10 Rap Songs That Sample Other Rap Songs

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Samples are an essential element of hip-hop. In fact, scratch breaks are essentially the foundation of rap music, providing a rhythmic beat backing over which to drop some mad science. But sometimes that science becomes the break itself. Throughout hip-hop history, there are numerous examples of rap songs that incorporate elements of other rap songs, so we decided to pick 10 of our favorites. Here our 10 rap songs that sample other rap songs—bring that beat back and let it…mmmm…drop.

Gang Starr - Hard to EarnGang Starr – “Mass Appeal”
from Hard to Earn (1992; Chrysalis)

Sample: “Pass Da Mic” by Da Youngstas

The track that lent its name to a hip-hop magazine and label, “Mass Appeal” is the signature song of iconic duo Gang Starr. Furthermore, it features one of the most identifiable scratch hooks from turntable legend DJ Premiere. Its source is a fairly obscure track from a group of kid rappers named Da Youngstas, whose line “Money’s growing like grass with the mass appeal” ended up becoming a piece of sample legend. It’s the age-old story of how a track is made all the more iconic because of showing up in someone else’s (amazing) song. – JT

Nas Illmatic concertNas – “The World Is Yours”
from Illmatic (1994; Columbia)

Sample: “It’s Yours” by T La Rock

1994’s Illmatic reigns today as one of hip-hop’s canonical records. “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” “Halftime,” “Life’s A Bitch” and “NY State of Mind” are tracks filled with quotables lyricists still reference, but the album’s signature track would literally not be what you remember if not for T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s 1984 lit party rap jam, “It’s Yours.” That’s T appearing in the hook, amid that sleepy “who’s world is this?” In whole, the two songs could not be more different—”It’s Yours” is a vintage 1980s track that exemplifies the early years of New York City hip-hop—bouncy, buzzing with synths and drum machines and imploring people to move. In contrast, Nas’ song of ambitions out of poverty hit a mid-tempo rhythm, in keeping with the many soul music samples on Illmatic. The creative ground Nasir Jones started here would live on—a line would become “Thief’s Theme” and his “dead presidents” verse would become a song by Jay-Z, who would rub Nas’ face in it on “Takeover” (“you made it a hot line, I made it a hot song/I sampled your voice, you was using it wrong“). And “The World Is Yours”‘ iconography appears in many instances later in Nas catalog. With that, T La Rock and Jazzy Jay’s moment of greatness is enshrined forever in Queens’ king. – EA

rap songs that sample rap songs PharcydeThe Pharcyde – “Drop”
from Labcabincalifornia (1995; Delicious Vinyl)

Sample: “The New Style” by Beastie Boys

Though it lives in the shadow of the West Coast legends’ debut album Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde, The Pharcyde’s sophomore album Labcabincalifornia was a somewhat more mature, sophisticated hip-hop album that stands up to the best of hip-hop in 1995 (and mind, this is the same year that produced dynamite debuts by Raekwon and Mobb Deep). Among its many standouts is “Drop,” which features a psychedelic beat from a then 21-year-old J Dilla, and a hook borrowed from The Beastie Boys’ “The New Style,” which gives the track its name: “mmmmm….drop!” The track is likely known just as much for its surreal, shot-in-reverse video which features cameo appearances from Mike D and Ad Rock, who return the favor after being paid hip-hop homage. – JT

Jay-Z-Reasonable-DoubtJay-Z – “Dead Presidents 2.0”
from Reasonable Doubt (1996; Roc-a-fella/Priority)

Sample: “The World Is Yours” by Nas

Jay-Z and Nas had one of the more storied beefs in hip-hop in the early ’00s, hitting its peak in Jay’s 2001 song “Takeover” when he sneered, “So what, I sampled your voice, you was using it wrong.” The song he’s referring to is “Dead Presidents 2.0,” a highlight from his debut album Reasonable Doubt. The “hot line”? “I’m out for presidents to represent me.” Jay’s not joking when he says he made it a hot song, since this is a highlight among numerous standouts on what’s one of the greatest rap debuts of the ’90s. But then again, he had an assist from a standout from another great debut. Ultimately, Nas and Jay squashed the beef and with good reason: There’s plenty of room for two hip-hop legends. – JT

rap songs that sample rap songs Three Six MafiaThree Six Mafia – “Where The Killaz Hang”
from The End (1996; Prophet)

Sample: “I’m Bout It, Bout It” by TRU

Before T.I. and Future became the dons of Southern hip-hop, there was No Limit. Master P’s New Orleans record label pioneered the idea of hip-hop music as a brand to mainstream audiences in the early to mid-1990s, at first through his collaboration with West Coast acts and then with a stable of artists such as Mystikal, Mia X and Fiend. No Limit’s TRU, composed of P, Silkk the Shocker and C-Murder, saw its biggest success with 1999’s “Hoody Hooo,” and its Matrix-inspired video. Before Juicy J did Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” he was in Tennessee’s Three-Six Mafia, a controversial collective whose name and content got them labeled Satanic early on. 1996’s “Where the Killaz Hang” is prime Three-Six horrorcore—backed up with the languid beat from “I’m Bout It, Bout It.” Crunchy Black, Lord Infamous and Koopsta Knicca weave stories of murder, kidnapping and, of course, haters. Both songs would seem star-crossed, though. Three-Six’s Lord Infamous and Koopsta died in 2013 and 2015 respectively, while C-Murder was sentenced to life in 2009 for a killing in which he contends his innocence.- EA

rap songs that sample rap songsMissy Elliott – “Work It”
from Under Construction (2002; Elektra)

Sample: “Peter Piper” by Run-DMC

There was a national flip-out when Missy Elliott took the Super Bowl stage in 2015 with Katy Perry to perform “Work It,” her early 2000s mega-hit, produced by Timbaland. For good reason: “Work It” is outstanding and unique as mainstream rap goes, and Missy is still one of the more underappreciated women in the genre. The intricate song features many innovative techniques of the period, as well as an opening sample of “Request Line,” a 1984 track by Rock Master Scott & the Dynamic Three, a group best known for “The Roof Is On Fire.” What is more distinctive, though, is the work of the late Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, whose efforts on Run DMC’s 1986 classic “Peter Piper” appear on the final mixdown’s samples in “Work It.” Elliot is a deft vocalist, changing tempo and pitch over the frenetic beats laid down by Hollis, Queens’ finest as interspersed in Timbaland’s imaginative soup of sound. Although Run DMC is no more—Joseph “Run” Simmons and Darryl “DMC” McDaniels warred in the late 1990s, ending the band acrimoniously with 2001’s Crown Royal, which McDaniels mostly boycotted, and Mizell was murdered in 2002—the group continues through Missy’s sample, and interpolations by a variety of performers, such as 50 Cent (“If I Can’t”), Action Bronson (“Mike Vick”), Aphex Twin (“Mt Saint Michel + Saint Michaels Mount”) and Eminem (“So Far”). – EA

best Kanye West songs GraduationKanye West – “Can’t Tell Me Nothin'”
from Graduation (2007; Roc-a-fella/Def Jam)

Sample: “They Reminisce Over You” by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth

Kanye West is a master of samples. He’s built a career as a producer and a rapper through shrewd and often eclectic musical decisions—and his selection of samples is a pillar in his success. Take “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” from Graduation—one of Ye’s personal favorites from his discography. The clap back at Yeezy’s own haters and critics builds off a soulful, mid-tempo beat as he foreshadows his future triumphs. Yet, that beat beneath his words is where much of his genius shines. Singer-songwriter Connie Mitchell and fellow rapper Jeezy briefly lend their voices throughout the track. The keen ear will notice Jeezy’s part comes from his 2006 track with T.I., “I Got Money.” The even keener ear will pick up the subtle sample and lyrical nod to Pete Rock and C.L. Smooth’s 1992 hit, “They Reminisce Over You.” Yeezy closes the third verse with a reference to the song itself with the lines: “Your homies looking like why God / When they reminisce over you, my God.” These sharp, hair-splitting decisions from West separate a lot of his music from many other prominent rappers and producers. In the case of “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” these samples and arrangements made the track one of his crown jewels in an illustrious career. – CD

Fashawn - Boy Meets WorldFashawn – “Freedom”
from Boy Meets World (2009; One)

Sample: “Definition” by Black Star

Talib Kweli’s voice has been sampled a few dozen times, and it’s perfectly understandable—the Brooklyn rapper has an authoritative voice that tends to add an extra sense of gravitas to any hip-hop track. In 2009, up and comer Fashawn plucked a key phrase from Black Star’s “Definition” to drive the message of his standout track: “Livin’ my life, expressin’ my liberty, it gotta be done properly…done properly.” It’s a tone setting hook for a track that sets Fashawn apart as a young, hungry emcee charting his own path. But it’s actually just one of a handful of rap samples in the track, which also features elements of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” and Fashawn’s own “Shoe Box of Rhymes.” Now that’s meta. – JT

rap songs that sample rap songs CommonCommon – “Sweet”
from The Dreamer/The Believer (2011; Warner Bros.)

Sample: “P is Free Remix” by Boogie Down Productions

By 2011, Chicago emcee Common was largely out of rap. Long gone were his 1990s’ days as hip-hop’s socially conscious standard bearer; 1992’s Can I Borrow A Dollar, 1994’s Resurrection, 1997’s One Day It’ll All Make Sense and 2000’s Like Water for Chocolate were part of a remarkable run, highlighted by his collaboration with a young Kanye West. 21st century Common had branched off into acting and other pursuits. Fans were excited when he returned with an organic sound of his glory days and less of his Electric Circus meandering, plus his subliminal shots at the surging Drake only made the track spicier. It was thus fitting at the Common reboot sampled a recut of Brooklyn godfathers Boogie Down Productions’ infamous “The Pussy is Free,” which became the sampled cut off of 1987’s Criminal Minded. Drake would throw a verse back at Common on the remix of Rick Ross’ “Stay Schemin’,” but the beef never went far, perhaps in parts due to irony (Common was the soft wing of rap in a lyrical battle versus Ice Cube and Westside Connection in the 1990s after all… a place Drake arguably represented in 2011) or the fact Common’s musical career was virtually over anyway. – EA

Pusha MNMNPusha T – “Nosestalgia” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
from My Name Is My Name (2013; Def Jam)

Sample: “The Bridge Is Over” by Boogie Down Productions

Dripping with both menace and swagger, “Nosestalgia” is one of Pusha T’s highest peaks outside of his work in Clipse. It’s, not coincidentally, a dynamite performance from Kendrick Lamar who lends one of his best verses here as well. But there’s a third voice who creeps in between their back-to-back performances: KRS-One. The track—co-produced by Kanye West—incorporates vintage Boogie Down Productions beef track “The Bridge Is Over,” turning KRS’s absurd Billy Joel imitation and sing-song break (“la-dee-dee-da-dee dee-dee-dee-dee-da-dee-day”) into a weirdly unsettling phantom voice in the background. How the battle between boroughs plays into a grim drug-rap flashback between the best emcees from Compton and Virginia Beach right now isn’t all that obvious, but it sounds phenomenal. – JT

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