The Hip-Hop Effect: 20 R&B Songs Sampling Rap Beats and Lyrics
During the late ’80s and early parts of the ’90s, R&B was dominated by the new jack swing era, with artists such as Janet Jackson, New Edition and Boyz II Men being some of the subgenre’s most successful acts. Those were good times up until a young chick from Yonkers rose up to the ranks to change the game. With combat boots, baggy jeans and a baseball cap, Mary J. Blige brought a rougher, grittier look than any other R&B artist at the time, causing her to stand out.
Diddy — who was only 19 back at the time — executive produced her first album, What’s the 411? and made sure her sound reflected soulful vocals with a hip-hop edge. “You Remind Me” her first single, eventually reached the top spot on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Charts, solidifying a shift in R&B for good. When her debut LP was finally released July 28, 1992, it topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Album charts and also landed at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
That magic Mary J. created 20 years ago ushered in something new for R&B — edgier, hip-hop-influenced beats replaced the funky, poppy sounds of the early new jack swing days. R&B acts that followed such as Destiny’s Child, Aaliyah and Usher borrowed the sound in their music as well. Two decades later, this style still remains. The BoomBox compiled a list of 20 R&B songs post-What’s The 411? that sample beats and lyrics from hip-hop, similar to the way the Queen of Hip-Hop soul did back in ’92.
This classic party song by Los Angeles native Montell Jordan was the first single off his debut album by the same name. The upbeat jam became an international hit and peaked at No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Billboard R&B Charts, spending several weeks at the top spot. “This Is How We Do It” samples two classic hip-hop anthems: “Children’s Story” by Slick Rick and “C.R.E.A.M.” by the Wu-Tang Clan. Jordan co-wrote and co-produced the song with Oji Pierce.
As a new kid on the block, Monica was able to hit the concrete hard with “Don’t Take It Personal (Just One of Dem Days),” the first single from her debut album, Miss Thang. The song rose to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and nestled her spot in R&B for good. Funnily enough, this ladies anthem was written by men, including songwriter and producer Dallas Austin, who created the beat using LL Cool J‘s “Back Seat (of My Jeep).”
“Touch Me, Tease Me” was Case‘s first hit single featuring raptress Foxy Brown and Mary J. Blige. Featured on his self-titled debut album and also the “Nutty Professor” soundtrack, the song was top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and peaked at No. 4 on the R&B charts. The ringing percussion featured on the track comes courtesy of Schoolly D‘s “P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?),” released in 1985. The record was produced by Kenny “Smoove” Kornegay.
By the time Mariah Carey released “Honey,” she was already a pop star with Grammys and No. 1 singles under her belt. But “Honey” took Mariah’s more softer image and propelled her further into the hip-hop and R&B world. Written and produced by an-all star cast of songwriters and producers, including Diddy and Q-Tip, the song features two samples from “Hey DJ” by the World’s Famous Supreme Team and “The Body Rock” by The Treacherous Three.
Originally, this beat was meant for rapper Canibus to lay his rhymes over. However, DJ Premier handed the “Devil’s Pie” track over to D’Angelo, when ‘Bus rejected it. The song, which is also featured on the “Belly” soundtrack, was a promotional single for D’Angelo’s sophomore album, Voodoo. The instrumental has a combination of several hip-hop samples including “Success” by Fat Joe, “Interlude” by Raekwon, “Fakin Jax” by INI and “Big Daddy Anthem” by Natruel.
6. Lauryn Hill, “Ex-Factor” (1998)
The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill album was groundbreaking as it won the talented Lauryn Hill five Grammy Awards. “Ex Factor,” the third single from the project, reached No. 7 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. Lauryn wrote and produced the pain-centered song about unrequited love using elements from “Can It Be So Simple?” by the Wu-Tang Clan as its backdrop.
This Grammy-nominated song by Aaliyah, off the “Romeo Must Die” soundtrack was produced by Timbaland. On the effort, the producer rhymes Erik B. and Rakim‘s opening verse from “I Know You Got Soul.” The song by the late singer eventually topped the Billboard Hot 100.
Mya‘s original song, “The Best of Me,” featuring rapper Jadakiss, off her sophomore album, Fear of Flying, reached the top 40 on the Billboard charts. “Part 2″ was not as popular as far as airplay but it did receive an upgrade with a verse from Jay-Z and a beat by the Trackmasters. “The Best of Me Part 2″ features a sample from “Make the Music With Your Mouth” by Biz Markie.
Philadelphia native Musiq Soulchild debuted his first album, Aijuswanaseing, in 2000. For one of the project’s songs, he borrowed from fellow Philly-bred hip-hop band the Roots. Musiq produced “L’ Is Gone” by sampling the bass line from the Roots’ “The Next Movement,” off their Things Fall Apart album.
Produced by Jermaine Dupri, “Girlfriend,” by Alicia Keys, features an interpolation of a sample from Ol’ Dirty Bastard‘s popular rap hit “Brooklyn Zoo.” The single off of Keys’ debut album, Songs in A Minor, charted low on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop charts due to moderate airplay.
These two former Bad Boy recording stars appeared on this duet produced by Mario Winans and Diddy. “Can’t Believe” was featured on Faith Evan‘s third album, Faithfully, and has a sample throughout the song from “Phone Tap,” a song by The Firm — Nas, AZ and Nature — which also featured Dr. Dre.
Ashanti‘s first single from her self-titled debut album was one of the most popular songs in 2002, reaching No. 1 on several charts internationally including the Billboard Hot 100. Perhaps its global appeal came because not only was a Notorious B.I.G. sample used with the “One More Chance (Remix)” but also the original jam that started it all, “Stay With Me” by DeBarge. The song was masterminded by Irv Gotti.
Crooner Mario came on the scene as a teenage sweetheart singing about a love he couldn’t have. For this track, producers Warryn “Baby Dubb” Campbell looked to the hip-hop classic “Just a Friend” by rapper Biz Markie. The Baltimore native did the updated version justice and it became a top 10 single in the summer of 2002. The song still remains one of Mario’s biggest hits to date.
On “Love of My Life,” Erykah Badu personifies her love for hip-hop with rapper Common. The track, featured on the “Brown Sugar” soundtrack, won a Grammy for Best R&B song in 2003, and was nominated for several other accolades. Singer Raphael Saddiq produced the record, directly sampling Afrika Bambataa and Soul Sonic Force‘s “Planet Rock,” released in 1982.
“Yeah!” was Usher‘s first single from his best-selling album to date, Confessions. The song itself was a game-changer for the singer, who popularized crooning over crunk hip-hop style beats native to his hometown of Atlanta. The track featured Ludacris and its producer Lil Jon, who uses one of his own songs, “Get Low,” featuring the Eastside Boyz and the Ying Yang Twins, as a sample for the record.
15. Lloyd, “Hey Young Girl” (August 2004)
In 2004, legendary R&B producer Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins used Slick Rick’s “Hey Young World” to create Lloyd‘s “Hey Young Girl.” The second single from Lloyd’s debut album, Southside, snags the melody and essence of the classic hip-hop record.
16. Keyshia Cole, “I’ve Changed My Mind” (2005)
With help from G.O.O.D Music artists Kanye West and John Legend, “I’ve Changed My Mind” was conceived as a post-breakup empowerment song reflective of a personal experience Keyshia Cole had with a cheating ex-boyfriend. West produced Cole’s debut single, taking a sample from Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic (Intro).”
“Digital Girl” featuring Kanye West and The-Dream, who produced the record, has some sample elements from two hip-hop tracks: “Electric Relaxation” by A Tribe Called Quest and “I Can’t Believe It” by T-Pain and Lil Wayne. Despite the all-star collaboration, the song, featured on Jamie’s third studio album, Intuition, didn’t receive chart-topping success.
Beyonce‘s “Party,” originally featuring Andre 3000 and later, J. Cole, features a direct voice sample from Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s classic hip-hop track “La Di Da Di.” Bey’s ode, which appears on her 4 LP, reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hip-Hop/R&B Charts last year.
20. Elle Varner, “Only Wanna Give It To You” (August 2011)
The debut single by newcomer Elle Varner has an assist from J. Cole and more hip-hop than R&B essence, which she covers smoothly using her jazzy vocals. Produced by Pop & Oak, “Only Wanna Give It To You” features a sample from Biz Markie’s “Make the Music With Your Mouth.” “UFO” by ESG, a post-punk song that has shown up on many other hip-hop records, was also sampled. Varner’s record peaked at No. 20 on the Hip Hop/R&B Charts.