Thanks to the indispensable site for music nerds, WhoSampled.com, we now know who the most sampled artists are (we'll get to that in a second), what the most covered song is (it's Yesterday by The Beatles), and which artists have used sampling the most (unsurprisingly it's a two-way tussle between Madlib and DJ Premier).
Sampling has built the foundations of not just hip-hop but also genres like house music, drum 'n' bass, jungle, rave and more. Without their samples, so many tracks of the past 30 years might not even exist. Just imagine Beyoncé's Crazy In Love without the intro from The Chi-Lites' Are You My Woman (Tell Me So); or Black Box's Ride On Time without the surging vocal from Loleatta Holloway's Love Sensation; or De La Soul's The Magic Number without Bob Dorough's children's educational track.
To celebrate the art of sampling, here, thanks to WhoSampled.com, are 10 of the most sampled (and perhaps some of the most important) tracks in music.
1. The Winstons – Amen, Brother
This fairly obscure track from 1969 has, at the time of writing, been sampled a mammoth 3,118 times. Sometimes even by artists who, thanks to its omnipresent importance as a sample, don't know where it originally came from. The six-second drum solo from the cult Washington DC soul band even has its own name – the Amen Break – and is the bedrock of so much British rave music.
Hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa actually used the break before it was included in the Ultimate Breaks And Beats compilation series in the mid-80s that launched the track as a major sample. But after that compilation's release, Amen, Brother was used by NWA and 2 Live Crew, and quickly became the foundation of British hardcore, jungle and drum 'n' bass.
The Winstons' drummer GC Coleman – the man behind the genre-spawning breakbeat – died penniless in 2006, but a GoFundMe campaign raised $32,300-plus / €28,800-plus / £25,000-plus for frontman and copyright owner Richard Spencer.
2. Beside – Change The Beat
You'll need to be patient to hear the section of this track that's responsible for the vast majority of its 2,318 uses as a sample. The B-side to Fab 5 Freddy's 1982 single of the same name, this version is rapped sensuously in French.
Towards the end of the track, a vocoder voice sighs "Ahhh, this stuff is really fresh". And there you go. Herbie Hancock was one of the first to sample it on Rockit, and it has since been used by everyone from the Beastie Boys, Gang Starr and OutKast to Missy Elliot, Run The Jewels and Justin Bieber.
3. Lyn Collins – Think (About It)
Another of the most recognisable samples of all time. This James Brown penned and produced song was originally released in 1972 (on Brown's own label, too). Strangely – given what a killer tune it is – Lyn Collins' track didn't chart at the time. But it became a cult favourite and popped up on one compilation after another, including on the 16th edition of Ultimate Breaks And Beats in 1986.
With that exposure and the advent of the E-mu SP-1200 sampler, producers were soon borrowing liberally from it. Mostly notably DJ E-Z Rock on his track It Takes Two, which uses the "Yeah! Woo!" breakdown. Dizzee Rascal, EPMD, Janet Jackson, REM and Mr Oizo are just some of the other artists responsible for its 2,201 uses.
4. James Brown – Funky Drummer
Where would hip-hop be without James Brown and The JBs? With Brown's (and his band's) music being sampled 7,413 times, he's the most sampled artist in music. With 1,511 uses, this is one of his most borrowed-from tracks.
Public Enemy's use of Clyde Stubblefield's propulsive break on their tracks Rebel Without A Pause and Fight The Power are among the most well known, but you'll recognise it on tracks by LL Cool J, Run-DMC, Eric B And Rakim, Ice T and George Michael too.
5. Dough E Fresh And Slick Rick – La Di Da Di
Another example of a hip-hop track that's been sampled by other hip-hop acts. Since its release as a B-side in 1985, with Doug E Fresh on beatbox and Slick Rick on flow, the track has become a serious weapon of choice for producers.
Snoop Dogg rejigged it as Lodi Dodi on his 1993 debut Doggystyle and its lyrics have been referenced by Robbie Williams (Rock DJ) and Notorious BIG. But it's been sampled, too, by DJ Premier, Ini Kamoze (on his massive hit Here Comes The Hotstepper, obviously), Ludacris, De La Soul, Kelis and Mary J Blige.
6. James Brown – Funky President (People It’s Bad)
It's the Godfather of Soul again. This 1974 single, about the then-new US president Gerald Ford, has been logged 861 times. It's not the most utilised track, but it has been sampled on so many big-hitting hip-hop tracks that it almost deserves a higher placing in the chart.
It's the track's introductory drum fill and wah-wah guitar that you're listening out for. Eric B And Rakim sampled it on Eric B Is President, predictably enough. Other notable uses include NWA's F*** Tha Police, Public Enemy's Fight The Power, DJ Jazzy Jeff And The Fresh Prince's Summertime and Naughty By Nature's Hip Hop Hooray. Even Calvin Harris and The Offspring have used it.
7. Public Enemy – Bring The Noise
The sampling information and additional songwriting credits for this iconic 1987 hip-hop track is enough to give even the most trivia-hungry music fan an aneurysm. Producers The Bomb Squad sampled Marva Whitney, James Brown, Funkadelic, DJ Grand Wizard Theodore, The Soul Children and Commodores, as well as a sample of a Malcolm X speech.
But the track itself, taken from Public Enemy's 1988 album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, has been sampled a whopping 792 times by artists including De La Soul, Kanye West, Beastie Boys, Prince and Ludacris. Most of these uses focus on Chuck D's voice.
8. Melvin Bliss – Synthetic Substitution
Synthetic Substituion is the B-side to Melvin Bliss's 1973 single Reward but was nearly lost forever after the dissolution of the record label it was originally released on, Opal Productions.
It was brought back to life by Kool Keith's Ultramagnetic MCs in 1986 when they sampled Bernard Purdie's drums on their mighty Ego Trippin'. It's since been employed as a sample by NWA, Gravediggaz, Guru, Wu-Tang Clan, Danny Brown, Justin Bieber, Kanye West, The-Dream, and, particularly brilliantly, by Redman on Jam 4 U.
Not bad for a track that, ironically enough, rails against the onward march of technology.
9. The Honey Drippers – Impeach The President
Southern soul singer Roy Charles Hammond discovered high-school soul band The Honey Drippers in Queens in 1973 and decided to cut some tracks with them, including Impeach The President, recorded in the wake of the Watergate Scandal.
The track remained a hidden gem until Marley Marl sampled the break on MC Shan's The Bridge, turning the opening drum sequence into a go-to hip-hop sample. LL Cool J, EPMD, Shaggy, Janet Jackson and even George Benson have sampled it, while Wu-Tang Clan's GZA raps: "You can't flow, must be the speech impediment / You got lost off the snare off Impeach The President" on As High As Wu-Tang Get.
10. Run-DMC – Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)
Everyone knows this one. The 1985 track by Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell has had various parts of it sampled by artists ranging from LMFAO and J Dilla to The Orb and Autechre.
The penny really drops, however, when you hear "… and it goes a little something like this", which was reused on Jason Nevins and Run-DMC's It's Like That. The track has proved so adaptable that, at the time of typing, it's been sampled 758 times.