This should be the last of my Top 10 posts, as I pick the 10 best songs ever to have been used as samples. As always, I’d be happy to hear from anyone who thinks that I missed a killer sample or song…
A Tribe Called Quest’s Can I Kick It samples Lou Reed
- A Tribe Called Quest – Can I Kick It? [Boilerhouse Mix] (samples Walk On The Wild Side by Lou Reed): Although Can I Kick It by Tribe Called Quest is (rightly) most famous for it’s wonderful use of Lou Reed’s Walk On The Wild Side, this UK remix tops the top ten for it’s inspired use of everything from clips from Thunderbirds, American reporting of The Beatles arriving in America, and Pete Tong. Genius. (Unfortunately I can’t find anywhere to download or stream it!)
- DJ Shadow – In/Flux (samples David Walker’s Never Can Say Goodbye): I could quite easily have just put the track-listing to DJ Shadow’s debut album (Endtroducing..) for this top 10. The way that he used samples, and nothing but samples, was ground-breaking, and contrary to what the luddites would have you believe, a very beautiful art. But I had to pick just 1, so it’s this one, In/Flux. It was DJ Shadow’s 3rd single and I got it on the seminal Mo Was compilation Headz. There are numerous samples in it, but the one that gets me is the clip from Never Can Say Goodbye by David Walker, that he cuts just as it’s about to get going. Musical teasing.
- Eric B & Rakim – I Know You Got Soul (samples Bobby Byrd’s I Know You Got Soul): Not the most innovative use of a sample ever, but Eric B & Rakim’s I Know You Got Soul set a trend for making the most of James Brown and his proteges that was never to be bettered. A later remix also makes fine use of I Want You Back by The Jackson 5.
- De La Soul – Say No Go (samples I Can’t Go For That by Hall & Oates): De La Soul turned sampling into an art form, and also lost it it’s innocence. Say No Go from the ground breaking 3 Feet High & Rising sampled the very un-cool Hall & Oates, along with many others. The innocence was lost when De La Soul lost a legal battle with The Turtles, ironically over one of the most minor samples on the album.
- Amerie – 1 Thing (sampled Oh Calcutta! by The Meters): Amerie’s 1 Thing is a true work of sampling genius. With the tiniest snippet of guitar from Oh Calcutta! by The Meters producer Rich Harrison created the song of 2005. If you can hear this and not feel like dancing then you probably ought to have your pulse taken. And as for the video….
- NWA – Express Yourself (samples Express Yourself by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band): Despite being known as all things gangsta, NWA’s greatest ever track Express Yourself is a very intelligent piece of hip hop. Echoing the meaning of the track by Charles Wright that it samples it encourages people to think for themselves and stay away from drugs. Of course 5 years later the rapper on Express Yourself (Dr Dre) would name an album after a particularly potent form of marijuana. Hmmm.
- The Prodigy – Smack My Bitch Up (samples Give The Drummer Some by Ultramagnetic MCs): When Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy came out, it received an unsurprising amount of attention (especially considering the video). Whatever you think of it’s lyrics though it is one hell of a song. And the fact that the (white) Prodigy that sampled the offending lyric received more criticism than the (black) Ultramagnetic MCs from whom they sampled it would make a pretty interesting PHD into the media’s attitudes towards misogyny of music (it doesn’t matter if middle-class white kids won’t hear it perhaps?)
- Adam F – Circles (samples Bob James’ Westchester Lady): Adam F (son of Alvin Stardust - no really) burst onto the drum & bass scene with Circles, which opens with a sped-up & looped sample from Bob James’ classic 70s lounge-jazz tune Westchester Lady. Circles absolute certain floor filler in the mid-90s, which is even more fantastic when you realise that Bob James also produced the song Angela, theme from the TV show Taxi.
- The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony (samples The Andrew Loog Oldham Orchestra’s cover of The Last Time by The Rolling Stones): I never said that they had to be the most clever use of samples, and this one cost The Verve a fortune. But without it the track is nothing, and the video for Bittersweet Symphony (obviously “influenced” by Massive Attack’s Unfinished Sympathy, as indeed is the whole song) just wouldn’t work without those strings.
- Tricky – Hell Is Round The Corner (samples Ike’s Rap II by Isaac Hayes): This amazing Tricky track was suggested by a reader, although they actually preferred the Portishead song Glory Box which uses the same sample of Isaac Hayes’ Ike’s Rap II. Both acts came from the Bristol area of England and released their respective albums in the mid 90s . Portishead received more commercial success but I’ve always thought that Tricky’s album Maxinquaye was the better album (and that Massive Attack were never as good after he left). More atmospheric, original and with a sound that I never get bored of. The same goes for this incredible piece of classic trip-hop.
Whilst you think about my choices, that nice girl Amerie is going to sing for you!