Imagine you’re listening to Otis by Kanye West. In the beginning, you hear an old piano and a dude singing. It sounds like an old recording right? Well, it is. That sample is called “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding and is used throughout the song. Samples are the backbone of music ever since the 80’s and artists like Kanye West, J-Dilla, Q-Tip, and Timbaland have created hit after hit using samples. Today, I will list my top five songs that use fire samples and how they came to be used in songs.
1. Runnin’ by The Pharcyde
This was the song that brought me into the world of sampling. Runnin’ by The Pharcyde is a great example of sampling and it is one of my favorite songs. This song samples “Saudade vem Correndo,” a Brazilian bossa nova song by Stan Getz and Luís Bonfá and is sung by Maria Toledo. The beat was created by the one and only J-Dilla and the sample is heard at the 0:05 and 2:53 timestamps (also throughout the song). Runnin’ peaked at #55 on Billboard Hot 100 chart and #35 on the U.S. R&B chart.
2. Electric Relaxation by A Tribe Called Quest
This is, no doubt, one of ATCQ’s greatest songs. Electric Relaxation has the best song origin story and is my favorite ATCQ song to this day. According to Phife Dawg’s interview with XXL Magazine, he said that this song was made in his mom’s basement by none other than Q-Tip, his bandmate. Phife said that when he entered the house and heard the beat, he ran straight to the basement, didn’t greet anyone in the house, and just freaked out when he heard the beat. Q-Tip samples Mystic Brew by Ronnie Foster at the 0:15 and 0:44 timestamps in the song.
3. Glory Box by Portishead
When you talk about sampling, you can’t leave out Glory Box. This song is an example of early Bristol (U.K.) Trip Hop. Trip Hop (or downtempo), is a fusion of hip hop and electronica but with slower tempos and a psychedelic sound. Portishead was a British Trip-Hop group made up of Beth Gibbons (vocals and lyrics,) Geoff Barrow (sampler and drum kit,) and Adrian Utley (guitar.) The song is ranked #21 in Slant’s Magazine, “100 Best Singles of the 1990s.” Glory Box samples Isaac Hayes’ ‘Ike’s Rap Pt. 2’ and debuted in their 1994 album, “Dummy.” This song has been used in hit shows such as “American Horror Story,” “Lucifer,” “Daria,” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
4. Hypnotize by Notorious B.I.G
This song speaks for itself. From the flow to the lyrics, and the beat, to just Biggie’s overall presence on the song. This is an undisputed Hip Hop classic! The reason why Biggie is on my list is because I think his voice always tells a story. His lyric flow and smooth delivery are what made him a great artist. Hypnotize samples Rise by Herb Alpert at the 0:01 timestamp and throughout the song.
5. The Palisades by Childish Gambino ft. Christian Rich
Now this song is really fun to listen to, especially when hanging out with friends or by yourself. It gives out feelings of nostalgia or longing for your non-existent soulmate. What makes this song really cool is the four-count beat and the guitar in the beginning. If you’re a Childish Gambino fan then this isn’t really his area but the song really is enjoyable. His voice really makes the song pop. This song samples “Parabéns” by Marcos Valle, a Brazilian multi-instrumentalist and composer. The song is from his 2003 album “Contrasts.” When it comes to Childish Gambino, you can always expect something innovative and cool.
As I said, samples are the backbone of music, whether you know it or not. Music is a very powerful thing. Once you start listening to older songs, dive deep into the world of sampling, and connect the dots to your favorite songs, you’ll definitely have a really fun time chasing those original hitmakers and maybe, sampling your own song finds. There is no rule to sampling, as long as you’re having fun, that’s all that matters.