While some songs have been sampled so many times that you're more accustomed to hearing elements of them on other people's records than you are the original tracks, others seem less likely candidates to be have breaks, vocals and hooks lifted from them.
However, sample-happy hip-hop and dance music producers have shown over the years that no record, movie or TV/radio broadcast is off limits, resulting in some rather obscure lifts on all kinds of records.
Evidence of this is provided below, as we countdown what might just be the ten most unlikely sample sources of all time.
Congo Natty samples Aled Jones
Michael West - AKA Congo Natty and a whole other host of pseudonyms - is one of dance music’s unsung heroes. After taking British hip-hop into the charts in the late '80s as Rebel MC, he made a slew of influential hardcore rave records that would be instrumental in the development of the emerging jungle sound.
One of them was X-Project’s Walking in the Air, which juxtaposes Cutty Ranks’ rudeboy ragga chat with the angelic vocals of everyone’s favourite prepubescent schoolboy: Aled Jones. The result is a track that perfectly encapsulates the “anything goes” atmosphere of the early '90s, and makes a great Christmas record for the discerning raver.
Nas samples Toto
Hip-hop has a long tradition of recycling obscure album tracks and B-sides into exciting new music, but crate digging was the last thing on the mind of producer L.E.S. when he replayed the ubiquitous pop rock classic Africa, by Toto, for Nas’s Nastradamus LP.
Hardly one of the native New Yorker’s finer moments, New World is a surreal luddite Y2K paranoia fantasy that reveals that the rapper has both a terrible diet and difficulty distinguishing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory from real life: “Say goodbye to the toasters and Pop-Tarts / Yo, it's real / Swallow a little pill, there's a four-course meal”.
Burial samples Metal Gear Solid 2
The enigmatic overlord of atmospheric dubstep, Burial is in a league of his own when it comes to creating the soundtrack to 21st century urban alienation.
To call him good at sampling is something of an understatement: not only does his classic Archangel (opens in new tab) twist RnB sex enthusiast Ray J’s crooning vocals into eerie, alien melodies, but it also throws Harry Gregson-Williams’ Opening Infiltration from the score to Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty into the mix without skipping a beat. The tea-loving Londoner even slips some Beyoncé into Untrue’s titular track, albeit with a software-assisted gender reassignment along the way.
J Dilla samples Singers Unlimited
Since his untimely demise in 2006, J Dilla has become something of a metaphor for the lost art of sampling. A man of eclectic taste, his MPC was fed everything from Giorgio Moroder to Queen, but it's the Slum Village track Players that contains the oddest sample of all.
The Singers Unlimited’s Clair (opens in new tab) is the source and, unless we’re missing something, the jaunty love song appears to be about a babysitter who has fallen in love with his underage niece and supplies her with alcohol. (opens in new tab)
Essence of Aura sample Disney's Cinderella
Dons of intelligent DnB, Essence of Aura were one of the many acts producing forward-thinking ambient jungle for the UK’s legendary Moving Shadow label during the mid-'90s. However, they were the only one to use a sample from a classic Disney movie in their work.
Their Amen Brother-based breakbeat workout So This Is Love takes the vocal from the song of the same name from Cinderella. However, it’s entirely possible Essence of Aura had no idea of the original source of the sample, as it’s likely a second-generation sample via Mental Cube’s identically-titled rave banger (opens in new tab).
Tech N9ne samples Falco
Independent hip-hop darling Tech N9ne definitely has some interesting samples up his sleeve, as demonstrated by the vintage cartoon-sampling He’s a Mental Giant. However, his finest/most ridiculous moment must be 2002’s I’m a Playa (opens in new tab), a replayed recreation of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus that's so faithful that it even includes a version of the original timeline introduction.
Unbelievably, the adaptation of “Amadeus, Amadeus” to “I’m a Playa, I’m a Playa” isn’t even the track’s highlight, thanks to featured rapper Calico dropping what may be the best internal rhyme of all time in the form of “I’m in hot pursuit of a prostitute”.
Nero sample Steve Reich
Before they became world-straddling dubstep superstars, Nero were big in the DnB game, and released some great records. These included their 2008 slammer Solid Air, which samples minimalist composer Steve Reich and the Kronos Quartet’s Different Trains : After the War (Movement 3).
It seems the pair were heavily into Reich at the time, as the intro to the flipside Choices is rather similar to Steve Reich feat. Pat Metheny’s Electric Counterpoint - Fast (Movement I), which was also sampled by The Orb for Little Fluffy Clouds (opens in new tab).
Remarc samples Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone
Another original junglist with a fondness for strange sample sources is Remarc. The title track from the Ricky EP featuring Lewi Cifer famously samples gangsta classic Boyz n the Hood to unsettling effect, and Cape Fear strikes a similarly sinister tone with its oppressive horn samples and screams from the film of the same name.
However, on Sceptic the mood is lightened somewhat, with Macaulay Culkin’s character Kevin McCallister from family favourite Home Alone warning the listener that “This is it! Don’t get scared now”. Remarc isn’t just a great producer - he's clearly got a formidably eclectic VHS library to boot.
The Prodigy sample The Shamen
1992 saw the release of the Prodigy’s debut album Experience, a sampled-packed affair that borrowed from psychedelic rockers The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, UK hip-hoppers Hijack, and reggae stalwarts Aswad. It’s Out of Space that had the biggest sampled hooks, of course: Max Romeo’s Chase the Devil and Ultramagnetic MCs’ Critical Beatdown (opens in new tab).
Less well-known is that the track’s break is sampled from the Meat Beat Manifesto remix of The Shamen’s slow jam Hyperreal (opens in new tab) from their 1990 album En-Tact. By this point, Mr C, Colin and co had released the chart smash Ebeneezer Goode, and were about as far from underground as it was possible to get.
A Guy Called Gerald samples Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
There can be no doubt that A Guy Called Gerald’s Voodoo Ray (opens in new tab), from 1988, is one of the most important dance tunes of all time, and helped forge a blueprint for the nascent UK house sound.
The vocal snippets in the track are sampled from Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s comedy album Derek and Clive (Live), specifically the sketch Bo Duddley (opens in new tab)(NSFW) which satirises upper-class ignorance and racism in a manner that seems shocking to modern ears, complete with liberal use of racial slurs.
One part describes a Harlem woman flying into a “voodoo rage”, which Gerald truncated to just “voodoo ray”, and the rest is history.