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Here are 8 R&B songs hip-hop can't stop sampling

Amanda Parris
Listen to Marvin's Room, Nov 10th 2017

Marvin's Room with Amanda Parris on CBC Radio


Hip-hop producers are rarely conventional musicians who train and practice to become experts on a single instrument. These sonically inspired scientists spend their time in the lab, constantly searching for the perfect drum pattern, the precise snare, the vocal melody that they can cut and layer in their own new creation.

Often, the best producers are crate-diggers, searching for obscure songs that may contain a particular sound they can use. It's a salute to the past while simultaneously inserting a dose of innovation. Although controversial and sometimes resulting in lawsuits (as Robin Thicke learned the hard way), the art of sampling has introduced new generations to old classics. R&B has been a favourite genre for hip-hop producers and there are certain songs that hip-hop just keeps on coming back to.

Here are a few of them:

Lyn Collins, 'Think (About It)'

She was known as the "female preacher" and this James Brown-produced, gospel-inspired soul song became her greatest sermon. It has been sampled in 1,994 songs, including J Dilla's "Ash Rockin'," Kanye West's "So Appalled" and most famously in Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's hit song "It Takes Two."

James Brown, 'Funky Drummer'

James Brown is the undsiputed king of the drum break that is so often used in hip-hop so get ready to see his name on this list a few times. This song has been sampled in 1,426 songs (507 of which are hip-hop songs). It was sampled by Public Enemy for their songs "Fight the Power" and "Rebel without a Pause" and by Dr. Dre for his song "Let me Ride," among many many others.

James Brown, 'Funky President (People it's Bad)'

It was never one of his biggest hits, but Brown's song, inspired by U.S. President Gerald Ford, was exacavated from the R&B and funk canon by hip-hop producers who fell in love with its intro drum fill and guitar sounds. Brown's "Funky President" has been sampled 810 times, including by Kanye West in the song "Clique," Childish Gambino in "3005" and Rick Ross in "Live Fast, Die Young."

James Brown, 'The Payback'

In 1973, Brown released his 40th studio album, The Payback. It was a No. 1 hit and has gone down in history as a landmark record in the funk canon. This song remains one of Brown's most famous, and both hip-hop and R&B have paid homage to it consistently over the decades. "The Payback" has been sampled in 372 songs, including Kendrick Lamar's "King Kunta," Total's "Can't you See" and En Vogue's "Hold On."

The Delfonics, 'Ready or not Here I Come (Can't Hide from Love)'

You may have heard their songs in films like Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown or in video games like Grand Theft Auto V. Or, you may have heard the sample in one of the 175 songs that have used it. Among the hip-hop artists who were inspired by the trio are Missy Elliott with her song "Sock it to Me," Three 6 Mafia with "Who Run It" and most famously the Fugees with their hit song "Ready or Not."

The Isley Brothers, 'Between the Sheets'

This album of the same name marked the comeback of the group that had seen its previous two albums flop with disappointing sales. The title song was a top 10 hit and has been sampled 125 times by artists as diverse as Gwen Stefani (with her song "Luxurious") and Chance the Rapper (with his song "Juke Juke"). By far the most famous sample comes from the classic song "Big Poppa" by the Notorious B.I.G.

Aretha Franklin, 'Rock Steady'

Aretha Franklin's album Young, Gifted and Black was a sonic gift to the world that to this day can be played from beginning to end without skipping a track. The song "Rock Steady" is still a gem that can get people up and moving. It has been sampled 102 times, including by hip-hop artists such as Outkast for their song "Jazzy Belle" and EPMD with the song "I'm Housin.'"

Marvin's Room playlist for Nov. 10, 2017

  1. Destiny’s Child, "Soldier"
  2. Calvin Harris feat. Jessie Reyez, "Hard to Love"
  3. SZA, "Garden (Say it Like Dat)"
  4. Plaza, "Personal"
  5. Tata Vega, "Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister)"
  6. Ndidi Onukwulu, "Move Together"
  7. Erykah Badu, "Next Lifetime"
  8. Marlena Shaw, "Woman of the Ghetto"
  9. The Delfonics, "Ready or not Here I Come (Can’t Hide)"
  10. Jon Vinyl, "Nostalgia"
  11. DVSN, "Keep Calm"
  12. Jahkoy, "Save U Interlude"
  13. PartyNextDoor, "Low Battery"