Blood, Sugar, Sample Magic: The Hip-Hop History of the Red Hot Chili Peppers


Long before I was writing on the internet - long before the internet really was even a thing - I was a Red Hot Chili Peppers fanatic. Californication is, far and away, one of the most important albums in my life. I have vivid memories of listening to that album on the bus, in the hospital undergoing tests, parties and just about everywhere else. Before I had College Dropout, I had Californication. The Rick Rubin-produced album is essential to my genetic makeup, but it's not their only album. I started collecting albums like stamps: Blood Sugar Sex Magik (the funk, oh the funk), Mother's Milk, By The Way, you name it, I had it. It's why I currently have 38 albums and 407 Red Hot Chili Peppers songs in my library; to put that into perspective I only have 247 Kanye songs. I guess that's what happens when you've been making music since 1984.

Wait, 1984?! Hold up! Thirty years?!? You would be hard pressed to find a band with a longer, more successful career than the Chili Peppers. I mean, sure, there are The Rolling Stones, but the Chili Peppers are a modern band. They have progressed so far and have so many different styles yet still manage to make every sound their own. Plus, Flea is simply the best bassist ever. In short, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are the greatest.

So yes, long before I even knew what a sample was, I was a Chili Peppers fan, but now that I definitely know what a sample is (and am kind of obsessed with them) I thought it might be fun to take a look at the where, when, why, and how of the Red Hot Chili Peppers sample history. They've got a lot more hip-hop ties than you probably realize. 

The Numbers (via WhoSampled):

  • Total number of samples: 62
  • Samples Used By RHCP: 21
  • First: 1985
  • Most Popular: "Give It Away" (sampled 18 times)

The Samples:

Okay, let's get this one out of the way early. It's without a doubt the most popular RHCP flip, but it's definitely not my favorite. On "Otherside" Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sampled, you guessed it, "Otherside."

A lot of people love this one, but for me it just doesn't work. I would have loved to hear it sampled with a little more artistry in the beginning; it's essentially Macklemore rapping over the original. It gets cool for a minute there with the strings - the interpolation really helped - but in the end it feels flat. Plus, "Under The Bridge" is a much better song to sample for a song about addiction. I know samples don't often reflect the content or topic, but here an "Under The Bridge" flip would have made a lot more sense and made it a more complete effort.

If you want a better flip of "Otherside" I recommend Rockie Fresh's "Otherside." It's almost as unimaginative, but it has a little more bounce to it.

Also, what is it about this song that makes rappers use the original title as their title? How many other songs are named off the sample? That's an investigation for a later  time....

While "Under The Bridge" would have been a better sample for Mack, he wouldn't have been the first to flip the classic. In fact, "Under The Bridge" has been sampled 16 times! 16 is a lot, but when I hear the words "sample" and "Under the Bridge," only one song comes to mind - Mos Def's "Brooklyn."

The first time I heard that I had an orgasm. Coming from a rock background, it was amazing to find out that rappers also fucked with bands that I love. It blew my mind to hear a rapper quoting my favorite band and it let me know it was OK to like both hip-hop and rock. Now, while Mos doesn't really sample the song for beat purposes, these next few cats certainly do.

These are great, especially K. Flay's, but the most creative, best sounding flippidy flip belongs to Da Brat. Yes. Da Brat.

With more flips than a dolphin show, you might think that "Under The Bridge" is the most sampled Chili Pepz song of all time. Wrong! You are forgetting about arguably their most infamous cut, "Give It Away." That baby has been sampled 18 times!



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Though it's sampled the most, "Give It Away," specifically that memorable chorus, is often sampled in a completely different way. We often think of sampling as a beat or a chopped vocal, but lyrics can be sampled too and the chorus from "Give It Away" has been requoted by many an emcee, including:

I love Busta's version; he gives Anthony Kedis a run for his money. Also, this isn't the first time Busta has crossed paths with the Chili Peppers. He also appeared on Benzino's "The Franklinz," which is a flip of "Mellowship Slinky in B Major." Apparently, Busta is a serious Red Hot Chili Peppers fan. Who knew?

Also, random question, but how does quote-sampling work in terms of clearance and licensing? Like Kriss Kross didn't have to pay them as though this was a normal sample, right? Nathan?

[Note from Nathan: Very long story very short, it works in much the same way. For example, Mac Miller originally said "I'm not a player I just crush a lot" on Ariana Grande's "The Way," but they couldn't clear that, so the final version only has, "I'm not a player I just..." which Universal argued wasn't enough use to justify them having to clear it. It's also why Mac covers his mouth at that exact part of the video, as an insider-reference to not being able to say the whole line. That might be my favorite random music industry story ever. Anyway, continue on Lucas....]

Personally, though, my favorite is this one.

Why yes, that is UGK quoting RHCP. How nice of you to notice. Personally, it's a little crazy to me. It's the culmination, the pinnacle, the ultimate convergence of my love for  Red Hot Chili Peppers and my love for hip-hop. Here we have one of the coolest emcees ever quoting my favorite band ever; the group I essentially grew up on. I was a late bloomer when it came to rap, but now I feel as though it's come full circle. It can't get any better than this, but that doesn't mean there aren't still Red Hot stones left unturned, like "Californication" on Dead Prez' "When Mama Cries" or "By the Way" on Eligh's "When I'm A Dad."

Or, how about Del Tha Funkee Homosapien flipping "Freaky Styley" on  his 1991 cut "What Is a Booty."

How could this be a Chili Peppers sample discussion with out the very first RHCP flip ever? Knowing both artists very well, I feel as though Del really would have gotten along with them; like he could be the lost member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He could be their Cappadonna.

Oh, and that reminds me - Ice Cube. Not only did he co-produce that Del track, but he rapped over a "Sir Psycho Sexy" flip on "U Ain't Gonna Take My Life."

I think exposing Ice Cube's Red Hot Chili Peppers fetish is a great place to stop our investigation. It's exactly why we do this, finding the shit nobody even thought to care about in the first place. Still, while that about covers it in terms of rap and RHCP, there are a few more samples that simply must be made public knowledge.

Silly me, I've spent so much time talking about flips of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, I nearly forgot about flips by the Red Hot Chili Peppers:

Also, it's not a sample per se, but I would be remiss if I didn't make it known that Flea did the voice of Donnie on The Wild Thronberrys.

Well, there you have it, from Ice Cube to a Nickelodeon show, I think that about covers all the Red Hot Chili Peppers information a rap nerd can handle. I'm not sure how the hip-hop community feels about the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but in the off-chance you really don't know much about them, I highly suggest going back and doing your homework. You may think of them as these old, alt-rock guys, but way back in the day, they had some serious funk/soul stuff going on and I think hip-hop heads would really enjoy it.

I never thought the day would come when I get to write about rap and the Chili Peppers, but that day is here. It's further proof why hip-hop is the greatest.

[When not writing for DJBooth.net Lucas Garrison can be found eating Chipotle or listening to “College Dropout". You can tweet him your burrito order @LucasDJBooth.]



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