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Seven of the Most-Sampled Songs to Listen to on Vinyl

Immortal melodies, iconic grooves and borrowed beats.

From subtle homages to bold reinterpretations, samples have formed the foundation of hip-hop and left an indelible imprint across a spectrum of musical genres ranging from pop to EDM.

These iconic grooves have the power to transcend their origins, often eclipsing the songs they were derived from. But listening to the original records on vinyl elevates the authenticity of the experience, inviting a deeper exploration of these timeless tracks through their warm analog textures. Join us on a sonic journey that bridges the past and present by putting the spotlight on seven iconic sampled songs.

1. “Think (About It)” — Lyn Collins

Nobody alive in 1988 could escape the infectious Whoo! Yeah! groove that propelled hip-hop duo Rob Base and DJ EZ-Rock’s party anthem “It Takes Two.” The bedrock of that colossal hit was a sample of Lyn Collins’ “Think (About It),” written and produced by James Brown to showcase his 24-year-old protégé, whose vocal swagger had earned her the nickname “The Female Preacher.” The motif, which lays down some deep funk thanks to the contributions of Brown’s backing band, the J.B.s., is featured on more than 3,000 songs by artists ranging from Snoop Dogg to Janet Jackson to REM. You can hear the track in its original analog glory on widely available pressings of the 1972 full-length vinyl record of the same name, which serves up a satisfying mix of Brown-penned hits and soul covers.

2. “Change the Beat (Female Version)” — Beside/Fab 5 Freddy

“Ahhhhhhh, fressshhhhh!” Those two words define the sound of the scratch. They come from the line “Ah, this stuff is really fresh!” which closes out an alternate take of Fab 5 Freddy’s 1982 hit “Change the Beat,” performed in French by female rapper Beside. (Rumor has it that those iconic words are the voice of Roger Trilling, album producer Bill Laswell’s manager, who spoke the phrase into a vocoder as he poked fun at a label executive.) A year after the track was released, Herbie Hancock wove the scratch into his MTV-ready hit “Rockit”; the sampled and scratched words can be heard in classics like Eric B. & Rakim’s “Paid in Full,” Macklemore and Lewis’ “Thrift Shop,” and more than two thousand more songs by the likes of Missy Elliot, Bad Bunny and Justin Bieber. Celluloid Records released a digitally restored 12-inch in 2011; if you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a copy, don’t let it go!

3. “When the Levee Breaks” — Led Zeppelin

With their vast vault of monster guitar and drum riffs, Led Zeppelin’s influence on hip hop and R&B cannot be understated. “When the Levee Breaks,” from Zep’s untitled fourth album, commonly known as Led Zeppelin IV, is the band’s most sampled song, thanks to the legendary work of drummer John Bonham. On the 1968 sessions for the track — a reworking of a 1929 blues song by Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe McCoy — producer Glyn Johns set Bonham up in the lobby of Headley Grange, an old stone working house. Johns hung mics a few floors up to capture reverberant sound, added a delay unit, and let the drummer rip … and a bombastic groove was born. “When the Levee Breaks” provides the thundering backbone for hundreds of songs, from the Beastie Boys’ “Rhymin’ and Stealin’” to Eminem’s “Kim” to the Beyoncé and Jack White collaboration “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Led Zeppelin IV is a must-own for any rock vinyl fan, featuring some of the band’s best-known songs including “Black Dog,” and “Battle of Evermore” and the perennial “Stairway to Heaven.” Numerous pressings are available, including a very cool, widely available six-disc collector’s edition.

4. “Cola Bottle Baby” — Edwin Birdsong

You might not have heard of Edwin Birdsong, but you definitely know his tune “Cola Bottle Baby.” The song, featured on the keyboardist’s self-titled 1979 album, never saw chart success at the time, but found new life decades later as the heart of two huge hits. Tapping the track’s futuristic funky sound, French electronic duo Daft Punk used it as the basis for their 2001 floor filler “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.” That track was then sampled by Kanye West on his blockbuster hit “Stronger” in 2007, bringing the work of both Daft Punk and Birdsong to even wider audiences while serving as a testament to the quirky groove’s staying power. While rare vinyl copies of Edwin Birdsong emerge from time to time, in 2016, Big Break Records released a luscious re-issue of the original full-length, remastered for a fuller, louder pressing and featuring five bonus tracks.

5. “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” — Bob James

For decades, Yamaha Artist and jazz fusion great Bob James’ catalog has been mined by artists and producers seeking fresh beats, with tracks like “Nautilus” and “Angela (Theme from Taxi)” playing an outsize role in shaping the sounds of hip-hop. “Take Me to the Mardi Gras,” from Bob James’ iconic 1975 album Two, opens with a four-measure bell-and-drum pattern that has become one of hip hop’s most foundational breakbeats. To create the groove for the track — itself a cover of Paul Simon’s song of the same name — percussionist Ralph McDonald laid an agogô rhythm over Andrew Smith’s jazz-funk drum pattern. The break was famously popularized by Grandmaster Flash on his 1986 track “Freelance,” but those bells eventually found their way into hundreds of iconic Golden Age hip hop tracks, including Run-DMC’s “Peter Piper,” N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” and Eric B. & Rakim’s “Don’t Sweat the Technique.” Two, recorded and mastered by engineering legend Rudy van Gelder, is an audiophile’s dream; seek out a ’70s or ’80s pressing for the most pristine sound.

6. “Walk on the Wild Side” — Lou Reed

You know it when you hear it: the iconic bassline of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” transformed into the smooth, infectious rhythm of a hip hop masterpiece. For “Can I Kick It?,” the third single off A Tribe Called Quest’s 1990 debut album People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, the pioneering foursome took Herbie Flowers’ sleek bass line — which was doubled on Fender electric bass and acoustic double bass — and layered it with a drum sample from Lonnie Smith’s “Spinning Wheel” to form the melodic glue of a new classic. You can hear the original “Wild Side” on Reed’s 1972 release Transformer; produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson (father of producer Mark Ronson) and skillfully recorded by Bowie (and Beatles) engineer Ken Scott, the album is a joy to experience on vinyl, particularly on 180-gram pressings by the Speakers Corner audiophile label.

7. “Amen, Brother” — Winston Brothers

What do N.W.A., David Bowie, The Prodigy, Skrillex and Janet Jackson have in common? Musically, not a lot … with the exception of one iconic drum break. The “Amen Break,” as it’s come to be called, is from an obscure track called “Amen, Brother,” a B-side to the 1969 Grammy®-winning single “Color Him Father” by The Winstons. This seven-second break just might be the most sampled track in history, defining the sound of drum and bass and jungle and appearing in a staggering 6,153 songs, according to It’s even integrated into the theme songs for shows like Futurama and The Powerpuff Girls. Although various pressings of the “Amen, Brother” single can be sourced, look for Soul Jazz’s 2022 remastered release of the Winstons album Color Him Father, featuring a gorgeous reproduction design and four bonus tracks.


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