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Top 10 Most Sampled Songs in Hip Hop

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If you’re a frequent downloader of our sample sets, then you’ve probably noticed that certain tracks tend to show up on multiple sets. This is mainly because these are some of the most famous break beats in hip hop’s history. The term “breakbeat” goes all the way back to 1972, when DJ Kool Herc first used two turntables to mix records together to create one long breakbeat. Back then he did it for the b-boys and b-girls. In the 80s and into today, breakbeats became popular to rap over and is essentially what was used to build the foundation of hip hop.

10. “Nautilus” by Bob James

Released: 1974

Most popular usage: “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick, “Live at the Barbecue” by Main Source [see full sample list]

Coming in at the bottom of this list is one of the most sampled songs in hip hop history. If you make beats, chances are you have sampled “Nautilus” at some point in your career. There are just so many great parts in this song to flip, aside from the breakbeat at the 3:30 mark.

09. “The Payback” by James Brown

Released: 1973

Most popular usage:  “Boomin’ System”by LL Cool J, “Can’t You See?” by Total [see full sample list]

The bassline on this James Brown track jsut straight kills! I remember the first time I noticed the song being sampled in multiple songs was when En Vogue’s “Never Gonna Get It” came out. Everytime the song came on the radio all I could get out of my head was “You know it’s funky, funky, funky…”. That’s when I realized LL had the same sample. But, yo, that was like over 15 years ago. I’d love to hear someone flip this differently today.

08. “N.T.” by Kool & The Gang

Released: 1971

Most popular usage:  “Breathe and Stop” by Q-Tip, “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison [see full sample list]

Kool & The Gang’s “NT” features one of those ubiquitous drum breaks that you would swear you hear in every hip hop song ever. This song made its first major hip hop appearance in NWA’s “Gangsta Gangsta” and has been sampled in tracks from Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, and many more.

07. “Atomic Dog” by George Clinton

Released: 1982

Most popular usage: “Who Am I (What’s My Name?)” by Snoop Dogg, “Fuck Wit Dre Day” by Dr. Dre [see full sample list]

Some have called “Atomic Dog” the greatest funk song of all time. It is definitely one of George Clinton’s most heavily sampled songs. In Snoop Dogg’s “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?”, the line, “bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay” was made popular by early 90s G-funk, as it was interpolated in Dr. Dre’s song “Fuck wit Dre Day” and others.

06. “Synthetic Substitution” by Melvin Bliss

Released: 1973

Most popular usage: “All I Need” by Method Man, “O.P.P.” by Naughty by Nature [see full sample list]

Melvin Bliss is a name you only hear when speaking of hip hop samples. If it were not for “Synthetic Substitution”, no one probably would have ever heard of Melvin. Yet, leave it to hip hop to find a gem and use it over and over and over again. Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy, EPMD, De La Soul, the list does on.

05. “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” by James Brown

Released: 1974

Most popular usage: “Oh My God” by A Tribe Called Quest, “Hey Ladies” by the Beastie Boys [see full sample list]

According to James Brown, the “funky president” was meant to refer to U.S. President Gerald Ford, who had taken over from Richard Nixon shortly before it was recorded.

04. “Think (About It)” by Lynn Collins

Released: 1972

Most popular usage: “It Takes Two” by Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock, “Alright” by Janet Jackson [see full sample list]

Recorded by Lyn Collins and released as a single on James Brown’s People Records in 1972 “Think (About It)” was produced by Brown (who also co-wrote the song) and featured instrumental backing from his band The J.B.’s. Both the song’s main rhythmic groove and a vocal passage known as the “Woo! Yeah!” break have been used as samples. The first song to sample “Think” was “Go On Girl” by Roxanne Shante in 1987 (prod by Marley Marl). A few months later the same 4-bar loop of “Woo! Yeah!” appeared as the basis for Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two”.

03. “Impeach The President” by The Honey Drippers

Released: 1973

Most popular usage: “Around The Way Girl” by LL Cool J, “I Can” by Nas [see full sample list]

As simple as this breakbeat is, it seemed everyone and their mother preferred to sample it instead of recreate it. Not only was this a popular song in hip hop, but R&B and other genres pick up on it too. You can hear it in Janet Jackson’s “That’s The Way Love Goes”, Shaggy’s “Mr. Loverman”, and Meridth Brooks’ “Bitch” in addition to the million hip hop songs that have sampled it.

02. “Sing A Simple Song” by Sly & The Family Stone

Released: 1968

Most popular usage: “Jazz (We’ve Got)” by A Tribe Called Quest, “The Humpty Dance” by Digital Underground [see full sample list]

“Sing a Simple Song” was released in 1968 as the b-side to their #1 hit “Everyday People”. The song’s lyrics, sung in turn by Sly Stone, Freddie Stone, Rose Stone, and Larry Graham, with spoken word (or, rather, shouted word) sections by Cynthia Robinson, offer a simple solution for dealing with the problems and paradoxes of existence : “Sing a simple song!”. The song is one of Sly & the Family Stone’s signature songs, and has been covered by numerous acts, including Diana Ross & the Supremes, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, The Commodores, Miles Davis, The Meters, Jimi Hendrix, Prince and others. It has also been sampled by 2Pac, Public Enemy, Digital Underground, Cypress Hill, and Gorillaz, amongst others.

01. “Funky Drummer” by James Brown

Released: 1970

Most popular usage: “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre, “Get Down” by Nas [see full sample list]

“Funky Drummer” was recorded on November 20, 1969 in Cincinnati, Ohio and originally released by King Records as a two-part 45 rpm single in March 1970. Despite rising to #20 on the R&B chart and #51 on the pop chart, it did not receive an album release until the 1986 compilation In the Jungle Groove. At over 9 minutes long, James Brown actually announces the popular drum break late in the song, with a request to “give the drummer some.” He tells Stubblefield “You don’t have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got… Don’t turn it loose, ’cause it’s a mother.” Stubblefield’s eight-bar unaccompanied “solo” is a slightly modified version of the same riff he plays through most of the piece.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Skull Snaps: “It’s A New Day”
  • ESG: “UFO”
  • James Brown: “Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved”
  • Parliament: “Flashlight”
  • Zapp: “More Bounce to The Ounce”
  • Bobby Byrd: “Hot Pants… I’m Coming, I”m Coming, I’m Coming”
  • Ohio Players: “Funky Worm”
  • Kool and the Gang: “Jungle Boogie”
  • Incredible Bongo Band: “Apache”
  • Joe Tex: “Papa Was Too”
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Owner - Kevin is the owner and founder of KevinNottingham.com. Originally from Virginia Beach, VA he now resides in South Florida. In addition to this site he runs HiPNOTT Records, a small independent Hip Hop label and is an Executive Producer of the documentary film DEMOS: An Independent Artist's Guide To Success. Other than music, he is a techie by trade and holds a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology.