My Five Favorite Samples in Hip-Hop History

The Sample: For those of you not in the know, a “sample” is when an artist or producer takes a portion of one song and reuses it in another song. Sampling, as a production method, goes back to Hip-Hop’s very beginnings and has always been used as a means of re-imagining beats, melodies and sounds.  At varying points in the culture’s history, sampling has been used as a tool to display an artists creativity, and as a bit of a crutch for artists who aren’t very creative. In today’s post, I want to talk about my favorite all time uses of sampling in Hip-Hop history.  Let’s jump right in.

5.  Leon Haywood’s “I Wanna Do Something Freaky to You”

This is probably my favorite Dr. Dre production of all time. It’s just so smooth. What I love about this sample is how enhanced it sounds. Dre somehow took what was already a pretty dense and layered track and still managed to add more depth and balance to it.

Here’s Leon Haywood’s original joint:

And Here’s Dr. Dre’s classic:

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4. Isaac Hayes’ “The Look of Love”

This joint is so epic. In his long and peculiar career, this is probably Irv Gotti’s greatest contribution to Hip-Hop history.  Isaac Hayes’ classic track, Hov’s unconscious string of rhymes, and the most expressive one line hook rap music has ever known makes this not only one of my favorite samples of all time, but also one of my all time favorite songs.

Here’s the Isaac Hayes Original:

Here’s Jay’s classic, “Can I live” –

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3.  Lou Reed – Walk on the Wild Side

If you know me, you know I was never really down with the whole A Tribe Called Quest/Native Tongues movement. I grew up on gangsta rap. But, this joint can’t be denied. When this drops hands go up in the air and heads start nodding.

Here’s the Lou Reed Original:

Here’s the ATCQ Classic:

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2. Ahmad Jamal – Pastures

I mentioned this joint in Wednesday’s post about things I wish I could do. This is a song that makes me wish I knew how to play the piano just so I could play it. As a sample, I love it because Ski uses such a small portion of Jamal’s original song to create the entire foundation for his beat. To me, this is a perfect example of how a sample should be used. Quick side bar story about this beat: Remember the group Camp Lo – they had a couple hits around 95/96 – their biggest being “Luchini” – Well, this beat and chorus was actually intended for them. Hov heard it and snatched it. You can kinda here the Camp Lo inspired flow on this joint too.

Here’s the original Ahmad Jamal Joint (you gotta listen for about a minute or so to catch the brief part that was sampled – trust me – it’s worth it):

And here’s how Dj Ski used it for J

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1. Tom Scott – “Today”

This is, without a doubt, my favorite sample ever used in Hip-Hop history. It’s pretty much perfect. Pete Rock takes a super small piece of a pretty obscure 1970’s hippie jazz joint and from it, creates one of Hip-Hops most loved beats. As far as I’m concerned, Pete Rock could have retired after this joint.  ‘Nuff Respect Due’

Here’s Tom Scott’s Original (Sample doesn’t come till midway through the song, but, I won’t tell you when, just listen to the whole thing, you’ll appreciate it that much more).

Here’s The Pete Rock & Cl Smooth Classic that uses it:

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***Bonus***

If any of you are fans on Aaron Macgruder’s cartoon series The Boondocks, my favorite episode of that all time is called “Riley Was Here.” In that episode, Riley is vandalizing houses in his neighborhood by spray painting huge, gangsta murals on them. Eventually, he happens to meet Bob Ross (you know, the racially ambiguous guy with the Afro that used to teach us how to paint on PBS). Bob helps Riley hone his painting skills and also helps him get in touch with the deeper seeded issues driving him to paint.  I’m mentioning it in this post because the episode ends with Bob Ross and Riley evading the police to the Tom Scott joint referenced above. When it gets to the part CL Smooth sampled, we finally see Riley’s masterpiece and understand why art was so important to him.

The episode’s pairing of 70’s hippie art icon Bob Ross with the graffiti tagging Hip-Hop generation spawned, Riley Freeman, against the backdrop of Tom Scott’s hippie sounding jazz – with Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s classic Hip-Hop anthem T.R.O.Y. in our minds as the reference point to bring it all together was profound and affecting.

Here are the last couple minutes of the episode that describe what I’m talking about above. Not gonna lie, I shed a tear the first time I watched this:

These are my favorite – feel free to share yours. Enjoy your weekend.

Stay Low and Keep Firing.

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