Top 10 Hip-Hop Songs That Surpassed Their Samples

March 2, 2011
Hip-hop would be nowhere without the numerous samples used to create its iconic sound, but there are actually rare times where the original sample is eclipsed by the updated track in which it was used. Even though we hate to admit it, hip-hop/rap producers have always had a knack for maximizing the potential of any borrowed arrangement. These are those classic jams, people.

10. "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" - UGK feat. OutKast

Source: Zomba Music Group

Out of this entire list, the sampled used from Willie Hutch’s “I Choose You” might be my favorite. For those of you that don’t know, “I Choose You” is taken from the 1973 blaxploitation cult classic The Mack. Almost every rapper alive has cited this pimp tale as their favorite film of all time and one of the main influences in their rap style.

Produced by DJ Paul and Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia, "International Player's Anthem (I Choose You)" is not the first rap tune to use this amazing arrangement, but it’s definitely the most well-known version of the bunch and easily the best. How can it not be? Having UGK and Outkast on the same track makes for some of the best hip-hop the genre has to offer. RIP Pimp C.

9. “Keep Ya Head Up” - Tupac

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Zapp & Roger’s “Be Alright” was a certified funk masterpiece when first released in 1980 and it still is today. Although your average listener will probably instantly associate the song with Tupac’s classic “Keep Ya Head Up” at first listen, it’s worth mentioning that H-Town also sampled this for “Knockin' Da Boots.” But we all know that Pac will own this one forever.

8. “Paid in Full” - Eric B. & Rakim

Source: 4th & B'way/Island

2Pac’s now-notorious Biggie diss “Hit 'Em Up” did use Dennis Edwards’ "Don't Look Any Further,” but “Paid in Full” by Eric B. & Rakim deserves the love for making the sample their own. Rakim is one of the most important and influential rappers off all time and I’m guessing that Tupac used the Dennis Edwards sample based on his early love for the New York MC. Even if there are some grey areas in terms of what Eric B actually produced on this LP, the title track off their 1987 masterpiece was, and still is, one of the dopest hop-hip cuts ever pieced together.

7. “Passin' Me By” - The Pharcyde

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Besides James Brown, Quincy Jones is probably the most sampled artist/producer of all time. With that said, Pharcyde’s 1992 alt-hip-hop landmark “Passin' Me By” seems to be the best example. There are a bunch of other famous samples in the track, but Qunicy’s breathy organ from 1973’s "Summer in the City" makes the song the banger that it is. Fatlip is pretty awesome too.

6. "C.R.E.A.M." - Wu-Tang Clan

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If I had to put together my top hip-hop songs of all time, Wu-Tang Clan’s "C.R.E.A.M." would totally be one of the top cuts on the list. The samples used by RZA from the Charmels’ ditty “As Long As I've Got You” gives the 36 Chambers landmark a texture and rugged class that still influences hip-hop to this day. There isn’t a hip-hop fan alive today that doesn’t know this song and a lot of that love stems from the use of “As Long As I've Got You.” Leave it to RZA to take a simple 10-second piano riff and turn it into one of the greatest hip-hop beats ever made.

5. “Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang” - Dr. Dre

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Here’s another example of a hip-hop classic that was pretty much 100% lifted from an older track. Even though Dre’s version is an updated/polished production of “I Want'a Do Something Freaky To You” by Leon Haywood, “‘G’ Thang” has gone on to become one of the most influential and most adored hip-hop songs of all time. Like every song on this list, “Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang” surpassed its principle sample the second it was unleashed on the world back in 1993. Don’t feel bad for Leon Haywood, though. I’m sure the guy has made a few bucks of The Chronic.

4. “Mind's Playin' Tricks On Me” - Geto Boys

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Isaac Hayes is another producer that has been sampled by hip-hoppers countless times well after the height of his music career. Apart from Jay-Z’s “Can I Live,” the 1991 Geto Boys landmark “Mind's Playin' Tricks On Me” might be the most influential sample used from a Hayes arrangement so far. Isaac Hayes’ “Hung up on my Baby” is an amazing track on every level, but the influence that “Mind's Playin' Tricks On Me” has had on rap speaks for itself. There isn’t an MC alive today that doesn’t owe some kind of gratitude to Scarface’s demonic real-life raps from an era of hip-pop garbage.

3. “Juicy” - The Notorious B.I.G.

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Mtume's "Juicy Fruit" is a classic funk banger to say the least, but due to Biggie’s rags-to-riches narrative on the track, most people instantly connect it with B.I.G. every time they hear it. "Juicy Fruit" has been sampled more times than I can count, but as far as the music community is concerned, the beat will always be connected with the life and times of Christopher Wallace.

Because of Diddy’s love for plucking old classics and putting his new “stamp” on them, Biggie and his Bad Boy fam could’ve easily made this list more than a few times.

2. “Fight The Power” - Public Enemy

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Public Enemy has a string of classic cuts, but this is the song that Chuck D, Flavor Flav and Terminator X are most well known for. There are so many samples in this 1989 landmark it’s stupid. Even the title of the song was sampled. Either way, it’s the classic bass line from “Hot Pants Road" by The J.B.'s that made “Fight The Power” so special. Now I know I’m gonna get a lot of heat for saying that “Fight The Power” is better than “Hot Pant Road,” but the impact that this song made in conjunction with the release Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing is nearly impossible to compete with. The brilliant content of the song is proof of that. Your average person today probably has no idea that the main bass line is from a JB song, but at least it was used in the most epic way possible.

1. "Rapper's Delight” - The Sugarhill Gang

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"Rapper's Delight” was hip-hip’s first undisputed hit, but it would have been nothing without the classic backing track of "Good Times" by Chic. The late, great Bernard Edwards' bangin’ bass line from the song is one of the original foundations of hip-hop, and it’s too bad that not a lot of people today know this.

With this said, no one can argue that Sugarhill’s "Rapper's Delight” has surpassed "Good Times" in terms of popularity as well as recognition since its release back in 1979. No hate towards Nile Rodgers and his brilliant Chic crew, but to a lot of music listeners, this classic arrangement will always belong to the Sugarhill Gang.

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