As a self-confessed music nerd, I’m sure it’ll be no surprise to know that I’m a huge fan of a sample when it comes to music. My love for samples is definitely something I’ve touched upon before on here but…I’ve never actually shared my favourites with you. Since there’s no time like the present, I thought I’d put together a list of some of my all-time favourite (and in my opinion best) music samples. Who knows, maybe you’ll find some new songs in here. Or discover that some of your existing fave tunes have actually come from other songs.
What are music samples?
For any of you who maybe aren’t familiar with the term ‘sample’ or ‘sampling’, when it comes to music, I’ll give you a very quick explanation. Sampling is essentially the use of a part of a sound recording in another sound recording. So, in relation to music, it’s basically when a song uses part of an existing song within itself. It’s that simple. In terms of what qualifies as a sample, it can be anything from a small bit of speech from a song, a specific sound, a certain rhythm or melody, and in some cases entire bars of music. But they haven’t got to be exactly the same as the original song when it comes to how they sound. Samples can be sped up or down, layered up with other sounds, changed in pitch or just slightly adjusted in general.
Sampling is a huge part of hip hop music, and a lot of hip hop songs actually sample classic funk songs. Not only is sampling used in hip hop but it’s developed into a feature of all genres of music including electronic and pop music. If you want to learn more about sampling then feel free to go and check out the full wiki page on the term here.
Some Of The Best Music Samples…Ever: Playlist
There are absolutely hundreds of songs that I could add to this but I’ve limited myself to a not so small 50-song playlist. I’ve set the playlist out so that the most recently released song comes first each time. Which, I’m guessing, will be the tracks that are most familiar to you. The idea is to listen to the sample first and then the original track and learn a bit about where the songs have come from. In some cases, there’s more than one sampled track in the sample chain.
Some Of The Best Music Samples…Ever: Track Listing
- School Spirit – Kanye West
- Spirit In The Dark – Aretha Franklin
- Hotline Bling – Drake
- Why Can’t We Live Together – Timmy Thomas
- On Hold – The xx
- I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – Daryl Hall & John Oates
- i – Kendrick Lamar
- That Lady, Pts. 1 & 2 – The Isley Brothers
- Bad Liar – Selena Gomez
- Psycho Killer – Talking Heads
- South of the River – Tom Misch
- Lady – D’Angelo
- Tears Dry On Their Own – Amy Winehouse
- Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye, Tammi Terrell
- The Next Episode – Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg
- The Edge – David McCallum
- yellow is the color of her eyes – Soccer Mommy
- California Daze – Peace
- The Rain Song – Led Zeppelin
- Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It – Will Smith
- He’s the Greatest Dancer – Sister Sledge
- Bootylicious – Destiny’s Child
- Edge of Seventeen – Stevie Nicks
- Ride on Time – Black Box
- Love Sensation – Loleatta Holloway
- Favorite Song – Chance The Rapper, Childish Gambino
- Clean up Woman – Betty Wright
- Blame Game – Kayne West, John Legend
- Avril 14th – Aphex Twin
- Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang
- Good Times – CHIC
- Mo Money Mo Problems – The Notorious B.I.G.
- I’m Coming Out – Diana Ross
- Blood On The Leaves – Kanye West
- Strange Fruit – Nina Simone
- Gold Digger – Kanye West, Jamie Foxx
- I’ve Got A Woman – Ray Charles
- Can I Kick It? – A Tribe Called Quest
- Walk On The Wild Side – Lou Reed
- U Can’t Touch This – MC Hammer
- Super Freak – Rick James
- No Diggity – Blackstreet, Dr. Dre, Queen Pen
- Grandma’s Hands – Bill Withers
- Dilemma – Nelly, Kelly Rowland
- GhettoMusick – Outkast
- Love, Need and Want You – Patti LaBelle
- Arabella – Arctic Monkeys
- War Pigs – Black Sabbath
Some Of My Favourites From The Playlist
If you’ve read my post all about the best Aretha Frankin songs then you’ll already know that one of my favourite samples is Kanye West’s School Spirit, which samples Aretha Franklin’s Spirit In The Dark. It’s a song that I had no idea was sampled until I ended up listening to ALL of Aretha Franklin’s studio albums as part of my ongoing series The Legend Slot. And boy am I glad I did it. What a discovery!
Kanye is a bit of a sample king if you ask me, which is why there happens to be quite a few of his tracks on here. His sample of Aphex Twin’s Avril 14th on Blame Game (ft. John Legend) is the crossover the world didn’t realise it needed…and it is GLORIOUS. Then of course there’s also the iconic Gold Digger which samples I’ve Got A Woman by Ray Charles, and to top it all off Nina Simone’s Strange Fruit makes an appearance in Kanye’s Blood On The Leaves.
Some More Of My Favourites From The Playlist
It isn’t all about Kanye (and his iconic use of sampling) though! I’ve got plenty of other favourites to talk about, but I’ll pick out just two of them. The first is Tom Misch’s riff sample of Lady by D’Angelo on his track South of the River. The original track is a slow and sensual one, which is absolutely what D’Angelo does best, but Tom Misch picks up the tempo of it completely when he uses it in South of the River. It’s light yet funky and brings a whole new life to the original riff.
The second is Kendrick Lamar’s i which is sampled from That Lady, Pts. 1 & 2 by The Isley Brothers. To be honest I have absolutely no idea which of these two songs I heard first, in my head they’ve always just coexisted. I think this is the one sample where I couldn’t choose between the OG track and the sample. Both are absolutely incredible.
Are you a fan of samples when it comes to music? What are your favourites? Where there any tracks on here that you had no idea where sampled from older songs? Let me know in the comments!