Popular Samples in Rap Music: Songs That Sample “Funky Worm” By The Ohio Players
“Funky Worm” by the Ohio Players is a 1973 funk hit most remembered for its commonly sampled high-pitched synth (used to imitate the sound of a worm’s slithering). Today, that synth is a staple of a sub-genre of hip-hop called “G-Funk.” Although that sample was emulated mostly by West Coast rap producers in the early ’90s, it can still be heard in tracks of all genres from the ’80s to the 2010s.
With this article, we will examine a few of the many songs sampling “Funky Worm” over the years.
NWA – “Gangsta Gangsta” (1988)
Compton rap group NWA is often credited as pioneers of West Coast gangsta rap. They certainly were in one way, as they were seemingly the first to introduce the sub-genre’s signature sound with “Gangsta Gangsta,” four minutes into the track when that high pitched synth sample from “Funky Worm” plays. (Right after a sample of Honey Dripper’s “Impeach the President,” something I discussed in another article.)
NWA – “Dopeman” (1988)
On the same album as “Gangsta Gangsta,” (Straight Outta Compton) NWA begins “Dopeman” with that same “Funky Worm” sample, only to interrupt it twice before slipping into a melody-free loop of heavy kicks and snares, with an occasional whistling sound drastically different from “Funky Worm.” This could be where the producer of this track, NWA member Dr. Dre, laid the foundation of G-Funk, something he’d perfect and popularize in the approximate five years that followed.
Kris Kross – “Jump” (1992)
Like NWA with “Gangsta Gangsta,” Atlanta rappers Daddy Mac and Mac Daddy from Kris Kross sampled “Impeach the President” and the synth from “Funky Worm” to create their biggest hit, “Jump.” During the chorus, the two samples blend nicely over a shoutable chorus, while, of course, encouraging you to JUMP!! (I jumped. It cured all my diseases. Try it! JK.)
Ice Cube – “Wicked” (1992)
West Coast rapper and former NWA member Ice Cube raps viciously over this self-produced up-tempo track off Predator, which continuously loops a sped-up, nearly-hidden “Worm” synth to help this song reek of ’90s rap.
Snoop Dogg – “Serial Killa” (1993)
In this Death Row Records dominance era called 1993, this song’s producer, Dr. Dre, blends a keyboard synth with a seemingly hidden sample of “Worm” in between some creepy organs and heavy bass to give Snoop’s track a merge of G-Funk and murderous imagery.
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince – “Boom Shake the Room” (1993)
It’s 1993, and the West Coast scene is killin’ it. What can the East Coast do? Have Philly duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince imitate the popular West Coast vibe with “Boom Shake the Room,” playing the “Worm” synth at low volume (quieter than “Wicked”) over a shoutable hook, quite similar to Kris Kross.
Above the Law – “Black Superman” (1994)
By 1994, the G-Funk sound was firmly established. LA rap group Above the Law took it up a notch by flipping the “Worm” synth sample backwards over a G’d up instrumental.
Sublime – “Garden Groove” (1996)
Sublime was a versatile band who combined elements of rock and roll, reggae, and of course, hip-hop. With this song, when you first listen, its live instrumentation will have you feeling like you’ll never hear the slither of a “Worm”… until 1:23, when you hear it “crawling” underneath lyrics about dog poop and stuff. Please note that this isn’t a direct sample; it’s a synthesizer used to imitate the worm a la “Serial Killa.” (Coincidentally, Sublime is from Snoop’s hometown, Long Beach, CA.)
Kendrick Lamar – “m.A.A.d. City” (2012)
The 2010s “King of the West Coast” sticks to his roots in this heavy track, rapping about the horrors of growing up in Compton. Fellow Compton rapper MC Eiht shows up halfway in, right when the beat switches. Near the end, guess what’s slithering over the vocal-free beat two decades after its peak in popularity? It’s “Funky,” and like a “Worm” fed to a fish, it’s “off the hook.” Check out our beat breakdown of Kendrick Lamar’s hit “Humble”.
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