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 Follow him on Twitter at @ApolloBrown.