Five of the Best Unlikely Hip-Hop Samples

As Common said, way back, on “Invocation,” “I could have sampled Diana Ross a long time ago.” It takes a special ear to take something more off-kilterlike a cartoon theme song or horror movie preludeand make heads nod. In the hands of a great producer, some of the most unlikely, wackiest samples can become hip-hop classics. Here are five of my favorites.

“Prelude (Psycho Theme)” / “Gimme Some More”

The original track sends chills down spines, evoking long drives down dark, winding roads. Then DJ Scratch and Bussa Bus turned it into a Grammy-nominated track with an iconic music video, in the form of “Gimme Some More.”

“Theme from Underdog” / “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing ta…”

Whenever I hear this song, I imagine RZA sitting in his basement at three in the morning, watching old cartoons with other members of the Wu while eating a massive bowl of cereal. Underdog comes on, and he’s like, “Word, son, that’s it. Bong bong.” Yeah, that’s probably not how “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing…” came together, but it sounds like a dope creative process.

“Cum on Feel the Noize” / “Wild”

J Dilla’s crate digging skills were legendary. In this case, it’s Monty Python writer Neil Innes and his son slaughtering Slade’s classic in comedic fashion. Yet somehow Dilla stumbled upon this and turned it into “Wild.”

“I Put a Spell on You” / “Kick in the Door”

Speaking of wild… Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” is a turnt-up classic that shaped the rest of Hawkins’ career as a pioneer of shock rock. The hilarious part is that he actually intended to record a love ballad, but liquor and ribs got in the way. But the world is a better place for it, and DJ Premier, being the genius that he is, saw how that song could become Biggie’s classic “Kick in the Door.”

“Scooby-Doo Theme” / “Hey!”

Much like RZA, MF DOOM loves him some cartoons, but unlike the Fantastic 4 source material heard throughout much of Operation: Doomsday, DOOM decided to sample Hanna Barbera’s timeless Scooby-Doo. As Talib Kweli put it, years later on Danger Doom’s “Old School,” “Maybe I’m trippin and it’s just a cartoon to you / But I got chills when I heard how DOOM flipped the Scooby Doo.” Agreed. We all did.

There are many more examples of production alchemy. Did I overlook one of your favorites? Let me know: @aguycalledDon.

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