Rap Songs With Samples From Old Songs

Sampling has long been a way to enhance rap songs. Rap and hip-hop producers might sample any number of elements, from instrumentals to lyrics to entire song clips. This article will break down some of the best rap songs with samples from old songs.

1. Pitbull, “Back in Time,” (Samples Mickey & Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange”)

Song year: 2012

Sampled song year: 1956

Pitbull’s 2012 tune Back in Time samples its memorable guitar hook from Mickey & Sylvia’s 1956 R&B hit “Love is Strange.” Many listeners may recognize it from its use in Men in Black 3 in 2012.

The guitar riff from “Love is Strange” brings an ethereal twang, while Pitbull’s modern rap stylings spin the song for a new generation, creating a bridge between the past and the present.

2. Kendrick Lamar, “i” (Samples The Isley Brothers, “That Lady”)

Song year: 2015

Sampled song year: 1972

“i” is one of the strongest singles from Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. The element that makes “i” especially memorable is Lamar’s use of the guitar instrumentals from the Isley Brothers’ “That Lady.”

While the original song is a lighthearted R&B/soul bop that revolves around admiring an attractive woman, the sample takes “i” into the stratosphere. The velvety guitar riffs develop an explosive and energetic undercurrent for the song–which is fitting, given that the song is about affirming one’s identity.

3. A Tribe Called Quest, “Can I Kick It?” (Samples Lou Reed, “Walk on the Wild Side”)


Song year: 1990

Sampled song year: 1972

The next item on our list is a song whose sample bridges (and divides) generations. A Tribe Called Quest released “Can I Kick It?” as part of their legendary 1990 album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm.

Alongside “Buggin’ Out” and “Award Tour,” “Can I Kick It?” remains one of Tribe’s most famous releases, in no small part due to its memorable hook, which samples from Lou Reed’s equally legendary song “Walk on the Wild Side.”

4. Lupe Fiasco, “Mission” (Samples The Mohawks, “The Champ”)

Song year: 2014

Sampled song year: 1968

While Lupe Fiasco’s “Mission” is an excellent song, the sample is the more noteworthy part of this entry. The Mohawks’ “The Champ” was released to pretty much no fanfare in 1968, failing to chart entirely, but it has enjoyed a very, very vibrant afterlife in hip-hop samples.

Its strange and alluring motif – a distorted version of a person yelling “tramp” – has found a home in over 750 hip-hop songs. Although you may not know “The Champ” by name, you’ve likely heard it used by other artists like Notorious B.I.G., Ice Cube, and Ini Kamoze or modern artists like Frank Ocean and Lupe Fiasco.

5. Frank Ocean, “Super Rich Kids” (Samples Mary J Blige, “Real Love”)


Song year: 2012

Sampled song year: 1992

This next entry is the first song on our list to feature an interpolated sample–that is, a sample that re-records part of the words and melody of an existing song rather than reusing it entirely.

Frank Ocean’s “Super Rich Kids,” from his landmark 2012 album Channel Orange, interpolates the chorus of the then-twenty-year-old song “Real Love.”

While “Real Love” is not an oldie like other songs on this list, the Mary J. Blige song is still old enough that Ocean’s sample helped introduce it to a new generation of listeners.

6. LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out” (Samples Sly & the Family Stones, “Trip to Your Heart” and Chicago Gangsters, “Gangsta Boogie”)

LL Cool J


Song year: 1990

Sampled song years: 1967 and 1975, respectively

LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” might be the perfect pump-up anthem. It’s such an impressive track that two of its samples deserve mention.

The first is its looping hook, which imitates the sound of an awestruck crowd. It comes from Sly and the Family Stone’s R&B romance track “Trip to Your Heart.” LL Cool J adapts the song to excellent effect, with the hook serving less as the backdrop to smooth seduction and more as a testament to the speaker’s power.

The second sample comes from the fun flourish that plays behind LL Cool J’s boisterous bragging throughout the song. It comes from the titular song “Gangsta Boogie” by the Chicago Gangsters and adds a touch of humor to the song.

7. MF DOOM, “One Beer” (Samples Ethel Merman, “I Get a Kick Out of You”)

Song year: 2004

Sampled song year: 1935

MF DOOM was a legend in the hip-hop community for his strange and eclectic samples. He reached into the archives of pop music to pull off this sampling of Ethel Merman’s 1935 ditty “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

What makes this sample so good is how well hidden it is. MF DOOM’s breathy vocals often make it difficult to tell what he’s saying. He’s hardly an accomplished singer, making it pure comedic gold when he labors through a line from Merman’s chorus. Merman is largely unknown to the rap world, which makes DOOM’s sample an extra inside joke.

8. Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, and Kurupt, “The Next Episode” (Samples David McCallum, “The Edge”)

Song year: 1999

Sampled song year: 1968

“The Next Episode” belongs in the hall of fame for all-time best hype songs–it’s the walkup song to end all walkup songs. That reputation is primarily due to its instrumental sample, whose twangy timbre is sure to make any listener start bouncing up and down.

The sample comes from the 1968 song “The Edge” by David McCallum, an actor who would later be most well known for playing the brilliant medical examiner in CBS’s long-running show NCIS.

9. Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda” (Samples Sir Mix-a-Lot, “Baby Got Back”)

Song year: 2014

Sampled song year: 1992

Nicki Minaj’s blockbuster 2014 release “Anaconda” fits nicely in the artist’s wider collection of songs in that it flips the traditional rap theme of masculine desire into one of feminine lust. Appropriately, Minaj samples Sir Mix-a-Lot’s iconic 1992 song about the female figure, “Baby Got Back.”

Minaj’s sample is especially clever because it flips the script on female objectification in hip-hop, putting women in the driver’s seat. A great 2010s rap song.

10. 2Pac feat. Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman, “California Love” (Samples Joe Cocker, “Woman to Woman”)

Song year: 1995

Sampled song year: 1972

2Pac’s “California Love” is one of his best songs and contains an extremely memorable sample. The recognizable piano/brass hook that threads throughout “California Love” comes from Joe Cocker’s bluesy hit “Woman to Woman.”

While 2Pac operated in a much different genre from Cocker, it’s safe to say that he made the sample his own–all while introducing Cocker to a legion of new fans.

11. The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy, Mase, and Kelly Price, “Mo Money Mo Problems” (Samples Diana Ross, “I’m Coming Out”)

Song year: 1997

Sampled song year: 1980

“Mo Money Mo Problems” is ingrained in the popular consciousness for its flashy music video, its evocative title, and it’s noteworthy sampling of Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” for its hook.

Ross’s powerful voice creates a stark contrast with B.I.G.’s heavy vocals, and the upbeat-vintage energy of the sample would go on to influence countless hip-hop artists and producers.

Best Hip Hop Songs With Samples From Old Songs Final Thoughts

While it can be controversial, sampling is one of hip-hop’s greatest assets. These rap songs with samples from old songs allow the older music to reach a new audience. It also allows artists to excavate the hidden possibilities within an old track, creating a piece of musical artistry that uses the old to form something new.

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