10 quintessential hip-hop and R&B songs that sampled jazz

Below are 10 hip-hop and R&B classics that sampled jazz

The Akai MPC 2000XL sampler, which was used to produce many hip-hop classics (Drew Spencer/Wikimedia)

“I Love Music” — Ahmad Jamal

This song was sampled by Pete Rock on “The World is Yours” by Nas off of his debut album Illmatic. The sample appears about 5 minutes into “I Love Music” and forms the basis of the melody on “The World is Yours.” This song is one of the standout songs on Illmatic, which is arguably one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Ahmad Jamal is an artist who has been sampled by Hip-hop producers time and time again, and will continue to be sampled.

“Young and Fine” — The Weather Report

This song was sampled for the song “Butter” by a Tribe Called Quest, off of their second studio album “The Low-End Theory.” This album is widely hailed as a staple of hip-hop music, and its producer Q-tip is regarded as one of the best hip-hop producers of all time. The sample appears at the beginning of the song and is used as the main loop by Q-tip on “Butter.” The band’s keyboardist, Joe Zawinul, has been sampled time and time again because of his use of the Rhodes electric piano.

“Clair” — The Singers Unlimited

The Singers Unlimited were a vocal quartet who recorded jazz standards acapella, harmonizing with each other to create beautiful chord voicings and melody lines. Their song “Clair” was sampled by J Dilla for the Slum Village song “Players.” J Dilla is regarded by many as the greatest producer of all time because of his virtuosic use of the Akai MPC 3000 sampler. This song uses a moment 2 minutes in where the quartet sings the word “Clair” as the basis for the loop, but Dilla slowed this part down and repeated the end to fit the drum beat he had created. “Players” isn’t a very well-known song for most people, but it showcases Dilla’s use of The Singers Unlimited better than any other song that he sampled them on.

“Saudade Vem Correndo” — Stan Getz and Luis Bonfà

This is another song which was sampled by the great J Dilla on the song “Runnin” by The Pharcyde. The song features a looped guitar part and a sax part from the Stan Getz song, layered with programed drums by J Dilla. This song is one of The Pharcyde’s big hits— it peaked at No. 55 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1995.

“Nardis” — Bill Evans

This song was sampled by Madlib on the song “Raid” for his collaboration with MF Doom entitled “Madvilliainy.” Bill Evans is one of the greatest Jazz pianists who is known for his minimalistic chord structures and his fusion of modern classical music and jazz— Debussy was a huge influence. Bill Evans is another artist that has been used by both J Dilla and Madlib for hit songs.

“We Almost Lost Detroit” — Gil Scott Heron

This song was sampled by J. Rawls on the song “Brown Skin Lady” by Black Star. Gil Scott Heron was a Jazz soul artist whose spoken word style over jazz instrumentals made him widely regarded as one of the godfathers of rap music. “Brown Skin Lady” uses a loop found at the beginning of the Gil Scott Heron song as the main loop for the song.

Ahmad Jamal— “Swahililand”

This song was sampled by De La Soul for their song “Stakes is High,” produced by none other than J Dilla. As stated before, Jamal has been sampled in many hip-hop songs, and was especially loved by the likes of Dilla and Madlib.

Tarika Blue — “Dreamflower”

A bass loop was sampled from this song for Erykah Badu’s “Didn’t Cha Know?” produced by J Dilla. Part of the reason why J Dilla is considered one of the greatest producers ever is because he produced for so many notable people in the early 2000s, and he had his hands in so many hits and classic records.

Roy Ayers — “Ain’t Got Time”

This song was sampled by J Dilla, for Black Star’s “Little Brother.” The way he sampled this song is arguably one of the most impressive demonstrations of sampling ever done. He took every part of the song where there wasn’t vocals and flipped it into a completely new song.

“Come Running to Me” — Herbie Hancock

J Dilla sampled this song for the Slum Village song “Get Dis Money.” It’s another classic J Dilla beat that appeared on Slum Village’s “Fantastic, Vol. 2”; the group is lesser known compared to legendary hip hop groups like Tribe Called Quest. But the beats Dilla made for these projects are among some of the best he ever made— sampling jazz on many of them.