In Part 1, we ranked the 25 Greatest Chipmunk Soul beats from the Roc-A-Fella Dynasty by sticking to songs that a) were produced by Kanye or Just Blaze or The Heatmakerz, b) appeared on a Roc-A-Fella LP released between 2000 and 2004, and c) contained both components of the chipmunk soul aesthetic, i.e. sped-up, high-pitched vocals built around soul samples.
For Part 2, the parameters are simple: To be considered for our top 25, the song a) cannot appear on any album released by Roc-A-Fella, from the first year of the label’s inception (1996) through the present, and b) must contain both components of the chipmunk soul aesthetic, i.e. sped-up, high-pitched vocals built around soul samples.
So, yes, beats produced by one of the three kings of chipmunk soul—Kanye, Just Blaze, The Heatmakerz—are eligible for our top 25, so long that they do not appear on a Roc-A-Fella LP. And, yes, this disqualifies not only albums released during the Roc’s heyday but also the collection of post-2004 releases that have featured the chipmunk style, particularly anything by JAY-Z and Kanye.
Keep in mind: there’s a fine line between high-pitched vocal samples and chipmunk soul. Beats like Lil Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying,” “Gossip,” “Mr. Carter,” “Tha Mobb,” and “Something You Forgot,” are long on helium, but the absence of soul prevents them from being considered as chipmunk soul. On the other hand, you have soulful beats that lack high-pitched vocal chops, a la Lil Wayne’s “Receipt” and “Let the Beat Build,” 50 Cent’s “Hustler’s Ambition,” Game’s “Dreams,” and UGK’s “International Player’s Anthem.”
Without further ado, here are the 25 Greatest Chipmunk Soul Beats (That Aren’t From the Roc Dynasty). For those of you who hate reading, here's a Spotify playlist.
Producer Breakdown: Kanye West (4), Streetrunner (4), The Alchemist (3), Heatmakerz (3), Ayatoolah (2), J Dilla (2), Just Blaze (2), Noah “40” Shebib (1), Cardo (1), Cool & Dre (1), Johnny Juliano (1), Rsonist (1), Saint Denson (1), Scoop DeVille (1), Speez (1), Swizz Beatz (1)
25. Paul Wall — “Girl”
Album: The Peoples Champ (2005)
Sample: Chi-Lites “Oh Girl” (1972)
For those of you who are wondering Who the f*** is Paul Wall?, I’ll assume that you’re a) not from Houston and/or b) under the age of 21. For context: In 2004, “Still Tippin,” the debut single from Mike Jones, featuring Slim Thug and Paul Wall, created insta-stars out of the Houston-bred threesome, which in turn kickstarted Houston’s hip-hop Renaissance－a new era stylized by diamond and gold grills, candy paint, and lean-filled styrofoam cups.
After Jones’ debut LP Who Is Mike Jones? went Platinum in the spring of 2005, it was Wall’s turn to shine; which he did, thanks to “Girl,” the third single off his debut album The Peoples Champ. Instead of Houston’s Chopped and Screwed soundscape, it was a ‘70s R&B sample which gave Wall a chance at commercial success, as Speez’ sample of “Oh Girl” glistened equally as much as Wall’s diamond-crested mouth.
24. Nas — “Revolutionary Warfare”
Album: God’s Son (2002)
Producer: The Alchemist
Sample: Black Ivory “We Made It” (1973)
Without taking away from JAY-Z’s all-time performance on The Blueprint, I expect most hip-hop fans would agree that the production was the real star of the LP. So let’s imagine that, instead of lacing Jigga with the beat pack that would go on to create his magnum opus, Kanye and Just Blaze unload their stockpile of soulful gems onto Nas. Nothing sounds more fascinating than Nas waxing poetic over wailing soul samples. Alas, the closest we’ll ever come to hearing him body beats like “Heart of the City,” “Song Cry,” or “Never Change,” is on “Revolutionary Warfare,” an exceptional soulful beat in its own right.
23. Lil Wayne — “Cry Out (Amen)”
Album: Lil Weezy Ana Vol. 1 (2006)
Sample: David Ruffin “Hey Woman” (1977)
The first of three Lil Wayne/Streetrunner collaborations to appear on our top-25, “Cry Out (Amen)” captures the chipmunk soul aesthetic that backed numerous Wayne classics released in the mid-aughts. At a time when Lil Wayne was bodying every beat he got his hands on, Streetrunner’s soulful production gave him a chance to be transparent and honest. And on the heartfelt “Cry Out,” a sweeping soul sample of David Ruffin’s “Hey Woman” created a nostalgic vibe for Wayne to let his emotions spill out, which he did－for four-straight minutes. The track proved that in the rare times he does bare his soul, no rapper is more capable at tugging at our heartstrings so effectively.
22. Styles P — “Good Times”
Album: A Gangster and a Gentleman (2002)
Producer: Swizz Beatz, Saint Denson
Sample: Freda Payne “I Get High (On Your Memory)” (1977)
“Good Times” shouldn’t have worked for many reasons: By 2002, Swizzy was credited as a producer on 20 or so songs that Styles P－as member of The Lox or featured guest－appeared on, all of which saw the former’s signature three-note synths and triumphant horns backed by the latter’s street-savvy, gritty, lyric-driven verses. And so, though it wasn’t surprising for Swizz Beatz to produce the debut single from Styles P’s first solo album, the sound of their collaboration was nothing short of shocking. Powered by a sample of Freda Payne's 1977 hit "I Get High (On Your Memory)," the gully-gully, Timbo-wearing rapper from Yonkers got an opportunity to showcase his sentimental side.
21. J Dilla — “Baby” ft. Guilty Simpson & Madlib
Album: The Shining (2006)
Producer: J Dilla
Sample: The Stylistics “Maybe It’s Love This Time” (1980)
Cam’ron’s star-making hit “Oh Boy” proved that a sample－at least one this catchy and playful－could became an unofficial guest star, as Just Blaze’s vocal loop weaved masterfully between Cam and Juelz Santana’s verses, so much so that it felt like both MCs were talking to it. Four years later, near the end of the peak Roc-A-Fella and chipmunk soul era, underground Detroit producer J Dilla took a page straight from the Just Blaze playbook with “Baby,” which appeared on his first posthumous album, The Shining. Unsurprisingly, the most underrated beatsmith of all-time’s chopped up soul sample helped craft a masterpiece.
20. The Game — “100” ft. Drake
Album: The Documentary 2 (2015)
Producer: Cardo, Johnny Juliano
Sample: Peabo Bryson “Feel the Fire” (1978)
With all due respect to the choppy vocal samples that are synonymous with chipmunk soul, they pale in comparison to the high-pitched wailing of a soul sample; nothing induces feelings of nostalgia that leave you with goosebumps quite like the ghostly sound of an R&B legend. This level of holiness is reached on “100”－the youngest track featured on our top 25－as Cardo and Johnny Juliano accelerate Peabo Bryson’s vocals to boisterous levels. The whirling loop of “You wanted me to love you” repeats throughout, creating a cinematic atmosphere for Game and Drake to take turns sending stray shots at real and imagined enemies.
19. 50 Cent — “Wait Until Tonight”
Album: The Big 10 (2011)
Producer: Scoop Deville
Sample: Bobby Womack “If You Think You’re Lonely Now” (1981)
For a three-year stretch from 2003 to 2005, 50 Cent was as hot as any rapper has ever been. So hot that, even after he releasing back-to-back flops (2007’s Curtis and 2009’s Before I Self Destruct) and entering a decade-long hiatus, it always seemed like Fiddy was one hit away from owning the clubs and radio. In December 2011, Scoop Deville gave him his best shot at a career resurgence with “Wait Until Tonight.” Laced with a sample of Bobby Womack’s “If You’re Think You’re Lonely Now”－the best use of Womack in hip-hop ever－alongside a smooth guitar riff, 50 came across as comfortable, charismatic, and confident as the rapper who exploded onto the scene at the tail end of 2002.
18. Jim Jones — “This Is Jim Jones” ft. Cam’ron
Album: On My Way to Church (2004)
Sample: Terry Huff & Special Delivery “The Lonely One” (1976)
By the time Jim Jones was recording his debut album in 2004, The Heatmakerz were running low on classic material, having used the bulk of their beat collection－30 songs or so－to craft Dipset’s previous three releases: Cam’ron’s Come Home With Me (2002), The Diplomats’ Diplomatic Immunity (2003), and Juelz Santana’s From Me to U (2003). By then synonymous with the Dipset sound, the duo would look careless to come up empty on Jim Jones’ first offering; as usual, they didn’t. One of three songs on the LP produced by the New York duo of Rsonist and Thrilla, “This Is Jim Jones” was everything you wanted from the Dipset sound: high-pitched crooning and a fantastic string sample combining to produce a joyful, exuberant bop.
17. Lil Wayne — “Talk It Over”
Album: Tha Drought Is Over 2: Tha Carter III Sessions (2007)
Sample: Lenny Williams “Let’s Talk It Over” (1979)
During the two-year window of 2006-2007 leading up to the release of Tha Carter III, no producer brought out the best in Lil Wayne like Streetrunner. Their collaborations－ “Gossip,” “Cry Out (Amen),” “Pray to the Lord,” “Talk It Over,” “1 Night Only,” “Do It Again,” Trouble,” and “That’s Not Luv”－were built on a sweeping soul aesthetic reminiscent of JAY-Z’s The Blueprint and the Dipset sound. “Talk It Over” remains Streetrunner’s best Heatmakerz impression, as the Lenny Williams sample results in a continuous loop as catchy as most of Dipset’s peak material.
16. Juelz Santana — “Oh Yes”
Album: What the Games Been Missing (2005)
Sample: Carpenters “Please Mr. Postman” (1974)
The chipmunk soul sound is built around two elements: sped-up vocals and soul samples. While Kanye and Just Blaze pioneered the latter, the Heatmakerz took the former to another level, particularly by isolating a few words－or sounds, even－to create the foundation for an entire beat. Perhaps the best example of this is “Oh Yes,” a beat so relentless that no rapper other than Santana could navigate it, let alone have it work in his favor. The Heatmakerz’ chop of “Please Mr. Postman” is hectic, but perfect for Santana’s abrupt, staccato flow, and results in arguably the most Dipset-sounding song ever recorded by any member of The Diplomats.
15. Prodigy — “Stuck On You”
Album: Return of the Mac (2007)
Producer: The Alchemist
Sample: Jeannie Reynolds “I’m Hooked on You” (1977)
You know a sample is straight fire when you have to replay it multiple times before even hearing the first verse. As soon as Jeannie Reynold’s “I’m Hooked On You” enters five seconds into “Stuck on You,” the rest is gravy. Prodigy submits a solid performance, and The Alchemist does a superb job behind the boards－incorporating guitar riffs and thumping percussion, alongside Reynolds’ chopped up vocals, for added flair－but the star of the show is the sample. I suppose you could say that a sample alone shouldn’t warrant a ranking this high on our list, but if you go back and listen to it, I’d be shocked if you didn’t change your mind.
14. Jaylib — “Starz”
Album: Champion Sound (2003)
Producer: J Dilla
Sample: Starcastle “The Stars Are Out Tonight”
There are rare cases when a beat is simply so overpowering that it drowns out the MC entirely, as evidenced by J Dilla’s masterpiece “Starz.” Sure, Jaylib is nowhere near superstar status, but you’d be hard pressed to find a collection of rappers capable of bodying a beat this deafening. The greatest testament to J Dilla’s production, though, was his ability to merge his traditional boom-bap sound with the chipmunk soul style. It’s monstrous yet twinkles, culminating in the most unorthodox chipmunk soul beat ever, one which no one has ever tried to duplicate.
13. Common — “Faithful” ft. John Legend & Bilal
Album: Be (2005)
Producer: Kanye West
Sample: D.J. Rogers “Faithful to the End” (1975)
Entering 2005, Common was three years removed from the release of 2002’s disastrous Electric Circus, five from his last classic LP, 2000’s Like Water for Chocolate, and 11 from his magnum opus, 1994’s Resurrection. In other words, Common need to be resurrected, pun intended. Enter Kanye West. The fellow Chicagoan brought his A-game behind the boards, producing all but two songs on the 11-track LP. You could debate which beat was the album’s best, but not which was the most soulful. That honor goes to track four, “Faithful.” A chipmunk masterpiece built on a D.J. Rogers sample, Kanye takes it to another level by incorporating a nostalgic harmonica loop that’s sure to have you in your in your feelings.
12. The Alchemist — “Hold You Down” ft. Prodigy, Nina Sky & Illa Ghee
Album: 1st Infantry (2004)
Producer: The Alchemist
Sample: Al Cooper “Love Theme from ‘The Landlord’” (1970)
Just Blaze may have been the first to use the Al Cooper sample on JAY-Z’s 2000 deep cut “Soon You’ll Understand,” but The Alchemist’s use of “Love Theme from ‘The Landlord’” remains the stronger of the two. Assisted by Prodigy, who contributes the opening and closing verses, and Illa Ghee, who pops in for just eight bars, The Alchemist chops up the sample and pairs it with guitar riffs and Nina Sky’s hook to create a soulful soundscape that is equal parts triumphant and contagious.
11. Terror Squad — “Take Me Home”
Album: True Story (2004)
Producer: Streetrunner, Cool & Dre
Sample: Roberta Flack and Peabo Bryson “If Only for One Night” (1980)
Recorded at a time when the entire hip-hop landscape was busy hijacking the Dipset sound, it’d be irresponsible to argue that “Take Me Home” bites the chipmunk soul aesthetic more than any one of the numerous songs accused of doing the same. Then again, the song does sound like Streetrunner and Cool & Dre were trying their best at impersonating the Heatmakerz, all while Fat Joe, Armageddon, and Remy Ma are practically auditioning to be the Vegas cover act for Cam, Juelz, and Jim Jones; a failed attempt largely because the trio lacks Dipset’s genuine charisma. Still, let’s give credit where it’s due: the polished, pristine production amounts to a chipmunk masterpiece, even if we know The Diplomats would’ve turned this beat into a smash hit.
10. Styles P — “The Life” ft. Pharoahe Monch
Album: A Gangster and a Gentleman (2002)
Sample: Aretha Franklin “The Long and Winding Road” (1972)
Sampling Aretha Franklin once is bold. But two times? That’s just bad juju. Well, unless you’re Ayatoolah. After flipping Aretha’s “One Step Ahead” on “Ms Fat. Booty,” the lead single from Mos Def’s 1999 debut solo album Black on Both Sides, Ayatoolah revisited the Queen of Soul on Styles P’s “The Life.” Built around a sample loop from the gospel choir-style singing on Aretha’s cover version of The Beatles song “The Long and Winding Road,” the track ended up serving as the curtain call to Styles P’s debut LP and for good reason.
9. Ghostface Killah — “Ice (Interlude)”
Album: Bulletproof Wallets (2001)
Sample: Donny Hathaway “She Is My Lady” (1971)
The majority of hip-hop heads remember this beat as the title track for Cam’ron’s 2002 album Come Home With Me, on which Cam, Juelz Santana, and Jim Jones reminisce on the environments that made them. But true hip-hop nerds will remind you that it was Ghostface Killah who, six months earlier, took the Rsonist beat for a test drive on his third album Bulletproof Wallets. Clocking in at one minute, the track serves only as an interlude, but you wouldn’t know it based on the way Tony Starks attacks the beat; he treats it like an unofficial freestyle, rapping with an urgency that no rapper could match. More than anything, though, the beat is the real star, as a sample of Donny Hathaway’s “She Is My Lady” swirls around a mesmerizing string sample that’s chaotically captivating.
8. Rick Ross — “I Love My Bitches”
Album: N/A (2011)
Producer: Just Blaze
During the second half of the ‘00s, while Kanye continued to flood his music with elements of chipmunk soul, Just Blaze appeared to have moved on from the style that kickstarted his career, as evidenced by his biggest beats at the time (T.I.’s “King Back,” JAY-Z’s “Some Me What You Got” and “Ignant Shit,” Eminem’s “No Love”). As a result, it was fair to wonder if he’d ever go back to chipmunk soul at all, let alone craft another slap to add to his greatest hits. Boy, were we wrong. Despite being released a full ten years after Just Blaze exploded onto the scene on the heels of The Blueprint, “I Love My Bitches” sounded like it was made during those same recording sessions. The pulsating beat was as bombastic as anything in his collection, a worthy sequel to “U Don’t Know.”
Editor's Note: According to the song's producer, Just Blaze, "I Love My Bitches" doesn't contain any samples. "ILMB was all live musicians and singers and not inspired by [Three Degrees "I Do Take You"]," he tweeted.
7. AZ — “Never Change”
Album: A.W.O.L. (2005)
Producer: The Heatmakerz
Sample: LaBelle “Wild Horses” (1971)
Beautifully chaotic gems like “I’m Ready” and “I Really Mean It” prove that the Heatmakerz’ were good on their word: their beats do in fact sound like sped-up soul samples on steroids. It’s fitting, then, that their last chipmunk masterpiece was their most energized. “Never Change” is borderline preposterous, but in the best way possible. I mean, would you be surprised if it created Heatmakerz were dared to up the ante, so they did a few lines of cocaine and raised the piercing crooning from LaBelle’s “Wild Horses” to ear-splitting levels. A part of me thinks the beat is too tumultuous to be appealing, but then I remind myself that it’s the Heatmakerz; chaos is their form of beauty.
6. Lil Wayne — “Pray to the Lord”
Album: Tha Drought Is Over 2: Tha Carter III Sessions
Sample: Jodeci “Lately” (1992)
We remember Tha Carter III for the endless array of tracks that didn’t make the final cut equally as much as the ones that did. During recording sessions for Wayne’s soon-to-be magnum opus, tracks were leaking in such an abundance that 20 of them were compiled into an infamous unofficial mixtape, The Drought is Over 2 (The Carter 3 Sessions), released in June 2007—a full year before the official album.
As a result, hip-hop heads have spent the last decade wondering why so many classic tracks were left off of C3. Perhaps the strongest song left off－surely the most heart-wrenching－is “Pray to the Lord.” It’s the best beat Streetrunner has ever crafted, with a sped-up Jodeci sample that is sure to give you goosebumps with every listen. That wailing vocal, alongside the soulful backdrop, is the stuff of legends; the type of stuff that you’d imagine made Just Blaze and Kanye envious as soon as they heard it.
5. T.I. — “Doin’ My Job”
Album: Trap Muzik (2003)
Producer: Kanye West
Sample: Bloodstone “I’m Just Doing My Job” (1979)
When you think back to of the peak of Kanye’s chipmunk phase, you remember the beats he produced for the Roc (Jay-Z, Cam’ron, Beanie Sigel, Freeway) and Roc affiliates (Talib Kweli and Scarface), the timeless tracks for Game and Twista, and the endless supply of classics for Common. Lost in the shuffle is “Doin My Job.” An underrated deep cut off T.I.’s breakthrough album Trap Muzik, it’s been lost to time largely because the LP is remembered for trap anthems like “Rubberband Man,” “24s,” and “Be Easy.”
And yet, when you revisit the album, perhaps no song has held up as well as “Doin My Job.” As is the case on all of Kanye the producer’s greatest hits, the mastery of the beat has less to do with the sample itself as it does with Kanye’s various chopping of it. He takes bits and pieces of Bloodstone’s “I’m Just Doing My Job” and sets them on a continuous loop, layering the beat with strings, percussion, and saxophone riffs, to boot. It’s Kanye at his finest, and undeniably the forgotten beat of the chipmunk soul era.
4. Mos Def — “Ms. Fat Booty”
Album: Black on Both Sides (1999)
Sample: Aretha Franklin “One Step Ahead” (1965)
Ayatoolah—like Kanye— has been known to credit RZA for being the first to use sped-up soul samples, notably on Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Snakes” and Wu-Tang Clan’s “For Heaven’s Sake.” But it’s safe to argue that Ayatoolah was largely responsible for planting the seeds for chipmunk soul on “Ms. Fat Booty.” Countless others before him may have sampled Aretha Franklin, but he was the first to do it in a way that made her feel like a guest star on the song.
The opening vocals—lifted from her 1965 classic “One Step Ahead—set the stage for Mos Def’s first mainstream hit. In short, it amounts to pure ear candy, a soulful spin on the Queen of Soul herself, and the beginning of chipmunk soul as we know it.
3. The Game — “Wouldn’t Get Far”
Album: Doctor’s Advocate (2006)
Producer: Kanye West
Sample: Creative Source “I’d Find You Anywhere” (1976)
Just two years after The Alchemist sampled “I’d Find You Anywhere” on Jadakiss’ “By Your Side,” Kanye used virtually the same sample to make this beat for The Game. A bold move, sure, but not for Mr. West, whose production on the track sounds like he was trying to show up The Alchemist. Whether or not that was his intent, there’s no denying that Kanye’s interpretation of the Creative Source sample far exceeded The Alchemist’s rendition, with “Wouldn’t Get Far” built on a steady, high-pitched vocal loop that becomes a chant. Above all else, “Wouldn’t Get Far” made us forget about “By Your Side” entirely, which in turn demonstrated just how big the gap was between The Godfather of Chipmunk Soul and his imitators in the mid-’00s.
2. Twista — “Overnight Celebrity”
Album: Kamikazee (2004)
Producer: Kanye West
Sample: Lenny Williams “‘Cause I Love You” (1978)
“Slow Jamz” may be the greatest Kanye/Twista collaboration of all-time, but there’s no debating which Kanye beat in Twista’s catalog is king. In fact, it’s fair to argue that it’s Kanye’s preeminent chipmunk production, if not the best sped-up sample in the history of chipmunk soul. Unlike most of his beats, which are centered around a continuous vocal chop, here Kanye doesn’t stop fiddling with Lenny Williams’ “Cause I Love You,” sampling bits and pieces of the same portion of the ‘70s R&B hit repeatedly throughout the track. The opening strings are accompanied by high-pitched wailing, which bleeds into a convulsive loop of “girl, you know I,” glorious string work, and lush piano keys. The beat sounds as unstoppable now as it did fifteen years ago, only further driving one obvious point home: Kanye, the producer’s catalog during the first half of the ‘00s is as strong as any five-year stretch by a producer in hip-hop history.
1. Drake — “Tuscan Leather”
Album: Nothing Was the Same (2013)
Sample: Whitney Houston “I Have Nothing” (1992)
In the opening seconds, Whitney Houston’s ghostly vocals pour down from the heavens, signaling the return of chipmunk soul. Initially, the shock value is what made “Tuscan Leather” so special; the surprise that, now 10 years removed from their apex, the Heatmakerz were brought back to life by a producer who grew up in Toronto, 800 miles away from Harlem. Even more, 40’s ability to add his own spin to the Heatmakerz’ signature sound—without coming across as an impersonator—is fascinating; then again, what do you expect will happen when you reverse a Whitney Houston sample and flip it three times.
I’m still not sure what’s more impressive: a) Sampling one of the most iconic songs from the biggest female pop star of the ‘80s; b) chopping up and reversing the vocals; or c) flipping the sample three times. There’s no right or wrong answer. Together, they resulted in a beat that was nothing short of bedlam; bombastic production sure to make the Heatmakerz jealous. More than anything, though, the legacy of “Tuscan Leather” is that it sounded nostalgic and new at the same time. And that’s why it’s the greatest chipmunk soul beat since Roc-A-Fella’s heyday, and a welcome addition to the subgenre’s Greatest Hits catalog.