Which Producers Have Used the Most Samples in Hip-Hop History?
The last few weeks I've been having a grand ol' time getting into some serious rap nerdery, and it seems like y'all have been right there with me. Rap nerds unite! But while the last few times I've really gone into specifics, like that one small vocal sample that's secretly everywhere, this time around I thought it'd be fantastical to zoom out a bit, ask the big questions.
Like, I don't know, what producers have sampled the most in hip-hop history?
So I asked the good people at WhoSampled exactly that question, and once again they came through. Before we get into the specifics, understand that this isn't an exactly accurate account. WhoSampled can only pull these numbers from the songs in their database, and while they have pretty much every song ever, they don't have literally every song ever. So no, for the statistical sticklers out there, this list isn't perfect, but I think there's more than enough data here to make it more than worth a look.
Speaking of which, I'll let Lucas take over...
#1 DJ Premier: 1,458
The Flips Behind "NY State of Mind"
Preemo isn't just the number one sampler in hip-hop history, he's number one by a mile and a half. Granted, he has been steadily making beats for decades, but he still has an astounding number of flips. I mean, 1,458 is more than double 9th Wonder, who I consider to be one of the best producers ever. I guess every scratch counts, but still, this amount of sampling is mind bottling. The legend even beat out Girl Talk, who makes his money on unimaginatively taking other peoples tracks. All hail the king!
#2 Girl Talk: 1,046
The Flips Behind "Oh No"
Personally, I've never been a big Girl Talk guy. His sampling feels a lot more primitive, and his music is entirely dependent on samples so it's relatively easy to put numbers on the board, but I guess he does know his way around a flip; over a thousand samples is impressive. Still though... meh. Like you would take Girl Talk over any of these other producers no matter how many samples he has, right?
#3 Madlib: 968
The Flip Behind "Block Rock"
Madlib is a legend, no doubt, but for some reason, I didn't think of him when I thought of the names that might be on this list and I certainly didn't think he would be third. Shit, he's the only hip-hop producer who even comes close to Preemo. Guess I was sleeping, time to dig into the Stones Throw catalog.
#4 DJ Shadow: 850
The Flips Behind "Midnight in a Perfect World"
DJ Shadow is criminally underrated. The man has churned out dope song after dope song and doesn't get recognized at all. I think part of the reason he is so high up on this list, with a rough grand total of 850 flips, is because he really draws from all different genres. It's not just soul/R&B samples; he is so diverse. The man is a genius and you'd be best served to learn the name if you don't know it already.
#5 Dr. Dre: 825
The Flips Behind "The Next Episode"
This is kind of surprising because his production output now is at a slow crawl, but there was a while where he was crankin 'em out, so I guess it makes sense. Still, this might be a good example of a producer who clearly relies on sampling very heavily, but you don't necessarily think of his instrumentals as being particularly sample-filled.
# 6 Pete Rock: 815
The Flips Behind "T.R.O.Y."
Only sixth with 815?!? Man, my personal list was way off! I would have put Pete in the top three when it comes to samples. He may not be a sexy pick, but Rock has been cranking out beats for decades, and all of them have been founded on the sample. I would have thought he would be a sleeper in the top five, at least, but no. Also, he has arguably the most famous sample ever with "T.R.O.Y." so there's that.
#7 J Dilla: 773
The Flips Behind "So Far To Go"
Woah woah woah....you mean to tell me that J. Dilla, the J. Dilla, is only number 7?! Dafuq?! The late producer is the king of samples; I mean, he practically made sampling cool again all on his own, but he is only seventh? The (sad) reason is that he had a few less years than every other producer (so this still pretty damn impressive), but I would have thought his total would have been way higher.
#8 Alchemist: 725
The Flips Behind "Back Again"
Feels like Alc is one of the only production selections I actually got right. I figured Alchemist would be right there in the middle to back-half; 725 feels about right. In fact, that number is pretty impressive considering he is younger than the rest of these cats. Dre has been around since the '80s and only has a hundred more samples. Like Dominique Dawes, Alchemist knows his way around a flip.
# 9 9th Wonder: 706
The Flip Behind "Good Ol Love"
Number nine on the list, number one in my heart. I'm actually amazed his number is this small. I still stand by my statement that he his one of the best sampling producers ever. It's quality over quantity around these parts, although it's impressive that everyone on this list has also brought a lot of quality to go along with their raw numbers. Still, if before this list I had told you 9th sampled about half as frequently as Preemo you'd be surprised, right?
#10 Marley Marl: 675
The Flip Behind "Mama Said Knock You Out"
Real talk, I don't know as much about Marley as I should - chalk it up to him being around when I was only two-years-old - but his inclusion on this list doesn't surprise me. How many producers can say they have worked with LL Cool J, KRS-One, TLC, and Fat Joe? Marley can turn a sample into any type of beat, and he's been doing it for decades.
As Lucas said, there's not necessarily a direct correlation between how much a producer samples and how well they do it, but running the pure numbers is still a fascinating way to get a new view of some classic music. I still don't quite understand how Premier managed to so thoroughly outpace everyone else, it's not like he's the only one using multiple samples per song, but the numbers don't lie. And for comparison purposes, someone like Kanye's only used 514 samples; and yes, "only" is obviously a relative term.
Thanks for letting us sample nerd out again DJBooth Nation. Until next time...