Sampling is a masterful art that takes a great piece of music and completely recontextualizes it until the song is something completely new. Although sample culture is often associated with hip-hop, the earliest examples of sampling occurred in the 1940s with Pierre Schaeffer and the musique concrète movement. Over time, technology evolved to include keyboards, synthesizers, and samplers that could play back samples pulled from tapes and records. Nowadays, you can use digital sample software like Splice to create beats, textures, and hooks.
Regardless of the method, it’s incredibly fascinating to hear a hip-hop song and trace all of the layers back to their original sources. Sometimes, you can immediately tell where a sample comes from. In other cases, you may be surprised to discover how anybody turned a melody or rhythm into the hip-hop track you know and love. To further explore this phenomenon, Discogs has surfaced 20 surprising songs that became hip-hop sample gold.
“Ten Et Tiwa” by Alain Goraguer
“The New Scooby-Doo Movies (Main Title)”
MF Doom’s “Hey!” samples a piece of the intro music from the short-lived Scooby-Doo series The New Scooby-Doo Movies. The spooky loop heard throughout the track is all thanks to those meddling kids and their dog.
“Prelude” by Bernard Hermann
Bernard Hermann’s music for Psycho used a string ensemble to create tension throughout the film. Hearing it in the context of a Busta Rhymes’ song is an entirely different but rewarding experience.
“Theme From Love Story” by Henry Mancini
Love Story is a romantic drama from 1970 that features a piano theme composed by Henry Mancini. No one could have predicted that this music would someday become the backdrop of one of hip-hop’s most harrowing narratives.
“Invisible Limits” by Tangerine Dream
There are so many different songs that DJ Shadow has sampled, but the otherworldly synth sounds of Tangerine Dream provide a unique texture that you don’t hear in hip-hop every day.
“Rise Above” by Black Flag
Although you can draw parallels between the passion and politics found in punk and hip-hop, you don’t often hear punk songs sampled in hip-hop tracks. Black Flag’s “Rise Above” ends up working perfectly as the fuel for Death Grips’ fire.
“Those Shoes” by Eagles
The Beastie Boys launched their career by sampling hard rock and heavy metal, but a soft rock band like The Eagles is a bit more surprising. However, “Those Shoes” took on a whole new feel as the ideal beat for “High Plains Drifter”.
“Angel Of Death” by Slayer
Public Enemy took metal sampling one step further by prominently featuring a Slayer sample in “She Watch Channel Zero?!”. Who knew a thrash metal riff would work so well in a hip-hop song? The answer is Public Enemy.
“Three Is A Magic Number” by Bob Dorough
The infectious vocal hook of De La Soul’s “The Magic Number” comes from a children’s song featured in the Schoolhouse Rock series. From educational television to conscious hip-hop, the number three retains its magic.
“I Keep Forgettin’ (Every Time You’re Near)” by Michael McDonald
It’s a bit mind-blowing to think that a Michael McDonald song helped form one of the most recognizable songs from the g-funk era.
“The Hard Knock Life”
A sample of a ‘70s Broadway show tune provided Jay-Z with a huge hit in 1998. The song has since achieved platinum status.
“Ether” by Gang Of Four
The angular attack of Gang Of Four works flawlessly within the framework of Run The Jewels’ “The Ground Below” and EL-P’s expansive soundscapes.
“Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd
“Sweet Home Alabama” does not immediately register as potential sample gold, but the Geto Boys’ “Gangsta Of Love” begs to differ.
“Horizontal Hold” by This Heat
The avant-garde art-rock / post-punk band This Heat created groundbreaking music and samples of “Horizontal Hold” gave Danny Brown what he needed to make “Adderall Admiral” an unforgettable composition.
“21st Century Schizoid Man (Including Mirrors)” by King Crimson
A prog rock refrain is just what Kanye West’s “Power” needed to achieve legendary status.
“Wriggle Like A F***ing Eel” by Whitehouse
Power electronics pioneers Whitehouse made a career out of harsh noise and these intense sampled elements make for a memorable clipping. song.
“The Rope And The Colt” by Scott Walker
What do an experimental baroque pop singer, an Italian Western soundtrack, and a hip-hop song have in common? Listen to these two tracks to find out.
“Plastic People” by The Mothers Of Invention
For some, The Mothers Of Invention are plenty “weird” on their own, but their music works so well in this GZA classic.
“Uphill Peace Of Mind” by Kid Dynamite
Not to be confused with the punk band of the same name, this obscure classic rock outfit crafted a vocal hook that ended up becoming one of the most important pieces in “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang”.
“The Stranger” by Billy Joel
Much like the Michael McDonald / Warren G connection, it’s pretty wild to think that a Billy Joel song helped shape a gangster rap song. Luckily for music fans everywhere, Dr. Dre could hear the potential in Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” as he developed Snoop Dogg’s sonic palette.
Ready to start making your own beats and turning songs into sample gold? Splice may be able to help you get started.
Published in partnership with Splice.