While saying "I spent the day analyzing video game music!" probably won't fly when talking to that cute girl at the bar (unless it does, in which case bae her ASAP), here in rap nerd land, the idea gets our blood pumping. There is nothing like a perfectly flipped sample, but when that sample comes from Zelda or Mario Kart, there is just an extra dash of dopeness. We love samples. We love video games. We really love video game samples.
When Nathan broke down Drake's sampling of Donkey Kong, it made me moist in the nerd parts. Drake? Donkey Kong?! I guess video games are not just for backpackers anymore. Well, it got me and a few other loyal DJBooth readers, like Stephen, thinking, "I wonder how many other video game samples there are in hip hop?"
Good question Stephen, good question indeed. So of course we reached out to our friends at WhoSampled and they gave us a list of over 1,800 examples. Seriously, 1,800 - and they stressed that was probably only the tip of the iceberg. Turns out the answer to how many video game samples have found their way into songs is a shit ton, basically.
But we wouldn't be self-respecting rap nerds if we stopped there, so let's see what else we can unearth in our quest....
Wiz Khalifa Is The Video Game Sample King
I saw a few names that didn't surprise me in the least bit (Gambino and Charles Hamilton), but the name that appeared the most was none other than Wiz Khalifa. I get it, video games and weed go together like hip-hop and weed, so it's not a stretch to imagine Wiz up late, high as balls, trying to beat Dr. Robotnik. Still, I had no idea he was this video game driven. Here are all the video game flips Wiz has rapped over, and again, we might be missing a few.
"Schala's Theme" on "Never Been" (Prod. Sledgren):
"Secret Of The Forest" on "Never Been Pt 2" (Prod. Sledgren):
"Revenge Falling" sampled on "No Squares" (Prod. Futuristiks):
"Grape Garden"sampled on "One Way":
You may not like him, I know I don't, but Wiz is the king of video game flips. Give credit where credit is due.
Some Unexpected Video Game Samples:
While it's surprising to think of Wiz Khalifa as the video game king, I can't say it blew my mind; he's a less serious, weed-loving emcee so I can see the connection. But while we should have seen Wiz' love for video games coming, here are some that were completely unexpected for me:
- "Icon of Sin" sampled on Outkast's "Atliens"
- "Sanctuary (Ending)" sampled on French Montana's "Sanctuary"
- Final Fantasy VII "(Main Theme)" sampled on Danny Brown's "Lincoln Continental"
And my personal favorite...
ScHoolboy's example might be my personal favorite (the first time I hear that I freaked the fuck out trying to find out what it was), but these next two straight up shocked me. I would have never in a million years guessed these that these two record were video game samples.
Eternal Champions "Bad Ending" on Bone Thugs n' Harmony's "Crossroads" (original version)
Sonic 3 end credits sampled in Michael Jackson's "Stranger In Moscow":
Michael Jackson hopping on the video game sample train? Never in a million years would I have thought the King of Pop would be reaching into the realm of the video game. Am I the only one who was shocked?! Seriously, that shit is crazy to me.
Sample Based Songs From Video Games:
Now, this ain't a one way street. In fact, you are just as likely to see a song with a video game flip as a video game with a real-world flip. It's kind of cool when you think about it. I always assumed video game music was simple--synths and easy melodies--I didn't even think there was room for samples. Well, I was wrong, very wrong because even the Beatles have been flipped. The Beatles?! Nobody samples the Beatles! How cool is that? How cool are these?
"Jam" by Michael Jackson ft. Heavy D sampled on Sonic's Carnival Night Zone (Act 1) from Sonic
"Work That Sucker to Death" by Xavier feat. George Clinton and Bootsy Collins sampled on "Robotnik/Eggman's Theme" from Sonic
"Stone to the Bone"by James Brown sampled on "Robotniks Revenge" from Sonic
"Best of My Love" by The Emotions sampled on "Labyrinth Zone" from Sonic
"Lady Madonna" By The Beatles sampled on "Fever" from Dr. Mario
"Black or White" by Michael Jackson sampled on Azure Lake from Sonic
Damn, those Sonic composers were super creative. I've never really thought about the art of video game music, so it's cool to see them flipping the same stuff iconic hip-hop producers flip (James Brown). I wonder how clearance stuff works for them? Do you think they have to pay as much for a flip? I wonder what a placement check looks like? I may never know, but one thing I can say for sure is that Sonic has the best music of any video game series ever; James Brown and Michael Jackson?!? Someone hand those people Game Grammys. All of them.
We have internet connections, we know we're not the first people to ever write about video game samples in music. That's why I've tried to go into more uncharted sample territory instead of rehashing the examples we all already know. At the same time though, it feels a little weird not including...
- Cocoa Brovas "Super Brooklyn" (Super Mario Bros)
- Lil Flip "Game Over" (Ms. Pac Man)
- Eminem, Jay Black & Masta Ace "Hellbound" (Soul Calibur)
- Jay Z ft. DMX "Money, Cash, Hoes" (Golden Axe)
- Wax "Coins" (Luigi's Mansion)
- J. Cole "Dollar & A Dream III" (Kingdom Hearts II)
- Charles Hamilton "Where's My Fucking Genesis" (Sonic The Hedgehog 2/entire career)
- Lil Wayne ft. Drake "She Will" (Sword and Scorcery)
- Childish Gambino "Eat Your Vegetables" (Donkey Kong Country)
- Wale ft. Nipsey Hussle "Chun Li" (Street Fighter)
I wish I had some really awesome conclusion after all this rap nerdery, but I don't. I guess what you can take away is that sampling is everywhere. Music feels likes such an afterthought in video games, so when you really explore the element and see these composers using the same techniques that 9th and Dilla use, it gives them a certain credibility. I never realized how much really went into making music for Mario. I never realized that even Jay Z has used video game samples. I also never realized Wiz Khalifa was a video game guy. The more you know, I guess.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]