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Black Music Month: 11 Most Sampled Artists in Hip-Hop

“A vital part of our Nation’s proud heritage, African-American music exemplifies the creative spirit at the heart of American identity and is among the most innovative and powerful art the world has ever known.” 

—– Former President Barack Obama

Music, a cultural artifact that expresses a people’s story, challenges societal norms, and bridges the gap between groups from all colors, cultures, and creeds. Music can be celebratory in tone or a tool for lament. Ultimately, music touches the soul in ways that can have a wide-range affect on the world. Black music in particular has “compelled us to stand up, to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice” and so much more as Former President Barack Obama expressed in his Presidential Proclamation during last year’s celebration of Black Music Month.

There will always be a time and place—at any moment in the year—to celebrate the contributions of black musicians. However, the official commemoration was developed in 1979 by Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams. On June 7th, 1979, then President Jimmy Carter declared the month of June as African-American Music Appreciation Month. Since then, every president has followed suit in making official Presidential Proclamations. In our current President Donald Trump’s address, he mentions that “[Black] creativity has shaped every genre of music, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, hip hop, and rap.” Our DNA is embedded in almost every American music genre. We created rock & roll, blues, R&B, jazz, gospel, hip-hop, and rap to house our narrative of oppression, pain, triumph, excellence, creativity, spirituality, intelligence, vices, and humanity.

black-music-month-9983FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-1Marvin Gaye Performs In Rotterdam

For this particular post, I want to focus on the creative contributions of Hip-Hop and Rap, a subculture and genre of music created by black youth over 40 years ago in South Bronx. I won’t go into too much of the history—there are documentaries like Netflix’s Hip-Hop Evolution and Complex Magazine’s list of 25 Hip-Hop documentaries that you could watch. Instead, I want to focus on something so fundamental and deeply rooted in the musical veins of Hip-Hop. I want to focus on Hip-Hop’s art of sampling. Without sampling, Hip-Hop as music genre would not exist. During it’s inception, DJ’s in the late 70’s would use Disco and Funk records on turntables to create “breakbeats,” the isolated drum section of the record. These breakbeats were manipulated for B-Boys to dance and for the MC, or rapper, to spit rhymes. There was a science to effectively and continuously looping these breakbeats. As technology advanced, DJ’s and producers sampled melodies—piano, horn, vocal, and other sections from a plethora of genres. One thing is for certain, the art of sampling will never die. It will continue to be a staple of present and future expressions of Hip-Hop.

Some view sampling as lazy, prehistoric, irrelevant, or uncreative. I would venture to say that school of thought misunderstands why Hip-Hop continues to use this method. There are many Hip-Hop artists and groups that don’t necessarily need sampling. They’ve employed live instrumentation or electronic production to build colorful soundscapes. Sampling adds more texture or detail to those soundscapes but, for Hip-Hop, it’s deeper  than that. It has less to do with compensating for musical deficiencies and more to do with paying homage to artists that came before. Sampling attempts to connect generations of black artists to one another. It’s an expression of the communal aspect of black culture. The sharing of sounds and ideas from one artist to the next creates a sense of interdependency. There is nothing new under the sun and we need each other to fuel our community’s creativity. Funk, Disco, Jazz, Soul, and Gospel artists will always be connected to Hip-Hop artists because we share a common narrative, a common heritage, a common soul, a common humanity. Chicago-based Soul singer Jamila Woods had this to say about sampling: “I think of music as creating a space. I like to put things in that are comforting to me and are nostalgic. To me, that’s what sampling does in songs; it’s making deeper layers for people who know where it comes from, but also referencing another part of my history and my memory or a memory that I have.” 


With that being said, I want to share with y’all the 11 most sampled artists in Hip-Hop history. These artists range from Funk to Soul to Pop to one of Hip-Hop’s own. Below I’ve provided the list of those 11 artists and two playlists for your listening pleasure. The first playlist is packed with my favorite songs from those artists. The second playlist is filled with those same songs and their Hip-Hop counterparts underneath. I had a lot of fun researching and putting together these playlists. I found samples I never heard before. Not every rap song samples in the same way. Some producers flip a vocal, piano, horn, or drum sample in a way that isn’t obvious to the average ear. Feel free to peruse through the playlists and enjoy connecting to the shared history of African-American culture through this powerful art form!

Side-Note: I have Nas’ classic “N.Y. State of Mind” listed as one of the rap songs paired with a drum sample from Kool and The Gang’s song “N.T.” I tried finding the song of second sample—the piano sample DJ Premier looped to build the melodic backdrop of the beat. I couldn’t find it anywhere on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, or TIDAL. However, I did find it on Youtube, so for those who are interested check out Joe Chambers’ “Mind Rain.”

11 Most Sampled Artists in Hip-Hop:

  1. James Brown
  2. George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic 
  3. Isaac Hayes 
  4. Aretha Franklin
  5. Lyn Collins
  6. The Winston’s
  7. Kool and The Gang
  8. Marvin Gaye 
  9. Michael Jackson
  10. Prince
  11. Kurtis Blow

Original Songs:

Original Songs & Hip-Hop Counterparts:

***Disclaimer some songs have explicit content***






Top 30 Albums That Creatively Inspired Me In 2015

As we draw close to the end of the year and I’m sure you’ve seen many music sites, blogs, and magazines post their “Best of 2015” lists. Whether it’s “Best Albums of The Year” or “Best Artists of the Year,” or “Freshman 2015,”  there are a plethora of lists that include familiar and/or new albums and artists. Sometimes we emphatically agree with those lists and other times we vehemently disagree. Either way, most of those lists are  opinionated and dependent upon the blogger(s) that make them. Since I’ve seen everyone else put out their “Best of…” list, I thought now would be a great time to share mine.

My list is neither better nor worse than the other lists out there–well at least I don’t think it is. I’m figuratively sharing my earbuds with y’all and letting y’all hear what I’ve been listening to all year. I’ve thought long and hard about which albums will go on this list, how many albums will go on this list, and what genres should I include because a lot of great albums came out this year! I can’t say 2015 was the absolute best year in music, however some very talented individuals across genre lines dropped some dope records. Thanks to Spotify and Apple Music, I had a chance to listen to them all–of course, I did BUY the ones I enjoyed the most.

***Side-note: It’s extremely vital that we support our favorite artists by BUYING their records. While they do get money and gain records sales from streaming, it takes about 1,000 streams for it to count as an “Album Sale.” And on behalf of all artists, stop pirating music! I know we all loved Limewire, BitTorrent, and Megaupload but even if you don’t want to buy the record you can stream the album and still help a starving artist.***

From Kendrick Lamar to Adele to Alabama Shakes to JGivens and everyone else in-between, these artists saturated the music market with a wide range of LP’s, EP’s and mixtapes. Rather than listing all of my favorites from this year, I’ve decided to put together a list of 30 albums from different genres thate have gotten me through writers block and creatively inspired me this year. So without wasting anymore time, here are the Top 30 Albums That Creatively Inspired Me As A Writer In 2015:

30. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell [Singer-Songwriter]

30. Sufjan Stevens - Carrie & Lowell


29. Jon Foreman – The Wonderlands EP’s [Singer-Songwriter]

29. Jon Foreman - The Wonderlands EP's


28. Same Henshaw – The Sound Experiment [R&B/Soul]

28. Samm Henshaw - The Sound Experiment


27. D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah [R&B/Soul]

27. D'Angleo and The Vanguard - Black Messiah


26. The Lone Bellow – Then Came The Morning [Alternative/Singer-Songwriter]

26. The Lone Bellow - Then Came The Morning

25. Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color [Alternative/Singer-Songwriter]

25. Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color


24. Dustin Kensrue – Carry The Fire [Alternative/Singer-Songwriter]

24. Dustin Kensrue - Carry The Fire


23. Tomeka Reid – Tomeka Reid Quartet [Jazz]

23. Tomeka Reid - Tomeka Reid Quartet


22. Jill Scott – Woman [R&B/Soul]

22. Jill Scott - Woman


21. Sean C. Johnson – Circa 1993 [Neo-Soul/R&B/Soul]

21. Sean C. Johnson - Circa 1993


20. Kirk Franklin – Losing My Religion [Gospel]

20. Kirk Franklin - Losing My Religion


19. Levv – Strange Fire [Alternative/Pop]

19. Levv - Strange Fire


18. Alex Faith – Bloodlines [Hip-Hop]

18. Alex Faith - Bloodlines


17. Dre Murray – 34 [Hip-Hop]

17. Dre Murray - 34


16. Leon Bridges – Coming Home [R&B/Soul]

16. Leon Bridges - Coming Home


15. The Greg Foat Group – The Dancers At The End of Time [Jazz Fusion]

15. The Greg Foat Group - The Dancers At The End of Time

14. The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble – The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble [Funk]

14. The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble - The Sure Fire Soul Ensemble


13. Thundercat – The Beyond/Where The Giants Roam [Funk/R&B/Soul]

13. Thundercat - The Beyond:Where The Giants Roam

12. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Stretch Music [Jazz]

12. Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - Stretch Music


11. Ben Williams – Coming of Age [Jazz]

11. Ben Williams - Coming of Age


10. Kendrick Scott Oracle – We Are The Drum [Jazz]

10. Kendrick Scott Oracle - We Are The Drum


9. Taelor Gray – The Mocker & The Monarch [Hip-Hop]

9. Taelor Gray - The Mocker and The Monarch


8. John Givez – Soul Rebel [Hip-Hop]

8. John Givez - Soul Rebel


7. Eshon Burgundy – The Fear of God [Hip-Hop]

7. Eshon Burgundy - The Fear of God


6. Cataphant – Half Dead [Experimental/Electronic/TripHop]

6. Cataphant - Half Dead EP


5. Alert 312 – The Upside Eternal [Hip-Hop]

5. Alert312 - The Upside Eternal


4. Lupe Fiasco – Tetsuo & Youth [Hip-Hop]

4. Lupe Fiasco - Tetsuo & Youth


3. Kamasi Washington – The Epic [Jazz]

3. Kamasi Washington - The Epic


2. JGivens – Fly Exam [Hip-Hop]

2. JGivens - Fly Exam


1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly [Hip-Hop]

1. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly


As I said before, each album mentioned is here because of how it inspired me as a writer. Qualities such as song structure, sequencing, lyrical complexity, musicality, songwriting, storytelling, being intellectually and emotionally engaging, etc are all reasons why these 30 records helped me through writers block. Not only did it inspire me as a creative, it also broadened my musical palate. Up until this year, I never thought about checking out modern Jazz, Funk, and Soul acts. I’ve always had my ear to the artists of the past but never knew those genres were very much alive today. Jazz, Funk, and Soul are quintessential genres because all three are building blocks for Hip-Hop. It’s no wonder why they naturally inspired me as an Emcee. Rather than relegating Jazz, Funk, and Soul as genres of the past, we saw them as the main musical staple for Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly. On March 15th, 2015, Kendrick flooded the market with live instrumentation, jazz inspired improvisation, funky grooves, and soulful sounds. In the context of Hip-Hop history, Kendrick was not the first to do this. Hip-Hop acts like The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Outkast, De La Soul, DJ Quik, Common, Chance the Rapper, Nas, Talib Kweli, and more have always incorporated those building blocks in their music. TPAB (To Pimp A Butterfly) isn’t #1 on my list simply because Kendrick used live instrumentation–although that it was dope to hear that in the midst of Future, Young Thug, and Fetty Wap (no shade to them, I do enjoy commercial Trap music from time-to-time). No, TPAB made it as #1 on my list because it introduced me to Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, and Flying Lotus. All of whom had their hands in forming the jazzy, funky, and soulful musical backdrop for TPAB. Hopefully this list expands your taste in music, like some of these albums did for me. Listen to some Jazz, or Funk, or Soul, or Alternative/Singer-Songwriter if you’ve never considered listening to them before. You might just enjoy it!

On another note, I understand that the content in a few of these projects (like Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly or Lupe’s Tetsuo & Youth) might make some uncomfortable. That’s okay…my personal conviction when it comes to music–and art in general–is to consume it, figure out what worldview is being communicated through it, and sift through the redeemable and non-redeemable qualities of it. I tend to look at music as a conversation between the artist and the listener. Granted, that conversation is one-sided at best–it’s not like I can talk to Kendrick or Lupe or JGivens while listening to their music. With that in mind, I must be a critical thinker, an active listener; and as a Christian, I should know my Bible well enough to sift through what’s redeemable and non-redeemable…I might write a full post on that last thought someday but as of right now I’ll leave ya’ll with this list.

Now that you’ve seen my list, what were some of your favorite albums in 2015? It can be your Top 50, Top 30, Top 10, or Top 5, it doesn’t matter. Feel free to comment with your own list below, otherwise…

Thanks for reading & Have a Happy New Year!

Oh and here’s a Spotify Playlist of all 30 records starting from #1:

Part 1: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly to Leon Bridges – Coming Home

Part 2: Dre Murray – 34 to Sufjan Stevens –  Carrie & Lowell