WhoSampled presents ‘Samplethon’: Calling all Producers & Beatmakers!



On Saturday May 10th 2014 WhoSampled will host the first ‘Samplethon’ – the world’s first ever Hackathon for music!

This first-of-a-kind event will give up-and-coming producers access to rare and sought after sample material from a leading music library to produce exciting new music under the guidance of world class producers. During this one day event hosted at the Great Escape Festival in Brighton, UK, 20 producers will be given exclusive access to pre-cleared original sample material from the Boosey & Hawkes and Cavendish catalogues from the archives of famed library music specialists Imagem Production Music. The challenge: to produce a new track using the provided sample material against the clock, with the supervision and assistance of our team of esteemed mentors. This is a rare opportunity to sample from these highly regarded recordings performed by world class musicians, free from the legal shackles often associated with sampling.

The day will conclude with a judging session where industry experts will choose the winning tracks which will be put forward for inclusion on a forthcoming release alongside tracks created by established producers, all to go on to form part of the prestigious Cavendish music library.

We are looking for 20 talented producers to take part in this event. If you are a producer or beatmaker interested in battling it out at this unique event with an opportunity to win prizes and put your music in front of the world’s largest community of sample based music fans, we want to hear from you! 

To apply, please email samplethon@whosampled.com with the following information:

- Your name, age, location and producer alias / stage name
- A link where we can listen to your music (Soundcloud, Bandcamp or equivalent – no downloads please)
- One sentence about why you want to take part in this event
- Links to any of your social media accounts, sites or blogs you consider of relevance

Applicants must be available to attend the event on May 10th in Brighton, UK.

Further details will be announced in the coming weeks so stay tuned to our blog, Facebook and Twitter for more info!

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Tom Browne interviewed for WhoSampled


For the latest edition of the WhoSampled interview series we speak with Jazz / Funk trumpet legend Tom Browne ahead of his appearance at ‘These Are The Breaks’ taking place at London’s Jazz Cafe on Friday 18th April, tickets for which are available here.

Best known for his early 80s Jazz Funk anthem ‘Funkin’ For Jamaica’, a groove led ode to the Jamaica Queens neighbourhood of New York where Tom grew up, Tom’s 30+ year recording career joins the dots between the Jazz stylings of Be Bop, Funk, Boogie and Hip Hop. In this interview we discuss career highs, innovation in Jazz and how sampling has connected a new generation to Jazz music.

Listen to the interview here or via the widget below:

Interview by Chris Read.

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Win Tickets to see Tom Browne ‘Funkin For Jamaica’ live at London Jazz Cafe

On Friday 18th April much sampled Jazz / Funk trumpeter Tom Browne will take to the stage at London’s famous Jazz Cafe in conjunction with WhoSampled and Jazz FM. Famed for his US #1 hit ‘Funkin’ For Jamaica‘, a track which has been sampled more than 50 times, Browne has released 11 albums spawning a number of hit singles.

We have 5 pairs of tickets to Tom’s London show to give away. All you need to do is answer the following question:

“In the early 80s a spoof-rap track paying tribute to famous British travel journalist Alan Whicker recreated the chorus of Tom Browne’s famous ‘Funkin For Jamaica’ to comedy effect. Name that track. [Clue - the answer can be found on WhoSampled].”

Email your answers to competitions@whosampled.com with ‘Tom Browne Comp’ in the subject heading. Please be sure to include your full name and that of your guest. Entries must be received no later than 6pm BST on 11th April 2014. Winners are responsible for their own travel arrangements to and from the venue.


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Top 10 Most Sampled Jazz Artists of All Time


Words: Sophie Ramayrat & Chris Read

Jazz, in its more traditional forms, it’s fair to say is viewed by many as somewhat unnavigable musical territory, but the influence of jazz remains evident across the modern musical spectrum. This year, Snoop Dogg thanked Herbie Hancock (who ranks third in this list) for “inventing hip hop” at the Kennedy Center Honors gala. Aside from the lineage of jazz to funk to hip hop to pop and various other fusions and hybrids in between, jazz artists continue to adapt and innovate. Robert Glasper’s ‘Best RnB album’ Grammy win for his 2012 Blue Note Long Player, Black Radio, proved that jazz can still—in some sense—be pop, while Gregory Porter‘s comparable success showed that jazz can be both contemporary, innovative and popular without the presence of featured artists from the worlds of hip hop and RnB. For many though, jazz is most evident in today’s music as a result of sampling, those listeners being more accustomed to hearing sampled fragments of jazz tunes in the form of a catchy bass line or a much sampled drum break, than sitting down to a recording of ‘Take Five‘. Inspired by the findings in our recent Bob James post, we compile here a list of the Top 10 Most Sampled Jazz Artists to date.

10. Donald Byrd (135 samples)
An early jazz pioneer, this blues trumpeter cut his teeth as side man to many of jazz’s greats, having played with the likes of John Coltrane and Herbie Hancock. However it’s Byrd’s Mizell Brothers era Blue Note releases that have been most heavily sampled with the definitively funky jazz track ‘Think Twice‘ on 1975’s Stepping Into Tomorrow sampled mostly in the early ‘90s by artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and Main Source. ‘Think Twice’ epitomizes the particular strain of jazz funk for which the Mizell Brothers are famed with its effortless blend of traditional jazz brass instruments with the electric guitar, synthesizer, and the accompanying funk vocals of Kay Haith and Donald Byrd himself. Another notable sampled track is Byrd’s ‘Flight Time‘ from 1973’s Black Byrd. The sound effect of an airplane take-off intermingled with high-register brass was sampled by Public Enemy and more famously Nas.

WhoSampled pick – Erykah Badu’s ‘Think Twice

9. Miles Davis (146 samples)
Taken from one of the most iconic and renowned jazz albums of all time, ‘Blue in Green‘ from Kind of Blue is Miles Davis’ most popular tune on WhoSampled. Notably, though, it’s Bill Evans’ modal piano accompaniment that attracts the most attention for its romantic melodic phrase in the intro of the piece.  Popular French hip-hop group Hocus Pocus replay the piano sample as a backing in ‘73 Touches‘ with pieces of Davis’ trumpet as a sporadic accessory to the track. Another notable use of the sample is from the late rapper Proof’s ‘Life,’ produced by J Dilla in 1997. It’s also noteworthy to mention that while this is his most popular track, his most sampled track is ‘Bitches Brew‘ with sampling artists like Mobb Deep and Lord Finesse.

WhoSampled pick – Chi-Ali feat. Trugoy the Dove’s ‘Roadrunner

8. Nina Simone  (148 samples)
Nina Simone’s distinguishable low pitch and dramatic tone places her as the eighth most sampled jazz artist. Her highly popular, and most sampled track— ‘Feeling Good‘—is a Cy Grant cover itself, though Simone immortalized the track in her 1965 release of I Put A Spell On You. Its instantly discernable lyrics and brass riff have been covered or sampled many times since its release. Noteworthy samplers range from Jay Z and Kanye West  and Mary J Blige to Wax Tailor.

WhoSampled pick – Kanye West’s ‘Blood On the Leaves

7. George Benson (176 samples) -
George Benson’s multi-genre 60-year career as a pop vocalist and jazz guitarist gives artists a broad range of sampling opportunities. His most sampled track, ‘Give Me The Night,’ and his most popular track, ‘The Changing World,’ on WhoSampled emphasizes the diversity of his playing style. Whilst it’s the 80s pop-soul of ‘Give Me The Night,’ that has been sampled most with usage by artists ranging from Breakbot to DJ Jazzy Jeff, Benson’s earlier jazz material also provides rich pickings for sample miners. The drifting fusion sounds of 1974′s ‘The Changing World,’ for example provides the backbone to Common’s 1994 anthem ‘I Used to Love H.E.R’.

WhoSampled pick – Ed O.G & Da Bulldogs – Love Comes and Goes

6. Lou Donaldson (201 samples)
The soulful saxophonist Lou Donaldson composed the first and second most sampled tracks on Blue Note Records. His keen ability in linking gospel-type organ melodies with blues guitars and smooth saxophone solos are well displayed in his most sampled track ‘Ode to Billie Joe‘ from Mr. Shing-A-Ling, another track from which many samplers borrow the clean opening drum break. The crisp snare framed by punchy kicks and characteristic drum roll an can be heard in countless tracks, to name just two: Kanye West’s ‘Jesus Walks‘ and Lauryn Hill and Carlos Santana’s ‘To Zion.

WhoSampled pick –Tha Alkoholics feat. King Tee’s ‘Likwit

5. Grover Washington, Jr. (241 samples)
Grover Washington Jr. is in frequent rotation today for his highly successful collaboration with Bill Withers in ‘Just The Two Of Us,’ which has accumulated dozens of covers and samples. However, it’s the drum break in the intro of 1975’s ‘Hydra‘ which is his most used sample. Offset by its recognizable bass line, it’s been used by A Tribe Called Quest, The Notorious B.I.G., and Cypress Hill.

WhoSampled pick – Black Moon’s ‘How Many MC’s…’

4. Roy Ayers Ubiquity (257 samples)
Factoring in the 80+ samples of Roy Ayers’ solo material not recorded under the ‘Ubiquity’ moniker (which include the majority of Ayers’ early more traditional jazz work), Roy arguably deserves the number two spot on this list. Nonetheless, it is the fusion-era Ubiquity material that has been most heavily sampled with 1976′s ‘Everybody Loves the Sunshine‘ the runaway winner as both most sampled and most popular track, sampled close to a 100 times by a who’s who of hip hop notables. Like many of the artists in upper reaches of this list, Roy Ayers has embraced his hip hop following collaborating for example with Lord Finesse on 1996′s ‘Soul Plan‘.

WhoSampled pick – Masta Ace Incorporated’s ‘Turn It Up’

3. Herbie Hancock (282 samples)
Jazz pianist Herbie Hancock places third on the list for his dynamic style and legendary genre fusing tracks. The 1973 version of ‘Watermelon Man‘ from the lauded Head Hunters LP contains one of the most unique samples used in the WhoSampled database. Bill Summers is credited for using a beer bottle to recreate wind instruments in the intro and outro of the track, which has been used dozens of times by artists such as Ultramagnetic MC’s, J Dilla, and Madonna. Hancock of course himself experimented with hip hop, the fledgling jazz-electro fusion of ‘Rockit‘ creating an unlikely major pop hit in 1983. 

WhoSampled pick – Digable Planet’s ‘Escapism (Gettin’ Free)’

2. Quincy Jones (303 samples)
Although perhaps most famed for his compositions and production credits for the likes of Michael Jackson, multi-Grammy Award winning Quincy’s roots lie in jazz. His most sampled track is the timeless jazz-fusion number ‘Summer in the City‘, borrowed perhaps most famously by Pharcyde for the early 90s anthem ‘Passin’ Me By‘.

WhoSampled pick – Cella Dwellas’ ‘Mystic Freetyle’

1. Bob James (734 samples)
It’s no wonder that Bob James, who we dubbed an “accidental hip hop icon” in a recent post, is our most heavily sampled jazz artist. Although at the funkier end of the jazz spectrum, James also takes the cake for most sampled jazz tracks of all time in ‘Take Me to the Mardi Gras,’ and ‘Nautilus,‘ respectively.

WhoSampled pick – Nuyorican Soul’s ‘Nautilus (Mawtilus)’


Honorable mention:

Lonnie Liston Smith (107 samples)
Jazz pianist and keyboardist Lonnie Liston Smith falls just short of tenth place on the list but earns a mention for both a broad sampled catalogue and for two key recordings in particular: Of most relevance to the subject matter of this article is 1975′s jazz-disco fusion classic ‘Expansions’ which provided the inspiration for Stetsasonic’s ode to the merits of sampling, the aptly named ‘Talkin All That Jazz’. Smith’s most sampled track though is, ‘A Garden of Peace’ from the 1983 release Dreams of Tomorrow. This haunting downtempo track has been borrowed by artists ranging from Rick Ross and Nas to DJ Krush, and most famously of course Jay Z.

WhoSampled pick – Stetsasonic – Talkin’ All That Jazz (Dim’s Respect for the Old School)


Inspired by a new jazz rediscovery and want to learn even more? Has this post got you aching to listen to some cool West Coast jazz, hard bop, or jazz funk? You can browse through the intricate sub-genres of jazz and the artists who sampled them in the ‘Blue Break Beats’ section of Blue Note Record’s official spotify app powered by WhoSampled!

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DJ Jazzy Jeff interviewed for WhoSampled


For the latest edition of the WhoSampled interview series, James Hamlin speaks with legendary DJ / Producer Jazzy Jeff.

Earning his stripes on the competitive Philadelphia DJ circuit in the 1980s, Jeff shot to fame as one half of ‘DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince‘, the group’s blend of rapper / DJ routines, humour and honesty earning rap music’s first Grammy Award in the late 80s. TV appearances alongside The Fresh Prince (later known simply as Will Smith) and a crossover hit in the form of 1991′s ‘Summertime‘ made Jeff a household name. A music lover at heart, Jeff went on to release two solo production LPs for BBE Music featuring collaborations with the cream of the hip hop underground including the likes of Jill Scott and Slum Village and continues to tour the globe rocking dancefloors with a blend of DJ skills and eclectic selections.

DJ Jazzy Jeff performs at London’s Scala on Friday 18th April alongside Skillz, DJ Babu, Iriscience and many more. Information and tickets here.

Listen here or via the widget below:

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New Chapter in Bob James Sample Myth Revealed

MrKrumMardiGras-e1338407298284Artwork courtesy of Mr. Krum

Bob James, it’s fair to say, is an accidental Hip Hop icon. His extensive catalogue, in particular his 1970s recordings for Creed Taylor‘s CTI label are among the most sampled records of all time. 1974′s ‘Nautilus‘, sampled close to 200 times by a who’s who of Hip Hop royalty (including the likes of Ghostface, Eric B & Rakim, EPMD, Run-DMC and Main Source), is arguably James’ most iconic recording. However it’s his 1975 cover version of Paul Simon’s ‘Take Me To The Mardi Gras’ that is the most sampled, appearing among WhoSampled’s Top 20 most sampled records of all time.

Synonymous with Run-DMC‘s 1986 classic ‘Peter Piper‘, ‘the Mardi Gras break‘, it’s easily identifiable drum roll and characteristic montuno cowbells have been sampled by artists ranging from Mantronix to Will.I.Am. It’s a record steeped in record digging mythology, Biz Markie famously claiming to own a 12″ test pressing of the track without the trademark bells. Only a handful of collectors have claimed to have seen or heard the mythical alternate version with videos occasionally appearing online, frequently dismissed as fake. James himself has publicly denied the existence of this holiest of grails in interviews and even invited Biz Markie to present his evidence, in spite of which claims and theories still regularly surface. In 2012, a video of a reel to reel recording with bells absent surfaced convincing many doubters that such a recording does in fact exist. Whether this version was ever pressed as the fabled CTI 12″ remains subject to speculation.

Today, we offer a new piece of the puzzle. Sitting beneath the famous drum break section of the record is a track of background noise. Frequently thought of as crowd noise or perhaps a distant radio broadcast, it transpires it’s another song, and an unlikely one at that: ‘Rise and Shine’, a country track by Tommy Cash taken from album 1970 album ‘Six White Horses’. How did it get there? It seems, although might not be, intentional – the ‘sample’ comes to an end as the drum break draws to a close. Whether or not this particular track was chosen for any reason is also unknown. Maybe a little field recording was added to add atmosphere and Cash’s record just happened to be playing. Did another recording bleed onto the final cut from an earlier recording on the tape reel perhaps? It seems unlikely given that the records were released 5 years apart on different labels but who knows what is left lying around in studios. Much like those regarding the famous alternate take, these questions may never be answered and so, for now at least, the myth lives on…

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Everyone’s Sampled at The Brit Awards


Words: Sophia Ramayrat

This year’s Brit Awards featured a cornucopia of artists and tracks that have been sampled, covered, or remixed, 100% of the winners having some form of connection listed on WhoSampled. Collectively, the artists and tracks enjoyed connections to 457 samples, 547 covers, and 267 remixes! Here’s our rundown of the year’s winners:

David Bowie – British Male Solo Artist

Bowie’s win at the Brit Awards marks him as the oldest recipient of an award, his career spanning 52 years and riddled with timeless gems. He’s been sampled 126 times, covered 332, and remixed 36. Among the artists who have reworked his catalog are Nirvana, Jay Z, and even WhoSampled’s most sampled artist James Brown who borrows from 1975′s ‘Fame’ in ‘Hot ( I need to Be Loved, Loved, Loved, Loved)’.

Ellie Goulding – British Female Solo Artist

Ellie Goulding’s dreamy sophomore album Halcyon won her this award—rightfully so, since it’s packed full of emotion and Goulding’s unique style and tone. Notably she was recently been sampled by Drake and Jay Z in ‘Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2′. In the track, a Burial-esque direct sample of her sultry high-pitched vibrato in ‘Don’t Say A Word’ forms the backdrop to Drake and Jay Z’s lyrical accompaniment.

Arctic Monkeys – British Group

While one would not expect indie rock’s Arctic Monkeys to have a huge repertoire of sampled tracks, they’ve covered artists from Shirley Bassey to Drake. For BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge, they transformed Drake and Majid Jordan’s ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’ with a pop-rock version featuring reverb and vocals that are reminiscent of Elvis Costello.

Bastille – British Breakthrough Act

Bastille only has one studio album —Bad Blood— but their discography doesn’t lack for mixtapes and official remixes. Remixed contains tracks from Bad Blood, re-imagined by artists from RAC to Yeasayer. Most notable, though, is Bastille’s ‘Forever Ever’, from their mixtape Other People’s Heartache pt. 2 which contains an interpolated sample from the chorus of The Fugees’ ‘Ready or Not’ and also shares a direct sample with ‘Ready or Not’, Enya’s ‘Boadicea’.

Waiting All Night’ by Rudimental feat. Ella Eyre – British Single

No one can deny the catchiness of this multi-dimensional and soulful single with remixes on offer from the likes of Clean Bandit, Kidnap Kid, and Lee Foss. Rudimental also won the award for Best Album sponsored by WhoSampled at this year’s Bass Music Awards.

AM by Arctic Monkeys – British Album of the Year

The Arctic Monkeys scored this year as double award winners. From the winning album AM, Rapper Alex Wiley takes a direct sample from ‘R U Mine?’ as a drawling rock intro to ‘Earfucked’.

Bruno Mars – International Male Solo Artist

The ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ star, having already performed at the Half-Time show of the Superbowl this year, Hawaii’s Bruno Mars was a likely choice for International Male Solo Artist. Mars isn’t a stranger to sampling; he even references Cali Swag District’s ‘Teach Me How To Dougie’ in ‘The Lazy Song’, (where he confesses how he wants to learn how to dougie).

Lorde – International Female Solo Artist

The 17 year-old New Zealander has been gathering attention since her hit single ‘Royals’ came out in March 2013. The Weeknd remixed ‘Royals’, adding the synth lines and his own vocals, giving the track even more sway-ability.

Daft Punk – International Group

The French duo created major buzz with last year’s Random Access Memories, and let’s not forget ‘One More Time’ has been in endless rotation since its release in 2000—in short, Daft Punk will win every time. Kanye West’s ‘Stronger’, was a quintessential blending of rap and electronic music, however they’ve been sampled, covered, or remixed over 270 times. Interestingly enough, Daft Punk also has a long record of self-sampling over the years.

One Direction – Global Success

The boy band shot to fame after winning the British X Factor in 2010. These days even glossy boy bands are being sampled, the band having been sampled on several occasions, twice by notable San Francisco mash-up artist DJ Earworm.

Sam Smith – Critic’s Choice

San Smith won the critic’s choice award, after his number one single ‘La La La’. Highly remixable, Smith’s haunting falsetto can be heard in Le Youth’s remix of ‘Money On My Mind’, a single just released on the 16th of February.

Flood & Alan Moulder -  Best Producer

Flood (pseudonym of Mark Ellis) and Alan Moulder have worked with the likes of Depeche Mode and My Bloody Valentine. This year, they won UK Producer of the year for FoalsHoly Fire at the Music Producer’s Guild Awards, which entitled them to a Brit Award. Sub Pop’s Foals has been remixed dozens of times, but Mount Kimbie’s remix of ‘Spanish Sahara’ stands out, creating complexity to the slowness of the track with noise and resounding bass notes.

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‘Legends + Pioneers’ Episode 1: Just Blaze on Rick James


Rest in Beats in association with WhoSampled is pleased to present a new video series: ‘Legends + Pioneers’. Episode 1 sees Rest in Beats’ Opiyo Okeyo speak with Grammy award winning producer Just Blaze about the influence of Funk legend Rick James on his music. Check out the video below:

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Incredible Bongo Band “Bongo Rock” 40th Anniversary Mixtape and Competition


In celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the release of the Incredible Bongo Band‘s classic debut LP ‘Bongo Rock‘ and its follow up ‘The Return of The Incredible Bongo Band‘, the Mr Bongo record label are issuing 40th Anniversary editions of both albums. Here at WhoSampled we’ve put together an exclusive mixtape and are running a competition with a chance to win one of these incredible reissues!

Brought together by New York record executive Michael Viner, the band’s unusual history and that of these timeless records was recently the subject of a feature length documentary, Dan Forrer’s ‘Sample This’. Tracks across both LPs have been sampled by the likes of DJ Premier, Massive Attack, The Beastie Boys and many more but the cut that has gone down in history as a genre defining classic is the band’s unlikely cover version of The Shadows’ 1960 Pop / Rock hit ‘Apache‘. With the band’s trademark blend of Funk, Rock and frenetic percussion in evidence, it was the 4 clean bars of funky percussion that open the track that made it an instant hit with New York’s breakdance community in the years before the earliest Hip Hop records had even been conceptualized.

Primitive sampling technology gave the record a second lease of life which gave rise to the record’s appearance on early Hip Hop releases, notably from the Sugarhill stable, The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and West Street Mob all reworking the track in some form. A staple drum break in the sample based Hip Hop producer’s armory, Apache remained a go-to backing track throughout the 1980s all the way through to the present day. Notably, the drum break is also counted among Drum & Bass’s most sampled breakbeats, being one of a handful that defined the UK-born dance music genre.

In celebration of the release of these 40th Anniversary editions, WhoSampled has teamed up with Mr Bongos to present this exclusive mixtape celebrating 40 years of the Incredible Bongo Band in sample based music. Original Bongo Band cuts alongside those who have sampled them from Sugarhill Gang and West Street Mob to Amy Winehouse, The Roots and Goldie via Kool G Rap, BDP and many more.

Tracklist and listen links below:

1. Group Home – Suspended in Time (Instrumental) (samples Pipeline)2. Chris Read – Theme #3 (Scratchapella)
3. Incredible Bongo Band – Pipeline
4. Incredible Bongo Band – Okey Dokey
5. Incredible Bongo Band – Let There Be Drums
6. Nas feat Will I Am – Hip Hop Is Dead (samples Apache and cover version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida)
7. Hijack – Intro / Phantom of the Opera (samples In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida)
8. Incredible Bongo Band – In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
9. Incredible Bongo Band – Sing, Sing, Sing
10. Sugarhill Gang – Apache (Replays Apache)
11. West Street Mob – Break Dance Electric Boogie (samples Apache)
12. Double Dee & Steinski – Lesson 3 (Excerpt) (sampled Apache)
13. Young MC -Know How (samples Apache)
14. Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – Men At Work (samples Apache)
15. The Roots – Thought at Work (samples Apache)
16. Boogie Down Productions – Who Are The Pimps? (samples Apache)
17. Jive All-Stars – No Stoppin’ (The Halfway Mix) (samples Apache)
18. Jive All-Stars – No Stoppin’ (Acapella)
19. Incredible Bongo Band – Apache
20. Nas – Made You Look (samples Apache)
21. Amy Winehouse – In My Bed (samples Nas – Made You Look)
22. Incredible Bongo Band – Apache (Loop)
23. Goldie – Inner City Life (samples Apache)

Listen here or via the widget below:


We also have some copies of the Incredible Bongo Band reissues to give away to 5 lucky readers, all you need to do is answer the question below:

The Incredible Bongo Band’s ‘Apache’ has been sampled well over 250 times (at time of writing) but which Hip Hop pioneer was the first to directly sample the iconic drum loop (and provide the only official remix of the track years later)? [Tip, the answer can be found on WhoSampled.com!]

Email your answers to competitions@whosampled.com with ‘Bongo Rock Comp’ in the subject heading. Please be sure to include your full name and entries must be received no later than 5pm GMT on 20th February 2014.

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Kanye West ‘The College Dropout’ – 10 Year Anniversary


Today marks the 10th Anniversary of the release of Kanye West‘s debut LP, ‘College Dropout’. Following a series of well received and high profile productions for the likes of Jay-Z and various other Roc-A-Fella affiliates, ‘The College Dropout’ was the record that brought Kanye out from behind the boards and shone a light on the young Chicago producer as a lyricist. Showcasing an accomplished production sound that encompassed contributions from featured artists including John Legend and Miri Ben-Ari, the album was notable for its soulful sample material with the sped up ‘soul on 45′ sound quickly becoming recognized as a Kanye trademark. Here we re-cap the album’s now famed sample sources:

1. Intro (no samples)

2) We Don’t Care (samples The Jimmy Castor Bunch’s ‘I Just Wanna Stop’)

A perfect example of the ‘soul on 45′ sound, ‘We Don’t Care’ samples the opening strings from Jimmy Castor Bunch‘s ‘I Just Wanna Stop’ together with the “I Just Wanna Stop” vocal line, increasing the pace of both and placing them alongside full bodied synth lines, punchy kicks and hand clap snares.

3) Graduation Day (no samples)

4) All Falls Down (samples Lauryn Hill’s ‘Mystery of Iniquity’, and interpolates The Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Real Niggaz’ and Kanye West’s ‘Wow’)

The original version of All Falls Down grabbed a direct sample from Lauryn Hill‘s acoustic MTV unplugged rendition of ‘Mystery of Iniquity’. For the album version however Syleena Johnson was drafted in to re-sing the line with a performance that closely replicates the original.

5) I’ll Fly Away (is a cover of The Humbard Family’s ‘I’ll Fly Away’)

In the Hip Hop tradition of album skits and interludes, Kanye drafts in the vocal talents of Deray and Tony Williams to cover the Humbard Family‘s 1940 ditty ‘I’ll Fly Away’.

6) Spaceship (samples Marvin Gaye’s ‘Distant Lover’)

Another sped-up Soul outing, this time round Marvin Gaye‘s sweet vocals getting the 45rpm treatment.

7) Jesus Walks (samples The ARC Choir’s ‘Walk With Me’, Lou Donaldson’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ and interpolates Curtis Mayfield’s ‘(Don’t Worry) if There’s a Hell Below, We’re All Going to Go’ and A Tribe Called Quest’s ‘Keep It Rollin’)

A more direct reference to the album’s Gospel undertones, the central hook here comes from The Arc Choir‘s ‘Walk With Me’ to which the track partially owes its title. Drums come courtesy of Lou Donaldson‘s much sampled ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ with the break’s famous drum roll in evidence in the break downs.

8) Never Let Me Down (interpolates Blackjack’s ‘Maybe It’s The Power of Love’ and Jay Z’s ‘Hovi Baby (Remix)’)

In an unexpected departure from the album’s typically soulful sample material, ‘Never Let Me Down’ reworks passages from 1980s soft Rock ballad ‘Maybe It’s The Power of Love’, originally recorded by Blackjack, a band which featured among its members none other than Michael Bolton. Other more typical themes are present however with sped-up vocals, punchy kicks, handclap snares, gospel-esque vocal crescendos and lush arrangements all present.

9) Get Em High (interpolates The Notorious B.I.G.’s ‘Warning’)

A synth led production, the only ‘sample’ here comes in the form of a lyrical interpolation of the opening line from Biggie‘s 1994 classic ‘Warning’.

10) Workout Plan (no samples)

11) The New Workout Plan (interpolates Kanye West’s ‘I Need To Know’)

Recycling lyrics from a pre-album cut ‘I Need To Know’, a frantic string arrangement and synthy keys underpin this uptempo number.

12) Slow Jamz (samples Luther Vandross’ ‘A House is Not a Home’)

This time giving Luther Vandross‘s 80s Soul ballad ‘A House is Not a Home’ the Soul on 45 treatment, Slow Jamz is textbook 2004 Kanye with squealing vocals sitting on top of a laid back drums punctuated with rapid fire congas and high hats giving the perfect backdrop for Twista‘s double time fast-rap.

13) Breathe In, Breathe Out (samples Jackie Moore’s ‘Precious Precious’ and interpolates Crash Crew’s ‘High Power Rap’)

There’s much more straight ahead Hip Hop on display here than the majority of the album both in terms of tempo and production style. With Ludacris on featured vocals, a stuttering chop of guitar licks from Jackie Moore‘s ‘Precious Precious’ provides the backing here.

14) School Spirit (Skit 1) (no samples)

15) School Spirit (samples Aretha Franklin’s ‘Spirit in the Dark’)

With a drum track very reminiscent of most tracks on the album, this time round Aretha gets flipped on 45 with another appearance of those gospel-esque backing vocals on the chorus.

16) School Spirit (Skit 2) (no samples)

17) Lil Jimmy Skit (no samples)

18) Two Words (samples Mandrill’s ‘Peace and Love’, The 5th Dimensions ‘The Rainmaker’ and interpolates State Property’s ‘Got Nowhere’ and Jay Z’s ‘Do It Again (Put Your Hands Up)’)

Mandrill‘s Funk / Rock odyssey ‘Peace and Love’ gets the 45 treatment here topped with the 5th Dimensions’ famous drums. A vocal appearance from the Harlem Boys Choir adds the necessary gospel flavor.

19) Through the Wire (samples Chaka Khan’s ‘Through The Fire’ and Outkast’s ‘Players Ball’ (Extended Remix))

If one track characterizes the album’s sound then lead single ‘Through the Wire’ is it. Flipping Chaka Khan‘s 80s Soul classic ‘Through The Fire’ at 45rpm, with punchy drums courtesy of Outkast’s Players Ball (a track from which Kanye has lifted drums on several occasions), this tale of Kanye’s car crash and subsequent brush with death was the runaway hit that set the stage for this long player.

20) Family Business (samples The Dells ‘Fonky Thang’ and interpolates 2Pac’s ‘Ambitionz Az a Ridah’)

In a break from tradition, it’s short spoken word vocal chops that are sampled here, adding to the hook of this piano led cut.

21) Last Call (interpolates Bette Midler’s ‘Mr. Rockefeller’ and The Whatnauts ‘She’s Gone to Another’)

Returning to the general themes of the album for the close, the programmed drums conform to the style of the majority of the album with sped-up replays of Bette Midler and Whatnauts sitting alongside a melange of synth lines.

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