greatest Artists list.

Later became “Otis”- JAY-Z & Kanye West (feat. Otis Redding)

So, it’s no surprise that the Sampling king himself, Kanye, would do his thing and give us another hit featuring a sampling of the iconic song.

Kanye, the super-producer, turned a section of the song into an instrumental for the album’s second single, “Otis,” from the 2011 album with Jay-Z entitled Watch the Throne.

Beginning the piece with a slowed-down version of Redding’s notorious “Try a Little Tenderness” chant, West then cuts and reworks a piano sample before adding a powerful bass line and percussion.

For being reminiscent of his soul-sampling productions from the College Dropout and Blueprint eras, the production gained critical acclaim.


9. “Fantasy” by Mariah Carey 

For her fifth studio album, Daydream, released in 1995, R&B diva Mariah Carey recorded the song “Fantasy,” which was released as the album’s debut single.

In addition to using several other samples, the song heavily borrows from the 1981 song “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club.

The lead single for Mariah’s Daydream album, this R&B ballad topped the US charts for eight straight weeks and garnered tremendous success elsewhere.

She had her ninth visit to the top of the chart when the single debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100.

It was also the second-highest charting single overall, trailing only Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” and the first song by a woman to debut at number one.

The song’s remix featuring Wu-Tang Clan’s own Ol’ Dirty Bastard helped the single cross over to the Hip-Hop charts.

Later became “Big Energy” by Latto

Photo by: Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for Unbothered

Fast forward to 2021, rapper Latto released “Big Energy,” and it became a TikTok anthem.

“Big Energy” is the lead single from her second studio album. It’s unique to see generation Z take these classics and flip them into their art.


10. “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill 

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, a debut solo album by Lauryn Hill, features the second song, “Ex-Factor” (1998).

Hip-hop soul, neo-soul, and R&B are all present in the song. “Can It Be All So Simple” by the Wu-Tang Clan is sampled in the song.

Numerous musicians, such as Cardi B, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, John Legend, and H.E.R., have also recorded it.

Later became “Nice For What” by Drake

Drake’s third single of 2018, “Nice For What,” follows the Scary Hours EP, which was influenced by New Orleans bounce music.

Drake discusses women’s empowerment in the digital age throughout the song.

The Canadian rapper discussed how women could be seen online attempting to acquire acceptance and live in the spotlight of social media, but this also encounters some jealousy and hatred.

Despite everything they go through, Drake demonstrates that he is aware of and respects the hustle.

What is your favorite Hip-Hop sample?

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