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10 Tracks You Didn’t Know Contained Samples

You’ve probably heard these popular tracks before, but do you know the songs they sample?

Photo by Erwi / Unsplash

Sampling in music production has been a fundamental part of the practice for over 40 years, and continues to shape the way artists create music today. Sampling was pioneered by the Hip-Hop scene in the 80s and 90s, with artists such as J Dilla using the Akai MPC to chop and sequence Funk and Soul samples.

Music sampling isn’t exclusive to Hip-Hop, though. You can find examples of sampling across all corners of the musical landscape. In this article, we’re going to identify some popular tracks that you never knew contained samples.

What is a Sample in Music?

You may have heard the term sampling, but what is it? Within the context of music, sampling refers to reusing any portion of an existing track in a new composition. This might mean using a tiny snippet such as a single drum sound, taking and repurposing an entire melody, or reusing the vocals from another song.

While there are plenty of sample libraries out there which contain a range of samples to use in your productions, you might want to sample a specific part of a particular song. In this case, you can use a stem separation tool such as to extract the vocals, drums or accompanying instruments from any audio or video source.

10 Tracks You Didn’t Know Contained Samples

Without further ado, let’s uncover where 10 well-known tracks borrow their samples from.

1. Beyoncé - Crazy in Love ft. Jay Z

You can’t deny that Beyonce is one of the biggest recording artists of the 21st century, and her 2003 track Crazy in Love is arguably one of her most successful works to date. But did you know the hit samples the 1970 song Are You My Woman by The Chi-Lites?

The most notable component of the sample is the brass section that is introduced nine seconds into Are You My Woman, although it is slowed and pitched down in Beyonce’s track. The percussion is also sampled and is responsible for much of the rhythmic content in Crazy In Love.

2. Britney Spears - Toxic

We’re going from one American female pop icon to another, this time we’re picking apart Britney Spears’ track Toxic from her album In The Zone. Toxic was also released in 2003, and features samples from Lata Mangeshkar’s Bollywood classic, Tere Mere Beech Mein.

While the string melody in Toxic is instantly recognisable when listening to the 1981 track Tere Mere Beech Mein, the dated-sounding strings were layered with additional strings to give the production a more contemporary polish.

3. Armand Van Helden - You Don’t Know Me

The 90s was awash with House music from the likes of Armand Van Helden, who created timeless hits with a Roland TR-909 drum machine and a few choice samples. One such hit is the 1999 track You Don’t Know Me (feat. Duane Harden). The track contains two main samples that form the basis of the track.

You’ll need to skip the first half of the 1979 track Dance With You to find the main string riff from You Don’t Know Me. The drums came courtesy of Dutch House producer Jaydee, and his track Plastic Dreams.

The extended version of the track also features a sample from the kids TV show Dexter’s Laboratory, which is used as a spoken word introduction to the composition.

4. Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood

It’s not just TV shows and other sounds that can be suitable sources of inspiration. Samples can be found just about anywhere you look, including in presets of musical instruments. Gorillaz are famed for their innovative approach to music production, and their 2001 track Clint Eastwood contains the main riff and fill from a unique instrument from 1981.

In an Apple Music interview, Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn reveals how the Rock One preset from the Suzuki Omnichord formed the track’s melodic foundation.

5. Rihanna - Umbrella ft. Jay Z

Next up is another track that directly samples music-making technology as a song’s fundamental component. This time, it’s a piece of production software being sampled, rather than hardware.

As you can hear, Rihanna’s 2007 track Umbrella samples an Apple drum loop from the Garageband DAW, entitled Vintage Funk Kit 03. This use of a royalty-free sample in a Grammy-winning track demonstrates you don’t need a studio full of professional equipment to make great music.

6. Gucci Mane - Lemonade

Like many Hip-Hop tracks, the 2009 track Lemonade by Gucci Mane has a simple and minimalistic composition. The vocals take precedence while huge bass and snappy drums occupy the low and high frequencies respectively. This leaves room for a sole melodic element, which in this case, is sampled from Flo & Eddie’s Keep It Warm.

The rhythmic piano chords from the 1976 track are sped up, repitched and rearranged to create the main melody that continues throughout Lemonade.

7. Daft Punk - Harder Better Faster Stronger

Electronic music duo Daft Punk are known worldwide as pioneers of the French House scene. They have a list of hits as long as your arm, many of which contain samples from a range of sources. One such hit is Harder Better Faster Stronger, released on their album Discovery in 2001.

The track samples Cola Bottle Baby by Edwin Birdsong, and unlike many of the examples in this article, Daft Punk did very little to change the sample In true French House fashion, Daft Punk chopped the sample up, added more drums and a vocoded vocal to create the finished product. Daft Punk’s Harder Better Faster Stronger was then sampled by Kanye West in his 2007 track Stronger.

8. The Chemical Brothers - Hey Boy Hey Girl

Like Daft Punk, The Chemical Brothers aren’t afraid of incorporating a wide variety of samples into their productions. The 1999 track Hey Boy Hey Girl is somewhat of a Big Beat anthem, and the core vocal hook was sampled from a track made a decade earlier.

The intro to The Roof Is On Fire by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three contains a punchy kick drum with plenty of reverb, plus that instantly recognisable vocal hook that was made famous by Hey Boy Hey Girl.

9. The Bucketheads - The Bomb (These Sounds Fall Into My Mind)

One-half of Masters at Work, Kenny Dope, also released music as The Bucketheads. The Bomb is undoubtedly his most prominent track as The Bucketheads, and the classic house hit from the mid-90s contains not one, but two samples.

The most prominent sample is the brass section from Chicago’s Street Player which is looped throughout The Bomb and forms the main riff of the track. Secondary to that, is the spoken word introduction which The Buckhetheads sampled from The Preacherman by Green Velvet.

For many, the Street Player sample was made popular by The Bucketheads, but for younger generations, it may be more familiar from Pitbull and his 2009 track I Know You Want Me.

I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)

10. Drake - Hotline Bling

The final track on this list also happens to be the most recent. With over 83 million monthly listeners, Canadian artist Drake has dominated the charts for some time now. His 2016 track Hotline Bling has amassed over one billion streams, and features a sample from Why Can’t We Live Together by Timmy Thomas.

It doesn’t take a musicologist to figure out which part of the song was sampled and how it was used in the Drake hit. Just listen to the first ten seconds of each track, and you’ll hear that the unique and regimented percussion was simply sped up in Hotline Bling.