10 Incredibly Popular Samples
If making music were easy, we would all be famous. It isn’t a cakewalk to create a song that will be admired for generations to come, which is why at times, artists have turned to the past to find lasting pieces of music that can be reworked. Some producers find ways to take a great song and twist it into something entirely new. Other times, there are those blatant samples that immediately beg the question, “Haven’t I heard this before?” Here’s a list of 12 samples that chances are everyone has heard, and if they listened to the original, would immediately recognize. This is a YouTube heavy list so you can hear the originals and samples.
Samples: Daydream in Blue by I-Monster
Lupe Fiasco’s third single off of his first album, Daydreamin’ was not a huge Billboard success, but did go on to win a Grammy. The chorus is taken directly from I-Monster’s Daydream in Blue, and comparing the two feels like listening to the same song. It’s no mystery why this sample led to the song’s success; the melody is extremely catchy, and will easily get stuck in your head. Jill Scott’s vocals on the track are equally beautiful and passionate. Interestingly enough, Daydream in Blue itself samples Daydream by the group Wallace Collection almost as heavily.
Samples: “Fast Cup Stacking, Oh My God!” from Youtube
Call him Dubstep or otherwise, it’s obvious at this point that Skrillex’s popularity goes beyond whatever genre you place him in. This sample is unique in that it’s the only one on this list that came from something other than older music. Instead, this sample is from a popular YouTube clip. While the sampling isn’t extensive throughout the song, it does come at what any Dubstep fan will tell you is the most important part of the track: the drop. And if anyone knows how to drop the bass, it’s Skrillex. The shrieking vocal sample is followed by an over the top heaviness. It would be hard to suspect a YouTube clip could have the same intensity as Skrillex’s ridiculous synths and baselines, but this sample delivers.
Samples: Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp
Anyone who has heard the original Mellencamp tune will know it immediately when listening to Jessica Simpson’s reuse. The extremely catchy mixture of the simple riff and the hand claps during the bridge can get stuck in your head for days, which of course makes it a perfect sample for a dance pop single. While Jack and Diane made it to number 1 on the U.S. charts, Simpson’s rework topped out at number 21. Mellencamp has stated that originally, the claps were only recorded to help keep tempo and weren’t meant to be included in the final song, but he realized the song didn’t work without them. Jessica and her producers would probably agree.
Samples: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger by Daft Punk – Cola Bottle Baby by Edwin Birdsong
Many fans of Daft Punk were upset to hear one of Daft Punk’s most famous tracks, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger used as the hook on Kanye West’s single Stronger. This is pretty ironic considering how heavily Daft Punk themselves sampled Cola Bottle Baby for their track. In fact, Daft Punk is known for their heavy use of samples, sometimes to the point of simply taking a hook and adding a heavier dance drum beat (such as the direct use of the Release the Beast hook by Breakwater for Robot Rock). Kanye West is equally known in the Hip Hop world for his own use of samples in production, which is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that he would use a hook as catchy as the one sampled from Daft Punk. This is a case of “Sampleception”: a sample within a sample. While Daft Punk used much of Cola Bottle Baby for their sample, Kanye’s sample is of the lyrical portion of Daft Punk’s track, and doesn’t really include any of Edwin Birdsong’s original sound.
Samples: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly
Nas’s single Hip Hop is Dead sampled Iron Butterfly’s track heavily, sporting the opening synthesizer riff, the baseline, and the drums. While they’re spruced up a little to get that strong Hip Hop sound, listening to the original song you can practically hear Nas rapping over it. Both songs hit the charts, but topped out at 30 and 41, respectively. While In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida is undoubtedly Iron Butterfly’s most famous song, Nas saw much more success with other tracks. Unlucky for him that his first album, Illmatic, is considered one of the greatest Hip Hop records in history. That’s a hard act to follow, no matter how memorable the sample you use.
Samples: Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat Minor, Op. 35 by Frederic Chopin
Deadmau5 has been outspoken in his dislike for DJs that don’t produce original work, and while he certainly produces his own tracks, it doesn’t stop him from sampling now and again. At least he’s keeping it classy, though, reaching all the way back to 1839 to grab a few piano bars from the legendary composer and pianist Frederic Chopin. This sample is fairly minimal, as it is only the opening few strands of music from this amazing Sonata, but it is notable for the incredible popularity of Deadmau5’s track and the unbelievable pianist it is sampled from.
Samples: Under Pressure by Queen and David Bowie
Of course this one made the list. Perhaps best known for Vanilla Ice’s weak defense that he didn’t sample Under Pressure (their track goes dun dun dun du du dun dun; his track goes du du dun du du dun dun), it’s obvious that the same smooth baseline is featured in both songs. While Queen and David Bowie hit number one in the U.K., they topped out at 29 on the U.S. charts. Vanilla Ice, on the other hand, rode that funky bass to number one in both countries. Obviously it takes more than a great baseline to top the charts, and with some…interesting…rhymes and a catchy chorus, Vanilla Ice had a hit.
Samples: You Got What I Need by Freddie Scott
Somewhat of a one-hit wonder, Biz Markie earned huge popularity with the simple and humorous track Just a Friend. A large part of the success of the song has to be credited to the simple piano melody of Freddie Scott’s original tune, along with Biz’s amazingly bad rendition of Scott’s own lyrics in the chorus (with a small twist). Some would say that Biz butchered a classic, while others accept the comedic Hip Hop tale of love as an homage to the lat great Freddie Scott. Whichever point of view you take, Biz’s horribly off-tune chorus will be the life of karaoke bars for years to come.
Samples: Bring It Here by Wild Sugar
The first 10 seconds of the 1981 Wild Sugar track Bring It Here became the basis for one of The Beastie Boys’ best known tracks. If you started both tracks simultaneously, you would have no idea which was which. As a sample, those 10 seconds were perfect: A catchy, repeating groove to rap over as well as a quick hit to switch up the tempo and supply an outro. Wild Sugar never gained too much popularity with Bring it Here, but the sample certainly lives on. While Brass Monkey may not have been as successful as other Beastie tracks on the charts, it had huge radio play and has you whistling the tune in seconds.
Samples: 75, Brazil Street by Nicola Fasano vs. Pat Rich – Street Player by Chicago
Here again, we have a sample within a sample. Given Pitbull’s penchant for sampling latin flavor for his own songs, there’s a good chance he never even knew that Nicola Fasano and Pat Rich had sampled Chicago’s Street Player in the first place. I Know You Want Me samples the up tempo dance beat directly from 75, Brazil Street, but the memorable horn hits are the very first notes played off of the original Chicago track. Pitbull certainly wasted no time capitalizing on Fasano and Rich’s own sampling success, releasing his track less than a year after 75, Brazil Street came out. This trend would continue for Pitbull, with his 2010 track Bon Bon sampling the 2010 track We No Speak Americano by Yolanda Be Cool and DCUP. Even quicker on the draw, his 2011 track Latinos in Paris came right on the heels of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s success with N***az in Paris.