Let's Talk About Samples

Written by Valerie Reich 

I was cleaning my room the other day while listening to the sweet sounds of Schoolboy Q’s “Hands on the Wheel” from his second album Habits & Contradictions. But something was bothering me about the song so I hit repeat and listened for the opening verse. “Crush a bit, little bit, roll it up, take a hit/ Feeling lit, feeling light, 2 a.m. summer night / Hands on the wheel nuh uh fuck that.” But where have I heard that before?

Yes ­­– that is a prime line from Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness,” but this intro is from a female vocalist. After some investigative googling, I finally found the intro’s source: Lisse’s cover of the Kid Cudi classic.


This one verse, shared by three very different artists, highlights the nature of sampling. But what even is sampling? And which came first the sample or the song?

Sampling as defined by Copynot.org (a copyright Law, Treaties and Advice website) is “the use of the portions of prior recordings which are incorporated into a new composition.” We at LLMG have previously talked about remixing which more often than not uses the act of sampling.  The rule of thumb is that if an artist wants to use more than a quarter of a second of another artist’s song, the original artist must be credited and paid royalties for their work.  The price for a sample is based on a variety of factors but can methods of payment are either a one-time buy-out fee or a percentage of money made off the replication of the song.

Let’s take a look at some songs you might not know have used samples:

1.     Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang by Dr. Dre (1992)
 sampled: “I Want’a Do Something Freaky to You” by Leon Haywood

2.     “California Love” by 2 Pac (1995)
sampled: “Women to Woman” by Joe Cocker, “Dance Floor” by Zapp, “West Coast Poplock” by Ronnie Hudson & The Street People

3.     “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles (1967)
sampled: “Greensleeves” by Traditional Folk, “In The Mood” by Glenn Miller, “Two-Part Invention #8” by Johanna Sebastian Bach

4.     “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash (1955)
sampled: “Crescent City Blues” by Gordon Jenkins

5.     “We Will Rock You” by Queen (1977)
sampled: “Fanfare for the Common Man” by Aaron Copland

6.     “Bring the Noise” by Public Enemy (1987) 
sampled: “It’s My Thing” by Marva Whitney, “Fire &Fury Grass Roots Speech” by Malcom X

7.     “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley (2007) 
sampled: “Last Men Standing” by Gianfranco Reverberi, “Stop and Check Yourself” by Garnet Mimms

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