10 Songs That Would Never Be If It Wasn’t For the Godfather of Soul, James Brown

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James Brown

If we were to put together a complete list of songs that sampled the work of James Brown, it would easily run over a thousand songs. Of course, the magic that he made on wax is why RollingStone.com labeled him “the most sampled man in the biz.” No one executed funk and soul the way James Brown and his band did.

The man, perhaps best known for classic hits like “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “I Got You (I Feel Good)” and “Say It Loud,” would have turned 79 years-old today. With that in mind, we’d like to wish a happy birthday to the Godfather of Soul! In honor of this special day, we’re giving you this list of 10 incredible songs that never would have been if it wasn’t for the work of JB.

1.”Otis”- Jay-Z and Kanye West

Ye and Jigga were watching the throne alright. James Brown’s musical throne, that is. Along with the Otis Redding (how noble of them to name the song after him) sample of “Try a Little Tenderness,” Brown’s “Don’t Tell a Lie About Me and I Won’t Tell the Truth on You” can be heard right when Kanye appears to be beautifully screaming. Yep, that’s James Brown screaming all over a smash record by two of hip-hop’s biggest stars.


2. “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It)” – En Vogue

Remember En Vogue? You know, one of the most successful girl groups of all time, according to Billboard magazine. Sampled from Brown’s “Payback,” the chopped guitar hook not only made this record one that would be remembered for decades to come, it soared to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. Now that’s how you do a sample.

3. “I Am Stretched on Your Grave”- Sinead O’Connor

Great minds think alike, and O’Connor is one of a legion of artists who sampled Brown’s “Funky Drummer.” The song is “widely considered one of most influential and important pieces of sampled music,” wrote Jason Gordon in a 2006 Rollingstone article. The drum beat heard on both tracks are the dominant instrument, matching perfect with O’Connor’s distinct voice.

4. “Union” by Black Eyed Peas feat. Sting

What we love about pop group Black Eyed Peas use of Brown’s 1974 “All for One” is that it’s unusual. The two songs sound nothing alike, and that’s a good thing when sampling one of most sampled artists in history.

Black Eyed Peas

5. “What About Your Friends” – TLC

One mention of “What About Your Friends” and the chorus is instantly stuck in our heads all day. Singles from the trios debut album “Ooooooohhh…On the TLC Tip” are still jam worthy today. Twenty years after Brown recorded “Blues and Pants,” the megastar trio incorporated the boombastic sound into their own hit that put the girl group on the road to a global career.

6. “Hey Ladies” – The Beastie Boys

Listen to this track and you instantly hear traces of the “Funky President” sample. Although the former is a funky twist on singing with a social conscious about issues in society, and the latter a hip (who even says that anymore?) ode to the ladies, the funk and hip-hop mixture is an instant eargasm. Not to mention it later became a trend amongst Beastie Boys’ peers.

7. “That’s the Way Love Goes” – Janet Jackson

1993 was Janet Jackson at her prime. “That’s the Way Love Goes” was more than a personal favorite, it’s her biggest No. 1 single in the United States, and sold over three million copies worldwide. Sampled from Brown’s “Papa Don’t Take No Mess,” it was such a success it stayed at the top of Billboard charts for eight consecutive weeks. Seeing a pattern here? Sample a James Brown classic, viola, top the charts.

8. “Fallin’” – Alicia Keys

You can’t mention the talent that is Alicia Keys without noting her debut single “Fallin’”. And what song did the pianist sample in her first No. 1 hit? Guess, we dare you. It was “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.” It may have been a man’s world for Brown, but it was a woman’s universe when Keys dropped the chart topping single that is her second biggest single to date.

9. “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” – Ice Cube

Ice Cube was an west coast rebel. “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” didn’t quite ease that reputation. As soon as Cube raps, “I’m rolling with a lynch mob,” what sounds like a DJ scratching the record is actually Brown’s “There it Is.” We told you hip-hop and funk go back like babies and pacifiers.

10. “Gimme the Loot” – Notorious B.I.G.

B-I-G P-O-PP-A. Oh, digressing. One of the greatest storytellers in hip-hop was bound to rap over the same tunes Brown sung and boogied to in the 70s. It’s the trumpet and horns in Brown’s “Coldblooded” heard right before Big kicks a flow about a grabbing a strap. That’s coldblooded, man.

Biggie Hanging Out

[Photo: Getty Images]