13 Beats: Famous Samples

Sampling music is the practice of taking a preexisting song, sound, or snippet and putting a creative spin on it in order to incorporate it into a new piece of music. Sampling allows artists to channel their creativity and inspiration from past bodies of work. In this week’s 13 Beats, I set forth a list of commonly sampled songs that you may have heard in works by popular artists. 

1. “Itinerario romantico,” Rigol (1973)

“Itinerario romantico” is a fully instrumental track that was sampled in Travis Scott’s 2015 track, “90210,” one of the most celebrated songs in his discography. The song uses much of Rigol’s piano performance from “Itinerario romantico,” after the beat switches. Rigol delivers a calming and mellow vibe on this track, which is in very stark contrast to much of Scott’s earlier work. 

RIYL: John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie 

2. “Valerie,” Steve Winwood (1982)

Steve Winwood, one of the more dominant vocalists of the 1980s, performs at his best for “Valerie.” Encapsulating the classic synths of the era with great vocal performances makes it clear why this song was chosen as the sample to one of the most prolific tech house songs of all time. Eric Prydz uses the chorus of “Valerie” in his song “Call on Me,” an unforgettable and catchy tune.

RIYL: Steely Dan, Don Henley, Eddie Money

3. “Kiss of Life,” Sade (1993)

The soothing voice of Sade and touching piano melodies come together to make a timeless track from one of the best female vocalists of the time. The unforgettable chorus and piano were used in the iconic MF DOOM track, “Doomsday,” where he outlined his own death and journey through the music industry.

RIYL: Chaka Khan, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill

4. “Shape of My Heart,” Sting (1993)

Combining great storytelling and legendary guitar riffs is what led Sting to be a household name, and solidified his status as one of the best guitar players. This is evident in “Shape of My Heart,” one of the most recognizable songs from his solo career. Both Nas and Juice WRLD used this song as the lead melody for their songs “The Message” and “Lucid Dreams” respectively.

RIYL: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, The Police

5. “Gyöngyhajú lány,” Omega (1969)

Used in the soundtrack for the 2018 film Mid90s, “Gyöngyhajú lány” is the most popular song from the Hungarian band Omega. The song is also sampled in Wiz Khalifa’s “Buss Down.” 

RIYL: Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Cream

6. “Silver Soul,” Beach House (2010)

Pioneers in the dream pop space, Beach House, have one of the most consistent and celebrated discographies of this century. Only a few short years after the release of “Silver Soul,” hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar reversed the song and used it as the base for his song “Money Trees.” Two beautiful songs in their own right, there is no doubt that Kenrick’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” might not have been the same without Beach House’s influence.

RIYL: Cults, Grizzly Bear, Clams Casino

7. “So Into You,” Tamia (1998)

Pop Smoke used many elements from “So Into You” by Tamia in his posthumous release, “Something Special.” Tamia puts together one of the prettiest songs from the late nineties, with smooth vocals and bouncy bass. The subtle harmonies of the chorus tie the track together perfectly and make this a perfect R&B song.

RIYL: Monica, Kelly Price, Mariah Carey

8. “Straight to Hell,” The Clash (1982)

One of the more creative and genre-bending samples comes from “Straight to Hell ” by The Clash.  A slightly repitched intro from the song forms the main melody for “Paper Planes” by MIA, one of the most recognizable pop songs from recent memory. Although the transition from rock to pop music might not be direct, the result is a faithful use and interpretation of a great song by The Clash.

RIYL: Ramones, Caesars, The Yardbirds

9. “Let Me Blow your Mind,” Eve, Gwen Stefani (2001)

It is no surprise that a beat made by two of the greatest producers of all time, Dr. Dre and Scott Storch, inspired countless remixes and reuses of the song. The most recent is the chart-topping “Doja” by Central Cee, the breakout track for the UK rapper.

RIYL: Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, TLC 

10. “Ostavi Trag,” September (1975)

“Ostavi Trag” by September features some of the most beautiful vocals and production in a song, ever. The European band delivers a calming and tasteful masterpiece, despite not singing in English. The smooth and stunning intro was used in one of the best tracks from Kendrick Lamar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning album, “Damn,” being one of many samples used on the track “DUCKWORTH.”

RIYL: Rammstein, Cortex, Roy Ayers Ubiquity

11. “The Way It Is,” Bruce Hornsby, The Range (1986)

“The Way It Is” was used in Tupac’s track “Changes,” discussing the struggles due to racism, police brutality, and the war on drugs, among other things. The original track by Bruce Hornsby and The Range combines the iconic piano riff with subtle supporting synths in the background that give the track a full-bodied feeling. Other artists besides Tupac have drawn inspiration from the song, like Polo G and Snoop Dogg alike.

RILY: Marc Cohn, Hall & Oates, Elton John

12. “Bam Bam,” Sister Nancy (1982)

This classic reggae song combines mesmerizingly echoed vocals, a funky bassline, and a groovy melody that gives the song a timeless feel. Many of these reasons are why artists have chosen to use elements from “Bam Bam” in their own works. Jay-Z enlisted the help of Damian Marley on his similarly titled track “Bam” which uses Sister Nancy’s songs as a solid foundation for the track.

RIYL: Junior Murvin, Johnny Osborne, Dawn Penn

13. “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind – Live,” Lauryn Hill (2002)

A$AP Rocky’s use of the live performance by Lauryn Hill is one of the more creative uses of sampling from the past few years. Rocky uses instrumental and vocal samples, as well as matching his vocals to those from the original track. Lauryn Hill has proved herself to be one of the most influential musicians and has inspired many artists to follow in her footsteps.

RIYL: Fugees, Solange, Maxwell

*RIYL = Recommended if you like