“It’s been a long time, we shouldn’t have left you without a dope beat to step to.” With the resurgence of WIB’s ‘Drop on a Classic‘, one might assume that I’m referencing the late Aaliyah with the opening line in her 2000 single, “Try Again”. Old school hip-hop aficionados, however, know of the original reference, credited to the rapper Rakim in 1987’s “I Know You Got Soul”, where he professes “It’s been a long time, I shouldn’t have left you, without a strong rhyme to step to“.
Thus, the elements of beat, rhyme, and soul combine to make hip-hop the progressive, ever-evolving musical category that it is. Here we highlight (arguably) the top 5 soul Samples that made the greatest impact to the rap game. That catchy soul sample that provides the backdrop to some of our favourite rap verses of all time, giving us a dip in our hip and glide in our stride that we just can’t deny.
5. Summer in the City – Quincy Jones (sampled in The Pharcyde’s “Passin’ Me By” )
Released during the height of the Golden Era, “Passin’ Me By” struck a chord in 1993, with the four member crew of the Pharcyde recounting stories of unrequited love and school boy crushes. Producer J-Swift sampled “Summer In The City” by Quincy Jones, catapulting melancholy heartbreak into a track that will forever resonate in hearts of many as a true hip hop classic.
4. Isley Brothers- Between the Sheets (sampled in The Notorious B.I.G. “Big Poppa”)
Heavy basslines play to the ultimate sound of seduction with this 1983 r&b hit single by The Isley Brothers. Comprised of six brothers, the group has released over 30 albums in a span of over four decades, making them one of the most influential soul and r&b groups of all time. “Beneath the Sheets” is sampled by one of hip hop’s greatest emcees, The Notorious B.I.G., in “Big Poppa”, transforming tenderly explicit lyrics and impossibly deep bass into one of Biggie’s most legendary tracks. (Where Brooklyn at?!)
3. Isley Brothers – Footsteps in the Dark (sampled by Ice Cube and JDilla)
A timeless masterpiece, “Footsteps in the Dark” first gained notoriety among rap fans as the sample used for Ice Cube‘s breakthrough hit, “It Was a Good Day”. An original slow-tempo groove, the laid-back beat was sped up in the late J-Dilla‘s “Won’t Do“, further showcasing it’s versatility within any rap coast.
2. James Brown- Funky Drummer (sampled in Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”)
Acknowledgement belongs to one of the most sampled beats in hip hop (if not all-time) is this forever game changing track by James Brown. The drum break, performed by Clyde Stubblefield, is one of the most sampled rhythmic breaks in hip hop and popular music. No one shows the “Funky Drummer” more love than Public Enemy, however, sampling it on seven different tracks, including “Fight The Power” where Chuck D proclaims: “1989! The number, another summer/Sound of ‘The Funky Drummer.’”
1. Willie Hutch- I choose you (as sampled by UGK)
With an arresting arrangement of strings, horns, and smoky vocal samples that lead up to pure orchestral soul and funk, Willie Hutch‘s “I Choose You” is an undisputed classic. Included in the soundtrack to the 1973 film ‘The Mack‘, “I Choose You'” boasts “I found that once in a lifetime…“.
The dusty 808s make their triumphant return in 2007, sampled in UGK‘s “Int’l Players Anthem (I Choose You)”. Produced by DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia, the track features Andre 3000 and Big Boi of Outkast, Pimp C, and Bun B all dropping heavy, heartfelt verses about the ladies in their lives, with Dre imploring listeners to “keep your heart three stacks“, forever putting us on solid game to follow, whether we’re a pimp or not.
As these soul tracks can attest to, Soul Music sampling in hip hop is akin to building the very heart beat of any rap track. When built with the premise of pursuing something with your heart, (or in this case, soul) sampling gives hip-hop and rap a timeless dimension that can be heard long after the last notes play.
-Leslie Dizon (Aka Big L)