Sampling by Drake: Reinventing R&B

Mack Mendenhall

Anyone who listens to rap music knows that sampling is a key foundation of the hip-hop world. During the late 1970s and 1980s, rappers and producers revolutionized music production by sampling soul and funk beats in their songs. The rise in popularity of sampling over the years has not only blurred the lines between the R&B and hip-hop genres, but it has introduced new generations to the legendary songs that laid the foundation for today’s popular music.

If there’s one artist who consistently captivates his listeners with his creative, refreshing takes on familiar classics, it’s Drake. Since his first mixtape dropped in 2006, Drake has redefined what it means to remix iconic songs and pair them with honest, fiery lyricism. Check out my list of some of his most famous samples.

"Unforgettable"
Sample: Aaliyah, "At Your Best (You Are Love)"

Drake’s admiration for the late R&B songstress Aaliyah is evident in his lyrics and sampling throughout his catalog (“We’ll Be Fine,” “Is There More”) but perhaps his most effective Aaliyah sample is present on his second studio album Thank Me Later. Aaliyah’s sultry vocals crooning “Let me know, let me know” on her cover of the Isley Brothers’ hit, “At Your Best (You Are Love)”  provide the perfect introduction for the downtempo hip-hop track.

 

“Tuscan Leather”
Sample: Whitney Houston, “I Have Nothing”

Drake paid homage to “The Voice” by pitching shifting and reversing her vocals from her hit ballad, “I Have Nothing” on the opening track of his 2013 album, Nothing Was The Same. “Tuscan Leather” features Whitney’s sped-up sample on loop in the background throughout the song.

 

“Nice For What”
Sample: Lauryn Hill, "Ex-Factor"

“Nice For What” was undoubtedly THE bop of Summer 2018, and its secret to success was interpolating the poetic Lauryn Hill’s pitch-shifted vocals from her 1998 hit “Ex-Factor.” The heartbreak-ridden song is an example of the subdued, neo-soul that characterized the late ‘90s, yet Drake’s “Nice For What” from Scorpion transforms Hill’s hip-hop ballad into a club-ready, female empowerment banger.

 

“Do Not Disturb”
Sample: Snoh Aalegra, “Time”

The closing song on Drake’s 2017 album More Life, “Do Not Disturb” is a self-reflective track that sets a trap beat to a sample of “Time” by indie R&B artist Snoh Aalegra. Aalegra’s jazzy ballad is revitalized as Drake raps over a loop of her pitch-shifted vocals from the chorus on “Time”: “Silence keeps cloudin’ me / Hand on my heart / And I, I wish time never mattered.”

 

“Weston Road Flows”
Sample: Mary J. Blige, “Mary’s Joint”

On “Weston Road Flows” from his 2016 album Views, Drake uses a sample of Mary J. Blige’s neo-soul slow jam “Mary’s Joint” as the foundation for the track. Blige’s gritty voice evokes ‘90s vibes as Drake reminisces on life before fame. He also gives a nod to TLC when he raps “Creepin’ like Chilli without the tender, love, and care.”

 

“Emotionless”
Sample: Mariah Carey, “Emotions”

In the early 1990s, few singers could touch the vocal agility and prowess of Mariah Carey. That’s why this sample needed no editing whatsoever. Carey’s pristine, earth-shattering vocal range is on full display on Drake’s “Emotionless” from Scorpion, on which he raps over a loop of the pop diva’s soulful runs and high notes pulled from her 1991 hit, “Emotions.”

 

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