WhoSampled is awesome. Not only because the site's inherently a rap nerd's wet dream, but because they let me ask them insane questions and then they ACTUALLY RESEACH THE ANSWER! Hmmm...I wonder what producers have sampled the most? Answered. Can I get every song to ever use that "Hey?" sample ever? Why yes, yes you can.
So the other day I was thinking about how overlooked voice is when talking about rappers, probably because unlike lyricism, flow and delivery, for the most part you're born with a certain voice and that's the end of the story. Young Jeezy sounds like he gargles rocks so he sounds great on trap music; if everything else about him was the same but he had Chance the Rapper's voice, he'd be a flop.
And if voice is so important, I wonder whose voice has been sampled the most in hip-hop history? A few emails later and boom, here we are. Before we get to the results though, a few notes for those detail-oriented readers out there. (If you could care less about the fine print, feel free to skip ahead.)
- WhoSampled has a lot of samples in its database, like a shit ton, but not literally every sample from every song ever made ever. So yes, you're right, these numbers likely aren't literally exact. But the sample-size (pun intended) is so large it still does paint a pretty accurate picture of the landscape.
- Because this post is focused on voice, we're only measuring the number of times a rapper's actual voice was sampled. That's different than interpolation, when a rapper is essentially quoted. For example, Ariana Grande's "The Way" is an interpolation because it doesn't directly sample Big Pun's "Still Not a Player." Mac Miller is quoting Pun.
- Other factors besides "iconic" voice could influence how often a rapper is sampled. For example, because the a capella vocals for Jay Z' Black Album leaked his voice has undoubtedly been sampled more times than if they had never leaked.
There, now that we've got taking this way too seriously out of the way, let's get to the reason we're all here. Drum roll please...
Top Ten Most Sampled Voices
- Public Enemy - 1370 hip-hop vocal samples
- Run-DMC - 915 hip-hop vocal samples
- Eric B. & Rakim - 628 hip-hop vocal samples
- Doug E. Fresh - 586 hip-hop vocal samples
- Beastie Boys - 507 hip-hop vocal samples
- Big Daddy Kane - 426 hip-hop vocal samples
- Kurtis Blow - 423 hip-hop vocal samples
- N.W.A - 418 hip-hop vocal samples
- Nas - 413 hip-hop vocal samples
- The Notorious B.I.G. - 360 hip-hop vocal samples
Well damn then. It makes sense that Public Enemy is on top, Chuck's voice is legendary, but I don't know if I was expecting such a clear number one. It's PE in a landslide. Looks like he really is the figurative and literal voice of hip-hop. All praise due.
The great thing about seeing all of these results together is that you can really get a sense for how heavily it's tilted towards "old school" rappers. Again, that would seem to make sense. The longer you're around, the more likely you are to rack up samples, so that's likely why not a single rapper whose debut album dropped before 2000 is even in the top 20. The youngest buck would have to be Biggie, but that's only young in comparison. By the same token, I have to confess that I'm a little surprised to see Doug E. Fresh that high. Again, he's a legend and he's been around for decades, but seeing him that high is really making me appreciate his voice. Maybe all that beatboxing really helped his stats? (For those curious, Jay Z came in at number 15 with 293 samples of his voice.)
On a closing note, I was shocked to see someone named Beside at the top of this list when I first got it. Who's Beside? Exactly, I had no idea at first either. She was a French rapper who made a record in 1982 with Fab 5 Freddy, "Change the Beat," that became one of the most sampled songs of all-time, and by extension single-handedly turned her into one of the most sampled voices in hip-hop history. The more you know. Feel free to use that one at your next rap nerd trivia content.
So there you have it rap nerds, the most sampled voices in hip-hop history belong to Chuck D and Flava Flav. Another sample question answered - stay tuned for the most quoted (aka interpolated) rappers piece, coming soon.
UPDATE: As predicted, this article has brought the rap nerds out of the woodwork. Two notes from my conversations:
1) Doug E. Fresh's numbers overwhelmingly come from "La Di Da Di," and often the sample there is Slick Rick's vocals with Doug's beatboxing.
2) Similarily, while "Change the Beat" is Beside's track, most often it's Fab 5 Freddy's "Ah, that stuff is really fresh," vocals that are sampled, not her vocals.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. His Twitter is @RefinedHype.]