One of the joys of listening to hip-hop is recognizing when a new song references an old one. It’s as if artists like to reward loyal listeners of the genre by letting them in on a series of inside jokes. But while hip-hop is usually mostly self-referential, there are artists like Kanye West who aren’t afraid to go outside the genre to find samples for their tracks. And when I say outside hip-hop, I don’t mean cribbing bits of Al Green or Otis Redding. Everybody samples soul and R&B. I’m talking about songs from entire genres you’ve never heard of.
Lucky for you, Kanye has heard of them. In fact, when you start looking at his page on WhoSampled, it seems like there isn’t anything the man hasn’t heard of. Here are seven of the wildest examples of how far Kanye will go to get that sound he wants:
1. “Mercy” Samples a Jamaican Dancehall Song.
“Mercy” was ubiquitous in the summer of 2012, but I bet there are only a handful of people who understand the words of the hook without looking them up and even less that recognized what it was from. The famous, nearly unintelligible lines, come from a 1986 song called “Dust a Soundboy” by Super Beagle. Listening to “Dust a Soundboy” reveals that “Mercy” sped up the original lines making the singer, Fuzzy Jones, and his Jamaican accent even harder to understand. Super Beagle himself has heard “Mercy” and says he appreciates someone like Kanye sampling his song, saying “It’s a good feeling, and I recommend and endorse it.”
2. “Niggas in Paris” Samples a Recording of a Baptism
What, you thought those background shouts of “Yeah!” were ad-libbed by someone in the studio? Nope, Kanye already heard the perfect yell he needed from a recording of a baptism off of a “The Sounds of the South” record. You can hear the shouts that show up four seconds into “Niggas in Paris” seven seconds into the baptism recording.
3. “New Slaves” Samples a Hungarian Rock Band From the ‘60s.
“New Slaves,” like so many tracks on “Yeezus,” swifts gears dramatically part way through, giving the listener the feeling of having listened to two very different tracks in one. This sample shows up during one such switch, when Kanye is done rapping about racism and Frank Ocean is done mumble-singing. The sample is presented without much modification. It comes from thirty seconds into a song called “Gyöngyhajú Lány” by an old Hungarian band called Omega. Who knows how Kanye found it, but let’s be glad he did, since it provides a smooth ending to the otherwise intense “New Slaves” that works as the sonic equivalent of a post-coital cigarette.
4. The Chant From “Power” Is From a Song Called “Afromerica”
“Power” is now played at sporting events across the country. Entire stadiums sing along with its wordless chant. Few, if any, of those people know that the chant is originally from nine seconds into a song called “Afromerica” by Continent Number 6. I’m so sure few people know that because there doesn’t seem to be any mention of the song on the internet except in relation to Kanye sampling it.
5. “I Am a God” Samples a Song From a ‘70s Bollywood Movie
This sample, maybe more than all the others, shows how there is nowhere Kanye won’t go for a song. While other producers are digging through crates of the same old James Brown records, he’s watching Bollywood musicals from the ‘70s. The sample comes 1:54 into this song from the movie, Seeta Aur Geeta, and it can first be heard four seconds into “I Am a God.”
6. That Reoccurring Tune on “Watch the Throne” Is From an Italian Chamber Rock Band
This sample is the short melody that gets played either at the very beginning or the very end of the album version of four tracks off of “Watch the Throne”: “Illest Motherfucker Alive,” “No Church in the Wild,” “New Day,” and “Welcome to the Jungle.” The sample is lifted directly from the 2:28 mark of a song called “Tristessa” by Orchestra Njervudarov. You might be familiar with this one if you listen to a lot of Italian jazz-rock records from the ‘70s that sold few copies and were never reissued on vinyl or CD.
7. The Piano from “New God Flow” Is From a Psychedelic Brazilian Song
You might have felt like a savvy listener for recognizing the hook on “New God Flow” as a sample from Ghostface Killah’s “Mighty Healthy.” But that sample isn’t crazy, it’s just awesome. No, the crazier part is the piano playing underneath the loop of Ghost’s refrain. That’s scooped from 1:22 seconds into a song called “Bôdas De Sangue” by Marcos Valle. Marcos Valle is actually a fairly popular musician in South America, so maybe Kanye heard the song on one of his international vacations.Google+