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Iconic Samples: 10 Songs That You May Not Know You Know

Whether you're a musical junkie or someone who just listens to the radio, you may have noticed that samples of music past follow us across genres. Displayed in iconic and distinguishable ways, or merely hidden deep in an instrumental, the reimagining of these songs has pioneered some of our favorite tracks today. So, here are some songs you may not know you know, and the tracks that sample them.

 

"Bam Bam"- Sister Nancy


One of my personal favorite samples, "Bam Bam" by Sister Nancy is a groovy, recognizable sample in recent music. With over 100 songs sampling this track, Sister Nancy's reggae vocals and instrumentals have struck a chord with producers and musicians. The iconic vocalization"bam bam bi dum" can be found in the chart-topper "Famous" by Kanye West. This isn't the sample's only appearance, though; it's made its rounds in sped-up form in other R&B and rap tracks like "Bam" by Jay Z and "Bomb" by Chris Brown (ft. Wiz Khalifa).



Songs that sample this track:


  • "Bam" - Jay Z

  • "Famous" Kanye West

  • "Bomb" - Chris Brown feat. Wiz Khalifa

 

"La-Di-Da-Di" - Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick


"La-Di-Da-Di" by Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick is a prime example of how old hip hop and R&B are still prevalent as an influence on modern-day music. With its enticing old-school lyrics, nearly every aspect of this song is ripe with sample opportunities. "Hypnotize" by The Notorious BIG put a spin on "La-Di-Da-Di"'s initial lyrics "Ricky Ricky Ricky, can't you see, sometimes your words just hypnotize me" to breed its iconic hook. While that is arguably the most notable section of this sample, it is still quite versatile as many different artists have taken different aspects of the nearly five-minute track to remix and remaster in their songs. "Party" by Beyonce (feat. André 3000), for example, samples the beginning of "La-Di-Da-Di" to introduce itself, layering the vocals of Doug E. Fresh underneath Beyonce's.



Songs that sample this track:


  • "Hypnotize" - Notorious BIG

  • "Runaway Love" - Ludacris feat. Mary J. Blige

  • "Party" - Beyonce feat. André 3000


 

"Buffalo Gals" - Malcolm McLaren


"Buffalo Gals" by Malcolm McLaren was released in 1983 and utilizes older metaphors in its lyrics to tell a story about promiscuous women. As a sample, its most obvious and notable appearance is featured in the song "Without Me" by Eminem, with the repeated vocal motif of "round the outside." The track's sample value doesn't just stop at its vocals, though: it also lent its unique instrumental to the iconic outro of "She Knows" by J. Cole. Additionally, the beginning of this song has a distinct warp-like sound effect, which has been utilized in numerous tracks like "Doin' Time" by Sublime and "Workinonit" by J Dilla.



Songs that sample this track:


  • "Without Me" - Eminem

  • "She Knows" - J. Cole feat. Amber Coffman

  • "Doin' Time" - Sublime


 

"Bound" - Ponderosa Twins Plus One


Arguably one of the most distinguishable samples of this generation, "Bound" by the Ponderosa Twins Plus One is a beautiful song that has been utilized in some of this generation's most popular rap and R&B tracks. "Bound 2" and "a boy is a gun" by Kanye West and Tyler the Creator, respectively, are two projects that show off just how versatile a sample can be even when used in the same genre. More recently, the fast-paced rap song "Tomioka" has also taken its' spin on the sample, providing a fresh new outlook to the lyrics "bound to fallin' in love".



Songs that sample this track:


  • "a boy is a gun" - Tyler the Creator

  • "Bound 2" - Kanye West

  • "Tomioka" - Jay Eazy


 

"The Champ" - The Mohawks


The groovy 1960s track "The Champ" by The Mohawks is interesting on its own, with unique instrumental aspects combined with early hip-hop style vocals, but many artists have found even more success than the original through sampling and reimagining the initial track. From the passionate R&B style of Frank Ocean to Logic's fast-paced rap in "Soul Food", the classic "Champ" soundbite can be found in hundreds of songs across many different musical genres. One song that is more deliberately sampled from this track is "Slam" by Onyx, utilizing not only the vocals from the original track but also imitating the instrumental through ad-libs.



Songs that sample this track:


  • "Nikes" - Frank Ocean

  • "Soul Food" - Logic

  • "Slam" - Onyx


 

"Think (About It)" - Lyn Collins


"Think (About It)" by Lyn Collins is another example of a sample that you may not realize is featured in several popular tracks. Its immediate and strongest correlation is with the song "It Takes Two" by Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock, but its influence can be found in over 3000 tracks according to whosampled.com. My personal favorite use of "Think (About It)" is in one of my favorite songs from the 2010s "You Already Know" by Nicki Minaj and Fergie, which pulls from the drum beat and ad-libs found in the original track. This sample even crossed over into the electronic musical sphere, being featured in the sped-up form of Porter Robinson's "Musician".



Songs that sample this track:


  • "It Takes Two" - Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock

  • "Musician" - Porter Robinson

  • "You Already Know" - Nicki Minaj and Fergie


 

"The Payback" - James Brown


This nearly eight-minute track is ripe with sampling potential. Performed by James Brown, one of the top proprietors of funk music, this instrumental and vocal pairing has been sampled in countless tracks. One of my favorite songs of all time, "King Kunta" by Kendrick Lamar, pays instrumental homage to "The Payback" as well as includes some lyrics from the original piece. "Ex (French Montana Remix)" by Kiana Ledé also serves as a fantastic example of not only adding in a feature to transform an original song but also incorporating elements of samples to reimagine a piece of work.



Songs that sample this track:


  • "King Kunta" - Kendrick Lamar

  • "Cant You See" - Total feat. Notorious BIG

  • "Ex (French Montana Remix)" - Kiana Ledé feat. French Montana


 

"Edge of Seventeen" - Stevie Nicks


"Edge of Seventeen" is probably the most iconic stand-alone song on this list, but it also serves as a great track to sample from. The notable "Midnight Sky" by Miley Cyrus takes not only a sample but also inspiration from this track, even going as far as to release a second version including Nicks herself. The flexibility of this sample is what truly makes it remarkable though, as Destiny's Child took the recognizable guitar riff at the beginning of this track and slowed it down to create the baseline for their song "Bootylicious", taking this original rock track and applying it to a wildly different style and genre.



Songs that sample this track:


  • "Bootylicious" - Destiny's Child

  • "Midnight Sky" - Miley Cyrus

  • "Days Go By" - Contrast


 

"Planet Rock" - Afrika Bambaataa & The Soulsonic Force


The old-school, sound-effect-ridden instrumental of "Planet Rock" is the perfect track that has been used to soundtrack hip-hop for decades. Released in 1986, the song is most notable for its inclusion in the 2022 track "Twerkulator" by City Girls. However, its influence dates back much further than that, having been sampled in dozens of songs including the iconic 2002 track "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop" by Erykah Badu and also spanning to the indie genre with "Off to the Races" by Lana Del Rey. The song itself is great as well and is probably one of the more underrated original tracks that has provided us with such great samples.



Songs that sample this track:


  • "Twerkulator" - City Girls

  • "Off to the Races"- Lana Del Rey

  • "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip Hop)" - Erykah Badu feat. Common


 

"Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" - Crystal Waters


Many people know this song independently from its samples, but Crystal Water's "Gypsy Woman (She's Homeless)" has had a hand in some fantastic tracks. The infamous "la da de la da da" may be the staple identifier of this song. Still, many of its other aspects have been utilized in other songs such as instrumental components in "A Pimp Named Slickback" by LAKIM and "Why You Wanna" by TI. Aside from being an ample source for sample inspiration, the original song has also been remixed independently to fit a more electronic vibe, giving this track from the 90s a new life as house music becomes more and more popular.



Songs that sample this track:


  • "A Pimp Named Slickback" - LAKIM

  • "I must Apologise" - Pink Pantheress

  • "Why You Wanna" - TI



 

 

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