Popular Samples in Rap Music: Songs Sampling Michael Jackson
It’s undeniable that Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, and his influence is everywhere. Hip-hop recognizes Jackson’s legacy by sampling and interpolating his work over the years.
Naughty by Nature – “OPP” (1991)
MJ Song Sampled: “ABC” (Jackson 5)
This song coined an ambiguous catchphrase in the early ’90s. “You down with OPP?” In addition to that, it’s title is three letters, so is the melody loudly blared behind the shouted chorus, Jackson 5’s “ABC.”
Ice Cube – Givin Up The Nappy Dugout (1991)
MJ Song Sampled: “Smooth Criminal”
Only the introductory horn stab from “Smooth Criminal” is heard at the beginning of this track. The rest of it doesn’t sample “Smooth Criminal” at all.
Kris Kross – Jump (1992)
MJ Song Sampled: “I Want You Back” (Jackson 5)
Oh, the song that keeps popping up in my articles! Not only does it grab pieces of Honeydripper’s “Impeach the President” and Ohio Player’s “Funky Worm,” but you’ll hear Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” supplying a heavy amount of “Jump”’s melody. (Oh, and Kris Kross says, “Yeah, you know me,” at one point. Where’s that from? You “down with it”?)
Notorious BIG – One More Chance (1994)
MJ Song Interpolated: “I Want You Back” (Jackson 5)
For the album version of one of Biggie’s most well-known songs, a female hook singer paraphrases the chorus of “I Want You Back,” but instead of “baby,” she says “Biggie.”
Nas – It Ain’t Hard To Tell (1994)
MJ Song Sampled: “Human Nature”
This final track on Illmatic relies heavily on a loop of MJ’s “Human Nature.”
LL Cool J – Hey Lover (1995)
MJ Song Sampled: “The Lady Of My Life”
The sample of “The Lady of My Life” sounds pretty clear. It’s a slightly pitched-up repetition of the vocal-free section of one of Michael’s most chill songs. Perfect for Boyz II Men to add a soothing harmony with LL’s lyrics about girls.
Ghostface Killah feat. Mary J Blige – All That I Got Is You (1996)
MJ Song Sampled: “Maybe Tomorrow” (Jackson 5)
As Wu-Tang members Ghostface Killah and RZA (producer) add Mary J Blige to this tearjerking tribute to Ghost’s mother, Ghost’s lyrics about growing up poor are sad enough, but the intro of Jackson 5’s “Maybe Tomorrow” repeating throughout the song make it harder a listener to hold back tears.
Puff Daddy – It’s All About the Benjamins (1997)
MJ Song Sampled: “It’s Great to Be Here” (Jackson 5)
One of Puff Daddy aka P Diddy’s biggest hits, it features Bad Boy artists Li’l Kim, the LOX, and the late Notorious B.I.G. When Big’s verse hits, you’ll hear the intro of Jackson 5’s “It’s Great to Be Here” as the main melody.
Ol Dirty – I Got Your Money (1999)
MJ Song Sampled: “Billie Jean”
The song begins with a two-in-four drumbeat similar to the opening of “Billie Jean.” It may sound like a totally different song, not a sample at all, but once you think hard enough, it’s a hidden homage to the King of Pop in disguise.
Jay-Z – Izzo (2001)
MJ Song Sampled: “I Want You Back”
“I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5 is a classic. So is “Izzo” by Jay-Z off his 2001 release The Blueprint. It’s the track that made Kanye West a well-known producer, since he uses his trademarked sampling skills to add parts of “I Want You Back” under this whole beat.
Kanye West – Good Life (2007)
MJ Song Sampled: “PYT (Pretty Young Thang)”
It comes as a surprise that parts of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.” are looped in the background of Kanye and T-Pain’s “Good Life.” Once you know it contains that sample, and you listen to both songs, you’ll be amazed!
Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta (2015)
MJ Song Interpolated: “Smooth Criminal”
There isn’t a sample of “Smooth Criminal” on this song, only an interpolation, where Kendrick says, “Annie, are you okay,” right after making subliminal nods to Ice Cube’s “Givin’ Up The Nappy Dugout,” the first song to sample just a tad of “Smooth Criminal.” BARS!
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