Samples of James Brown, Rick James, Parliament/Funkadelic and numerous other funk/soul legends always have been the bedrock of hip-hop. But samples of classic rock tunes also have been a key part of hip-hop culture for three decades.
Run-D.M.C. used to cut-up the guitar riffs and drums of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” in their early block party days in Queens, leading of course to the trailblazing collaboration between the two groups in 1986. The rap-rock crossover eventually birthed some hugely successful bands and one-off chart hits.
To some, it’s sacrilege. To others, these sampling mash-ups sound like exciting new music. To many, it’s plain lazy – though it’s worth remembering that Bob Dylan’s first album of 13 songs featured 11 cover versions (words and music). And Led Zeppelin, of course, borrowed many old blues songs in their early years.
Here’s a pick of classic rock groups and classic rap artists that made big noise on the rock/rap sampling crossover. As always, add your favorites (or least favorites) in the comments.
John Bonham’s swaggering drums on “When the Levee Breaks” has been a hip-hop staple sample for 25 years. The Beastie Boys’ “Rhymin’ and Stealin’” (1986) is arguably the classic, but the Beasties also used it in “So What’cha Want?”and it also appears on Eminem’s “Kim,” Dr. Dre’s “Lyrical Gangbang” and Ice-T’s “Midnight.”
The guitar riff from Zep’s “The Ocean” was also hijacked by The Beasties on “She’s Crafty,” while Puff Daddy (now Diddy) used the orchestra/guitar riff from “Kashmir” for his 1998 hit “Come With Me.” Jimmy Page gave his blessing, was credited as Puffy’s co-artist, and even appeared in the video.
Strange maybe, but Slayer have a hip-hop following. Public Enemy’s “She Watch Channel Zero?!” (1988) famously uses the breakdown guitar riff from “Angel of Death” to great effect. The logical connection? Producer Rick Rubin, who produced Slayer’s “Reign in Blood,” also co-founded PE’s Def Jam label. More recently, PE have played “Zero” with a live band with the impressive Khari Wynn on guitar. Elsewhere, PE have sampled Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” (on “He Got Game”).
Reversing the roles of giver and taker, New York trio 3rd Bass uses many imaginative rock/blues/pop samples. “Sons Of 3rd Bass” (1989) was built around Blood, Sweat And Tears’ “Spinning Wheel” and “Pop Goes the Weasel” (1991) riffed on Peter Gabriel’s smash “Sledgehammer,” with a little bit of The Who’s “Eminence Front.” 3rd Bass also sampled The Doors, The Beatles, Tom Waits among many others. The boldest was “Problem Child,” which managed to turn Blue Oyster Cult’s sci-fi riffing of “Godzilla” into a hard-hitting hip-hop social critique.
Metal meets beats? Yes. The Jungle Brothers’ “Beeds on a String” samples Sabbath’s “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” Eminem’s “Goin’ Through Changes” uses (no surprise) “Changes,” The Beastie Boys “Rhymin’ and Stealin’” co-opts riffs from “Sweet Leaf,” while Busta Rhymes’ “This Means War” is essentially a cover of “Iron Man” with new lyrics. The latter was fully re-recorded in 1998, with Ozzy guesting on vocals. Ice-T’s “Midnight” audaciously mixes “When the Levee Breaks” to Tony Iommi’s “Black Sabbath” riff. Zep-plus-Sabbath with gangsta lyrics – not many would try this.
Jay-Z likes his rock riffs. His “Takeover” samples The Doors’ “Five to One” and David Bowie’s “Fame.” “99 Problems” samples “Long Red” (live) by Mountain and Billy Squier’s “The Big Beat.” “Justify My Thug” even samples “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and The Comets. Jay-Z has sampled (and “sung”) Oasis’s “Wonderwall” as well, and his tunes have been mashed up with The Beatles (unauthorized) and Linkin Park (authorized).
AC/DC’s taut guitar riffing sits in a hip-hop beat very well. “T.N.T.” was sampled by The Beastie Boys in “No Sleep Til Brooklyn,” while “Back in Black” formed the backbone of Boogie Down Productions’ (with KRS-One) “Dope Beat.” “Flick of the Switch” was scratched/mixed by LL Cool J but you would hardly know: it’s DJ scratching at its most avant-garde.
Tone Loc also sampled “T.N.T.” for “Ace is in the House” (yes, Jim Carrey’s “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective” movie theme). We suspect Angus Young, whose hero remains Chuck Berry, is not overly impressed. “Hell’s Bells” was used in Dan the Automator’s sample-crazy “Music to be Murdered By,” alongside nearly 20 other samples.
From the rap/rock breakthrough “Walk This Way” with Run-D.M.C., Aerosmith have been ripe for sampling. The track’s drums have also been sampled on De La Soul’s “Keepin’ the Faith”, Digital Underground’s “Same Song” and Tone Loc’s “Next Episode.” Eminem’s “Sing For the Moment” is probably the biggest, looping the guitar riff and vocal from “Dream On.”
But best to remember this classic collaboration, not just sampling.
The rap trio often leaned towards rock. They have sampled “Are You Experienced?” by Jimi Hendrix, “Black Sabbath” (the song), “Money” by Pink Floyd and the reggae/rock of “Guns of Brixton” by The Clash. Rapper B-Real currently works in a rap-metal group called Kush with members from Deftones and Fear Factory, and co-rapper Sen Dog has recorded with Slash, Tom Morello and others. Sen Dog also fronts rap-rockers XS-10.
Queen seem an unlikely source for sampling, but “Another One Bites the Dust” (1980) changed it all. John Deacon’s bassline was itself “heavily inspired” by disco legends Chic, so it fit well on hip-hop tracks such as Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five’s “Adventures on the Wheels of Steel,” MC Hammer’s “Let’s Get it Started” and Wyclef Jean’s “Another Bites the Dust” among others. The Queen/Bowie collaboration “Under Pressure” formed the basis, infamously, of Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”, while “We Will Rock You”’s beats have been borrowed by Ice Cube’s “When Will They Shoot?” and Eminem’s “Till I Collapse.”
The Steve Miller Band
You’d never think Miller would be a hip-hop source, but he’s been sampled numerous times. “Fly Like an Eagle” has been used by A Tribe Called Quest (“Check the Rhyme”), Chubb Rock (“The Regiments of Steel”), Def Jef (“Black to the Future”), EPMD (“Hit Squad Heist” and “You’re a Customer”), Jungle Brothers (“J Beez Comin’ Through”), KRS-One/Puff Daddy’s (“Step Into a World”) and others. Miller’s “Take the Money and Run” has also turned up in old-school tracks by the Beastie Boys (“3-Minute Rule” and “Time to Get Ill”), Big Daddy Kane (Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now”), De La Soul’s (Jenifa Taught Me),” N.W.A. (“Something Like That”) and more.
And we haven’t even started on the samples of ’70s Van Halen...