The art of sampling is one of the cornerstones of music, and it's a great way for modern listeners to discover music from years gone by. This was showcased in British singer Mahalia's recent single Whenever You're Ready, which sampled Montell Jordan's Get It On Tonight, a 1999 R&B track.
Speaking about the sample, Mahalia says, “I’m so gassed to be releasing this song. I remember the first time hearing Montell Jordan’s Get It On Tonight in Save The Last Dance when I was a kid. It’s been a song that has made me wanna dance ever since and sampling it in Whenever You're Ready is really special to me."
We wanted to take a look at some of the most sampled music moments of all time, so read on to find out which samples are being used over and over and why. Chances are, even if you didn't know what they were called, you've heard them in a song before...
Bring The Noise - Public Enemy
A big track in its own right, Public Enemy's Bring The Noise was built off samples - before being sampled itself. The track's producers, The Bomb Squad, features samples from James Brown, Funkadelic, The Commodores and even a Malcolm X speech, so it's steeped in music history.
Since then, it's been sampled by the likes of De La Soul, Kanye West, Beastie Boys, Prince and Ludacris, so the track has 'paid it forward' when it comes to the art of sampling. It's an iconic slice of hip-hop from the late 1980s, and many of the samples use different parts of the track - but the most iconic line is Chuck D's exclamation "here we go again"!
Walk On The Wild Side - Lou Reed
When A Tribe Called Quest sampled Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side, they created a song that would go down in music history. Can I Kick It? featured on the ATCQ's debut album People's Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of Rhythm, and went on to be their biggest hit.
Can I Kick It? samples the bass line from the track, with all the money made from it going to Lou Reed because of issues with the sample. ATCQ's Phife Dawg explained, “I remember with [record label] Jive, there was a problem with the sample being cleared.
“I don’t think they cleared the sample, and instead of Lou Reed saying, ‘You can’t use it,’ he said, ‘Y’all can use it, but I get all the money from that.'” As a result, Reed kept all the royalties from the song and Phife and group “haven’t seen a dime” ever since. It's a tale that showcases the power a sample can have, as well as the issues that can arise from sampling someone else's track.
Think (About It) - Lyn Collins
While Lyn Collins' track Think (About It) didn't make a musical impact at the time, it would go on to become a cult favourite - and then, a favourite of producers everywhere. In 1987, the release of E-mu's SP-1200 sampler meant that the track, which featured in Volume 16 in the prominent breakbeat compilation series Ultimate Breaks & Beats, was available to a wider audience than ever before, so it started being included in rap beats.
Snoop Dogg, Gang Starr, Immortal Technique, Porter Robinson and more sampled the track, and all in all, it's been sampled at least 2700 times, though the number is likely higher. Both the main drumbeat of the track, as well as the track's "Woo! Yeah!" break have been widely used, and even in 2021, it's still being sampled.
Funky Drummer - James Brown
It's hard to overstate James Brown's contribution to music, both through his own works, as well as the artists that have sampled him ever since. He's the most sampled artist in music, and hip-hop owes a lot to his music - especially his 1970 track, Funky Drummer. The drum break, improvised by his band member, Clyde Stubblefield, has been used by both hip-hop and pop musicians everywhere.
On the track, James Brown tells Clyde, "You don't have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got... Don't turn it loose, 'cause it's a mother." The drum break has been used by the likes of Public Enemy, N.W.A, LL Cool J, Run-DMC and more, as well as Ed Sheeran and George Michael.
Cola Bottle Boy - Edwin Birdsong
When experimental jazz musician Edwin Birdsong wrote Cola Bottle Boy back in 1979, we're pretty confident that he couldn't have imagined the impact it would have on modern music. The track was sampled in Daft Punk's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger (which Kanye West then sampled on his track Stronger), as well as on De La Soul's Me Myself and I and Gang Starr's Skills.
Speaking about finding out about Daft Punk's sample, which sped up the keyboard riff in Cola Bottle Boy, Edwin says, "I recorded it 30 years ago, and here come some guys from France (Daft Punk). Where did you find the music?' And they said, 'I was going through bins and it popped out. And then Kanye West also sampled the same song, calling it Stronger. I'm blessed and I continue to be blessed by opening my arms to God every day."
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Amen, Brother - The Winstons
If you're a fan of British rave music, then chances are you've heard a section of Amen, Brother, even if you didn't know it. The Winstons' drummer, Gregory "G.C" Coleman, made musical history with his six-second drum solo from the track, even if no-one in the band knew it at the time. The solo is so famous, you might know it as the Amen Break - and it's been sampled by the likes of NWA, Amy Winehouse, David Bowie, Oasis and The Prodigy, after New York's hip-hop scene started including it in their beats during the late 1980s.
Interestingly, Michael Schneider, author of A Beginner's Guide to Constructing the Universe, says the waveform of Coleman's break matches the golden ratio, an ancient Greek beauty standard. Tracks like The Prodigy's Firestarter, Amy Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good and David Bowie's Little Wonder all use the break, if you want to go see what it sounds like when it's been sampled.