Believe it or not, sampling actually pre-dates the birth of Hip-Hop. It began in the early 20th Century as “musique concrete,” an experimental form of music that borrowed tape loops and vinyl recordings to create an entirely different sound.
In the late ’60s, sampling became used in the production of several psychedelic rock and jazz fusion records, but wouldn’t really take off until Hip-Hop was born and DJs began mixing disco and house music to create beats.
Throughout the years, Hip-Hop artists have sampled a wide spectrum of songs, from classic rock anthems such as “The Big Beat” by Billy Squier to more obscure electronic/dance tracks, like “Trans-Europe Express” by Kraftwerk.
By the late ’80s, sampling became quite common, especially in the production of Hip-Hop music. It was around the time that three kids from Brooklyn changed the game with their second full-length album, Paul’s Boutique. The Beastie Boys didn’t necessarily set out to rip off 105 different songs, as their producers, The Dust Brothers, have stated that most of the samples were cleared, “easily and affordably.”
Fast-forward to the mid-’90s, when J Dilla, a young record producer from Detroit, began to mix together a variety of different samples, from Frank Zappa and Smokey Robinson to Big Daddy Kane and David Bowie.
Since sampling has existed, so many of the songs we know and love have been reused to make newer and sometimes better tracks.
However, others have left us wondering “why hasn’t that been sampled yet?”
Here’s 25 songs that are dying to be chopped up and reconfigured.
#1 “Lawnchairs” by Our Daughter’s Wedding
In the early ’80s, the New York-based new wave band saw international success with their hit single, “Lawnchairs,” which peaked at no. 49 on the UK Singles Chart in 1981.
Similar to artists like Oingo Boingo and Thomas Dolby, Our Daughter’s Wedding is prime sampling material, for its use of synthesizers and drum machines.
#2 “Ladytron” – Roxy Music
Roxy Music received critical acclaim from their eponymous debut album, which was cutting-edge at the time. The single, “Ladytron,” later inspired early 2000’s electropop band of the same name and has been called one of Roxy Music’s “best-loved songs” by The Times.
#3 “Baby Blue” – Badfinger
Famously used in the finale of AMC’s hit TV series Breaking Bad, the song is not actually a reference to blue methamphetamine, but it does seem to get people worked up. Produced by Todd Rundgren, “Baby Blue” was the group’s last Top 40 hit.
#4 “Cruel to be Kind”- Nick Lowe
Perhaps best known for his work with Elvis Costello, English singer-songwriter Nick Lowe had a major hit in the ’80s, with his Top 40 single, “Cruel to be Kind.”
Surprisingly, the catchy, uptempo pop song has never been sampled, but it was covered on more than one occasion.
#5 “You & Me Together Forever”- James and Bobby Purify
Alabama soul duo, James and Bobby Purify, have been sampled dozens of times. Their song, “I’m Your Puppet” was an instant success that rose to the top of the pop/R&B charts.
The duo continued to record through the late ’60s, but decided to split in 1971, when Bobby retired from the music business for health reasons.
James Purify continued to perform as a solo act, until 1974, when he was introduced to Ben Moore, who had previously worked with Otis Redding, James Brown and Jimmy Tig and the Rounders.
Adopting the name Bobby Purify, they went on to record their follow-up album, You and Me Together Forever, in 1975.
#6 “You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up” – James Carr
R&B singer James Carr went on to record his hit, “You’ve Got My Mind Messed Up,” with Goldwax Records, after being turned down by the legendary Memphis recording label, Stax Records.
The song went on to climb as high as no. 7 on the Billboard R&B charts and no. 63 on the pop charts. Although several of Carr’s songs have been covered by other artists, his music is rarely sampled.
#7 “Black Coffee In Bed”-Squeeze
The British new wave group, Squeeze, rose to popularity in the late ’70s and early ’80s with their upbeat sound and commercially successful pop hits, including “Tempted,” “Pulling Mussels (from the Shell)” and “Cool for Cats.”
“Black Coffee in Bed” was written by Chris Difford and Glenn Tilbrook in 1981 and features backing vocals from guest singers Paul Young and Elvis Costello.
The song was later remixed by the band for their 2010 album, Spot the Difference, but has never been used for anything else.
#8 “The Bridge”-Sonny Rollins
After reading Amanda Petrusich‘s story in The New Yorker, about Jeff Caltabiano‘s effort to rename the Williamsburg Bridge in memory of tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, it only made sense to scour his catalog.
Surprisingly, while many of Rollins’ songs have been sampled for their intricate instrumentals and smooth jazz licks, “The Bridge” has flown under the radar for years.
#9 “Ibi Dreams of Pavement (A Better Day)” – Broken Social Scene
The 19-member indie rock ensemble has been sampled a few times in recent years. “Looks Just Like The Sun,” was used in 2011, by California rapper and former member of 3 Melancholy Gypsys, Scarub on The California EP.
The band’s other singles, “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl” and “7/4 (Shoreline)” have also been sampled before.
“Ibi Dreams of Pavement” is actually a reference to Canadian novelist Ibi Kaslik, a good friend of the band who uses BSS as the basis of an indie rock group in his second novel, The Angel Riots.
#10 “Arthur’s Theme” – Christopher Cross
Caught between the moon and New York City? Well, believe it or not, nobody has sampled this classic from crooner Christopher Cross.
#11 “Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)” – The Hollies
The hit single from the ’70s British rock band sold more than two million copies worldwide and hit No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 list in 1972.
Despite their overwhelming influence in pop culture, the band has been sampled by J Dilla, Alice Cooper, and the SoCal hip-hop group, Ugly Duckling.
#12 “Piano Black” – Yoko Kanno & The Seatbelts
The anime television series, Cowboy Bebop, follows the story of interstellar bounty hunters Spike Spiegel and Jet Black. Set in the year 2071, the cartoon clearly needed a space jazz soundtrack to go with it.
Japanese composer Yoko Kanno and her band, The Seatbelts, wrote the score, which is a compilation of seven full-length studio albums. The soundtrack is a hidden gem, that has only been sampled a handful of times and is responsible for giving us “Dipset” by Lil Yachty and “The Rain Welcome Back Party Hard” by Tech N9ne.
#13 “Twilight Zone”-Golden Earring
Hitting No. 1 on the Billboard Top Album Tracks chart, “Twilight Zone,” was written by George Kooymans, who got the inspiration from Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity.
However, Golden Earring’s other hits, “Radar Love,” and “Vanilla Queen,” were sampled.
#14 “She’s a Beauty”-The Tubes
“One in a million girls.” Easily one of the Tubes greatest hits, “She’s A Beauty” was an immediate success, hitting no. 1 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock list.
The song was famously featured in an episode of Miami Vice, but was never sampled.
#15 “Reaching for the World” – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes have been sampled to make such Hip-Hop tracks as “Everything” by Method Man feat. Streetlife and Inspectah Deck and “Niggaz Wanna Act” by Mase feat. Busta Rhymes. However, nobody ever sampled the lead single, “Reaching for the World.”
#16 “The Rumproller” – Lee Morgan
Each February, myself and other participating music journalists, challenge themselves to listen to one album a day, that they have never heard, and tweet about it using the hashtag “#MWE” The concept was created by Gary Suarez of Forbes Magazine, who continues to attract other writers to participate.
Needless to say, this year, one of my picks was The Rumproller by Lee Morgan. While it is arguably less popular than The Sidewinder—a pinnacle album in the soul jazz genre—it still features a few hidden gems, including the title track,”The Rumproller.”
#17 “Publisher”-Blonde Redhead
I find it quite odd that Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons is the most commonly sampled album by the New York alt-rock outfit. Especially, when their 2007 studio album 23 has so much more to offer.
“Publisher” is one of those tracks that almost immediately conjures up memories of listening to Arcade Fire for the first time.
The song starts out very synth-heavy and brooding, almost like a Depeche Mode song, before the vocals come in and shift the song back to that shoegaze sound.
#18 “Wake Up and Make Love With Me”-Ian Dury & the Blockheads
Surprisingly, Ian Dury is very popular among sampled artists. The Scottish post-punk singer has been sampled by Faithless, Oribital, DJ Sneak and The Boilerhouse Boys.
#19 “Escape Wavefold”-Chemical Brothers
The Chemical Brothers did the original score for the major motion picture, Hanna . “Escape Wavefold” was written as part of that incredible score, but has a lot of similarities to Aphex Twin.
#20 “Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard”-Paul Simon
“It was against the law. What mama saw. It was against the law.” Crazy enough, the insatiably catchy lyrics of Paul Simon were never sampled by other artists.
#21 “I’m In The Mood For Love”–Fats Domino
Originally written by Frances Langford, the song was covered by Antoine “Fats” Domino for Imperial Records, back in 1957, before the label was sold in 1963.
After Imperial shut down, Domino left the label for ABC Records.
#22 “Lion In A Coma” – Animal Collective
Since one of the experimental pop group’s hit singles, “My Girls,” was sampled in the track “6 Inch” by Beyonce feat. The Weeknd, it made sense to dig into other tracks off Merriweather Post Pavilion to find a good sample.
“Lion in a Coma” is as weird as it sounds, an experimental explosion of sound.
#23 “Everybody Have Fun Tonight” – Wang Chung
Back in the ’80s, the new wave duo took the radiowaves by storm with their feel-good sensibility and upbeat lyrics, yet surprisingly, no samples.
To this day not a single living soul knows what the hell a Wang Chung is.
#24 “Hot, Hot, Hot” – Buster Poindexter
The alter-ego of New York Dolls frontman David Johansen, Buster Poindexter turned heads with his family-friendly party song, ”
Hot, Hot, Hot.” It was originally written by Montserratian soca musician Arrow, in 1982, but didn’t become the go-to track for Bar Mitzvahs and weddings, until Johansen covered it in 1987.
#25 “Hell Bent For Leather” – Judas Priest
Judas Priest’s classic heavy metal monster, “Hell Bent for Leather” has never been sampled. However, the track “Bloodstone” was used on the banger “So Trill” by Kirko Bangz /DJ Drama feat. Big K.R.I.T.
The Priest staple”Breaking the Law” was sampled to create “Rumble” by Afu-Ra.m:
Stream: The 25 Samples That Hip-Hop Forgot Playlist