All Samples Cleared: The Importance & Rules Of Hip Hop Sampling

Apollo Brown lists his 20 favorite Hip Hop samples and runs down the significance and proper etiquette of sample-based production.

As a producer, I get asked a lot of questions about my tastes in music, from my favorite producers and emcees, to childhood influences on my own style of production. Aside from those inquiries though, I’m always asked about my favorite samples used in the Hip Hop game. I’ve always seemed to dodge around this question, mainly because it’s almost impossible to answer. There are so many classically sampled songs in this Hip Hop genre of music, that I could sit here for days and come up with shit. So, just for HipHopDX, I’m going to provide you with a short list of 20 of my favorites sampled songs. All of these are fairly well-known to fans of Hip Hop production. Whether you agree with me or not, enjoy these songs as a whole, just as they were intended.

The Producers Code Of Not Revealing Samples

There’s kind of a producer’s code where you don’t put people out there for samples that they’ve used and what they’ve used them on…that’s kind of a no-no. I’m not trying to get a bunch of my peers mad at me. It’s not really the producers themselves. It’s the fanatics that are trying to look for every song and every sample. I can respect that, and it’s fun. It’s fun to listen to a record and come across a song that makes you go, “Oh, shit! That’s what he used.” Even as a producer, I love finding samples, man. I love coming across shit, seeing how someone else flipped it, and going, “Okay, that’s nice.” But you’ve got these fanatics that want to out them, and they’re not even getting anything from it.

The Experience Of Crate Digging

There are a lot of producers out here that don’t dig; they’ve never even played a record—which is fine. Digging is not for everybody. I consider myself a digger, but I’m not a collector. I dig a lot, but if I don’t like the record, I bring it back to the store and get credit for it. I only keep about 10 crates of records at one time. I’m not a collector, and all the stuff in those 10 crates are things that I keep, because I actually like the record. I think it’s important to get that experience and get your fingers dirty…to walk out of a record store and the whole front of your shirt is dusty from leaning against old records the whole time.

To take that record out, look at it, dust it off, then throw it on the turntable—when you hear that crackle—it’s an experience. When you listen to that song, and all of a sudden, a certain note hits you, it’s like, “Awww, man!” You start recording that boy in, then you’re working on drums, and you start chopping that sample up. It’s a rush, man. And it’s a rush that I think a lot of beatmakers don’t get.

I talked with DX to provide notes on a few of these joints. Here are my 20 favorites, in no particular order:

Apollo Brown’s Top 20 Hip Hop Samples

Janko Nilovic - In The Space
That Janko Nilovic? Right away, that’s one of those joints that I wish I produced. I wish I found that sample first. All you can do is praise that producer and listen to the song like, “Damn!” That song is amazing.

Ecstacy, Passion, & Pain - “Born To Lose You”
What grabs me first, obviously is the beginning. Right when it starts [hums melody]…man, that…awww! When I first heard the Hip Hop song that sampled it, it was my favorite song on that album. Aside from the beginning, it’s just a good song to listen to the whole way through.

10cc - “Im Not In Love”
A lot of people didn’t know that was the sample that it is. If you listed to it, kind of in the middle…

Tower Of Power - “Sparkling In The Sand”
I’m 32, so some of these cats might not know what that sample is. It was an amazing song for Hip Hop.

The Eleventh Hour - “Nasty”

There’s samples that jump right out at you, right away. Boom!

Little Boy Blues - “Seed Of Love”
That jumps right out at you too, like, “Damn.”

The Thrill Of The Sample Hunt

A lot of times, you have to listen to every second, because we know that a lot of these old songs from the ‘60s and ‘70s change up. You can listen to the first 10 seconds, and it’s totally different between the first minute and the second minute. And then it switches up again between minute three and minute three-point-five. And then it switches up again at the end to a totally different song. So through the whole process, you gotta listen to the whole song. And it kind of tells people, “Yo, this is what we do. We don’t just listen to the beginning.” No, you’ve got to listen to a whole song. I want you to listen to the whole song, hear what we hear, and you can find that sample. Some are easy to find, and some are hard to find. Instead of running down every song, I’m going to let you do the proper research and listen close to every second of what makes these sampled songs so amazing to me.

Ann Peebles - “Troubles, Heartaches, And Sadness”

Rubba - “Way Star”

Donald Byrd - “Wind Parade”

J. J. Band - “Changing Face”

Jack Bruce - “Born To Be Blue”

Switch - “Honey, I Love You”

Jean Plum - “I Love Him”

Gap Mangione - “Diana In The Autumn Wind”

Billy Cobham - “Heather”

C.A. Quintet - “Trip Thru Hell”

Evelyn “Champagne" King - “The Show Is Over”

McCoy Tyner - “Folks”

The Sweet Inspirations - “You Roam When You Don't Get It At Home”

Jerry Butler - “Whatever Goes Around”

The Soul Of Sampling

As a sampling producer, what I’m doing is praising your art and complimenting you by saying, “Your song is so dope, that I want to sample it and turn it into some modern-day Hip Hop.” There’s a lot of artists that kind of go with it. They go, “Yo, I wasn’t even relevant in the ‘70s, but now you’re making me relevant in the 2000s.” This song was mediocre in the ‘70s even then. But now, we just sampled it, and made it into a banger. And people are now checking for that artist like, “Yo, I wanna buy his whole album. I want to hear that.” We’re helping people out. It’s a catch-22 without a doubt. But it’s something that I do, I appreciate it, and I enjoy it. Taking an old joint and recreating a whole new melody with feeling and soul—it’s nothing like it. I’m not a keyboard producer, and I’ll never be one. I’ll quit before I become a keyboard producer. I could do that if I wanted to, but there’s no soul or feeling in that. That’s why I do what I do.

Apollo Brown is a Detroit, Michigan-based producer for Mello Music Group. His previous credits include work with OC, Ghostface Killah, The Left, Onyx, Chino XL, D12, Danny Brown, Wordsworth, Guilty Simpson and many more. His most recent project,“Ugly Heroes” with Red Pill and Verbal Kent is available for purchase now via iTunes and via Amazon.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ApolloBrown.

46 Comments

  • Hip Hop Samplez

    Good read. We need more articles about hip hop production and less drama and gossip!

  • Hiphopmaniac

    Great point made here in the article, I've red it with joy check up samples at: http://www.samplepacks.info

  • sonia sudak

    Is it "kosher" to sample original music from a YouTube in a Hip Hop song?DANIEL ABRAMS "Chaconne on Dido's Lament" is becoming the newest classical crossover piece. The comments are great "hauntingly beautiful" "Abrams' music is f..king magical" Not just another transcription but original variations based on the first 9 notes of the bass line of Henry Purcell's "Lament" from "Dido & Aeneas" -- and written in the style of Purcell. Daniel Abrams' music was recently sampled in the new hip-hop album "Red Light Juliet" by Weerd Science, in the "song" "Nightmares For A..ever". It is turning many rap fans onto opera. And who knows what they might listen to next!! Daniel Abrams' "Chaconne on the Lament from Dido & Aeneas" on YouTube, Vimeo, iTunes and Amazon. Listen to it quietly -- and I promise a memorable musical experience. As for the rap piece.........Would love your opinion. Sonia Sudak http://youtu.be/OMuXIEBJrGY (Nightmares For A...ever) http://youtu.be/yxGL6jGnLgE (Purcell) Daniel Abrams, Classical Pianist www.daniel-abrams.com Daniel Abrams, Classical Pianist daniel-abrams.com

  • Chleflo

    Apollo Brown is a good beat maker, but his sound is a bit dated :/ I would love to hear some progressive sounds from this guy. I've only heard a couple beats that I actually liked.

    • Anonymous

      "he's a good beat maker but I only like a couple beats" proof read your writing much

    • Make1

      Lol, I have to agree with the Anon dude who said "WHATEVER the **** that means." "Dated"??? well he is using dope samples from the 60's, 70's so I guess you're correct.....???

    • Anonymous

      WHATEVER the fuck that means. progressive? like... laser sounds and air horns like the rest of this faggot shit getting labeled as "hip hop" music in 2013? no thanks. keep killing apollo you are the man right now.

  • Make1

    Daskizzy, Just wanted to reply 1 more time to your initial posting. I took down the list of artist's and song's Apollo Brown has suggested in the section titled "The Thrill Of The Sample Hunt" and let me tell you, lol 4 hours and I was only successful with 1 album find in a large record store. So again, I respect your opinion but I think it comes off as a bitter critic's point of view.

  • Jimi

    Apollo makes everything he does sound so smooth and simple, but if you listen it's amazing - his chops are soooooo clean. His drums are layered to perfection. His mixes are ill. And the biggest thing for me is he brings the best out of every mc he works with. That's a true producer. That's why OC fux wid em. That's why Ghostface fux wid em. And that's why he can make regular cats like Ugly Heroes sound so good. As for these super nerds who think a sample is only valid if it's from Chile on limited edition 1 of 24 45 and never been flipped - that's wack. Part of the appeal of samples for me is the nostaglia they bring - they remind me of the other joints that have used them and invite comparison. Apollo is a master of folding all that history into his tracks, so it moves me. In the top 5 producers today.

  • Amy A. Brinkley

    my buddy's half-sister makes $82 hourly on the computer. She has been fired for 10 months but last month her income was $19524 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here... buzz54.com

  • BlueNote

    Yeah, Apollo Brown uses mad samples that people know. Not only that, then the muthafucker goes and reuses the same beats on multiple albums...fuck outta here. His sound got real boring real quick too.

  • Daskizzy

    I'm not a fan of Apollo. Mostly cause most of his beats are samples that were used before. Not only used before, but his versions come off as wack amateur remakes in comparison. Also, his chopping game is weak. He ruins the samples he uses. I don't know how many times I've listened to an Apollo beat and just been like damn this dude just ruined the flow of this song with his wack fucking ear for shit. This dude would get his nuts twisted by kids who learned how to make beats a few months ago on shit like future producers. He's definitely the last guy you need to get talking about rules of hip hop sampling. In fact someone needs to teach him the shit cause he still ain't learned. Get Large Pro or Pete Rock to break this shit down next time.

    • Anonymous

      i almost think him using played samples is one of his signatures. for example i just heard him flip the joint that was flipped for killah priest b.i.b.l.e. on his new ugly heroes album on "gods day off". i dont for one second think apollo brown expected HIS fanbase, not to catch that. but it came out fucking dope. and it made me think of that classic record. and i was bobbing my head to the new shit. thats dope. i heard him reflip a ton of shit, ive also heard him come with insane floaty soul crack thats FRESH. everyone is entitled to their opinion but i can almsot guarantee homie above thinks he can hook up hotter beats than apollo brown. this nigga just blessed o.c. with his best album in like 15 YEARS man. i doubt it.

    • Make1

      Although I respect your choice of opinion, I would be insane not to say..."Daskizzy" you are tripping. Apollo Brown does use some samples flipped by producers prior to him. but his sampling choice and his chop's are pristine. his drums knock hard, he is a good producer in my humble opinion. But to compare an Apollo Brown to an Pete Rock or an Large Pro is like comparing Lebron to Jordan, Apollo & Pete and Large although all are still producing (if I am not mistaken) are still from different eras and can not be fairly compared. I don't want to do any name calling but you come off as a bitter critic for some reason. again, I respect your opinion but I personal feel you are wrong.

    • Anonymous

      Hes in a position of power(mellowmusicgroup), that differentiates him from the average future producer forum user. Sometimes money and marketing overshadow skill.

  • Anonymous

    I'VE CROSSED THE LINE

  • Anonymous

    I CAN CARRY IT NOW

  • Anonymous

    yo apollo straight up man you keeping me around in hip hop. im so sick of this shit and these retard little kids running around talking dumb shit. ima grown man with responsibility and your music speaks to ppl like me. soul cracks big drums and feeling. thank god theres still actual artists in this genre. few and far between. cant wait to see who A BROWN works with next.

  • khordkutta

    when i heard that 10cc joint i was like oh ish, i remember this song when i was a shorty i dug this song, but then i heard the sample i was ohhhh shit.

  • ThaKritic

    I fux with this article although that comment about keyboard producers was a lil lame.. Just cause u ridin' witta 6 shooter n deadly wit it dont mean i wont buss ya head off witta brand new berrettaa. Choose your weapon and use it wisley. A good beat isa good beat. keyboard or not. I have fun with both mpc's and keyboards doe. Fuck wit me!

    • WILL

      Real shit bruh! Like you say, a good beat is a good beat. you can make dope shit on a keyboard just like you can make dope shit with a sample or mpc. I use both but sometimes when you come up with some dope shit on the keyboard it feels better and you get more of a rush because you know that shit is original..those sounds or that loop have never been used before. and somebody might be sampling your shit 20 or 30 years from now who knows. the part that baffles me was "I could do that if I wanted to, but theres no soul or feeling in that". i couldn't disagree more.

  • Anonymous

    I like finding samples that were used. It gives you an idea of what the producer who originally found it was thinking at the time he used it. Also helps you find hidden gems that haven't been used better. Dope article!

  • Anonymous

    Shadowboxin' - GZA... In The Late Night - 2Pac... Bucktown - Smif-N-Wessun... Good Day - Ice Cube... Just to name a few... There's some classics in the samples.

  • Mr Brown

    Apollo Brown you are the man. Keep blessing your fans with great production. Stay up and continued success my brother!

  • Anonymous

    the brown tape was fire cant believe he got to work with ghostface every beat was fire eazy one of my favorite producers

  • daehtunulb

    great post! very insightful and true. although i do feel there is just as much soul and feeling in sampling vinyl as there is in taking the love and feeling you hear/feel in your vinyl and expressing it in your own way via keyboard production. much love, respect and thanks for dropping the wisdom! -daeht

  • Anonymous

    Love articles like this

  • Anonymous

    this is a great read. i'm a big fan of apollo brown production. can't say if i agree that "keyboard production has no soul" though. it all depends on how you lace that shit.

  • ROUGH H

    I agree with all what he said except " Im not a keyboard producer, and Ill never be one. Ill quit before I become a keyboard producer. I could do that if I wanted to, but theres no soul or feeling in that. Thats why I do what I do " Actually I'm a producer too .. and to sample is more easier than making your original melodies. and it takes a lot of experience and a huge inspiration to get a good melodie into a beat.

    • Alice

      Same sentiment here. A pretty disrespectful generalization towards keyboard producers, in my opinion.

  • Gotti

    What Apollo said under the The Soul Of Sampling headline is kinda excuse to get rid of the idea of stealing. If it's not, I'm free to say, "dude,I downloaded ur album and when I play it, people asked me then want to buy your album." Is that fair because I help you out? Could this be an excuse for what I did? Let's face it Apollo!

  • dragon

    I don't remember the name of the track exactly but Janko was used by jay z as I remember. Ecstacy was used one of mobb deep track.

    • S-Matik The Oracle

      DOA and The Realest... respectively! I know because i came across both of those a long while back, just E-Digging for samples to use! Janko's albums are ill, it's overseas soul/funk music in my opinion... i mean from the drum breaks, to the melodies, you can tell his sound was heavily influenced by the 70's soul, disco, funk era that was going on here in the states!!! i'm not a big fan of disco though so i really never got into Ecstasy, Passion, and Pains music... but hey a samples, a sample! Alot of albums will have just one song/sample section you'll be adamant about flipping, it's all makers-choice!!!

  • BLACKWATER LLC

    Dope TUTORIAL for you meat head niggas out there making up rules as you go along...follow the code or get lost! Must be why theres not alot of comments today lol! Cop that new ugly heros, and peep that ghostface 12 ways to die brown tape... shit is hard white...

  • SDK

    THE RESET TROPHIES DICE GAME THE BROWN TAPE DAILY BREAD GO LISTEN

  • @MotelEola1st

    Apollo Brown production wreaks of his own grown style through and through, from the thumping drums to incredible samples. A credit to Hip Hop.

  • Anonymous

    apollo brown better producer than j.cole

  • Anonymous

    his sampling is what made trophies so good