The Bestie Boys, photographed by Terry Richardson
The Bestie Boys, photographed by Terry Richardson

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Beastie Boys Samples

The Bestie Boys, photographed by Terry Richardsonbeastie-boys-terry-richardson

photo by Terry Richardson

Top 10 Beastie Boys Samples

To celebrate the career of MCA, honor the Beasties' recent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (and despite the 25-years-after-the-fact Trouble Funk lawsuit) Okayplayer has compiled 10 of our favorite Beastie Boys samples. Not an easy task, considering many of the songs on Paul's Boutique contain more than 10 samples apiece. Plus, let's be serious: with the exception of De La Soul, no one in the heavily sample-based hip-hop game can come close to rivaling their longevity. Despite their often tongue-in-cheek personas on the mic and massive crossover appeal, the Beasties took their music history very seriously. And when they enlisted production help, they encouraged creative risks that have kept their music relavent for 25 years. Let's get to it.

10. Root Down (sampled artist: Jimmy Smith)

This is basically a straight loop. It's chopped up and rearranged to make a chorus, and nothing was really added to the sample. But it works just perfectly as is. And the Beasties get props for using an extra crusty copy of Jimmy Smith's "Root Down (And Get It)." The unpolished sound of the record compliments the basement-recording aesthetic of much of this whole period of their work. Aside from paying tribute to the sampled artist directly (MCA: "Jimmy Smith is my man, I want to give him a pound"), they also pay tribute to a half dozen other musicians, including my all-time favorite, random record-nerd reference, courtesy of Ad Rock: "I'm like 'Sweetie Pie' by the Stone Alliance").

Buy the Beasties "Root Down" via iTunes

Buy Jimmy Smith's "Root Down (And Get It)" via iTunes

9. Hey Ladies (sampled artist: The Commodores)

The credit that the Beasties sometimes get for making disco and late-70s funk acceptable to the MTV generation after a decade of musical purgatory is not entirely without warrant. Before Lionel Ritchie asked if it was him you're looking for, he was making some seriously deep, dirty funk with The Commodores--particularly on the Machine Gun LP, singing songs like "Young Girls Are My Weakness," but the whole Machine Gun album is super-funky. Many casual listeners recognize the title track from the first few seconds without noticing the drum/guitar break that the Dust Brothers looped up as the foundation for "Hey Ladies." The Beasties song was also peppered with early 80s hip-hop samples, P Funk All Stars drums (later sampled by J Dilla on Slum Village's "Raise it Up") and a cow bell, which makes no sense. Except that it does.

Buy "Hey Ladies" (via iTunes)

Buy "Machine Gun" (via iTunes)

8. High Plains Drifter (sampled artist: The Eagles)

This track picks up where "Paul Revere" leaves off. The song construction is pretty simple, and indeed it was one of the most rapidly-made tracks on Paul's Boutique. The fact that The Eagles made songs this gangster was a surprise to me, at least, and according to the Paul's Boutique 33 1/3 book, the Dust Brothers and Beasties also found it amusing (and funky). They looped two bars of the song and then used Ad Rock's legendary Roland 808 drum machine to punch up the drums. Another Fatback Band drum/vocal loop gives it an extra-eerie mood. Everything in this song is low end. The result is, as Cool J would say, "Strictly for frontin' when you're riding around/12 o'clock at night with your windows down."

Buy "High Plains Drifter" (via iTunes)

Buy "Those Shoes" (via iTunes)

7. Flute Loop (sampled artist: Blues Project)

This one is special because it's one of the first samples I ever discovered on my own. I pulled it out of my father's jazz collection because the name of the group, The Blues Project, didn't quite fit the way the dudes looked on the cover. After a few needle skips, I landed on "Flute Thing" and immediately recognized the loop. It's chopped in a few different places, but the Beasties reordered the loops, so the verses employ a flute solo from 2/3 of the way through the original song and the first few bars of the Blues Project song serve as the bridge. (The chorus was kept the same.) The Beasties later got pulled into court by the group even though the sample had been cleared (they got sued over publishing rights).

The next best thing about this song is the Richard Pryor sample in the intro where he's impersonating a dude from his neighborhood, talking sh*t right after the cops tell him to move it along: "I ain't goin' no place…MOVE me!"

Buy "Flute Loop" (via iTunes)

Buy "Flute Thing" (via iTunes)

6. Intergalactic (sampled artist: Les Baxter)

The Beasties dug up a Moog cover record for this one. Specifically, Moog Rock, a record that would seemingly include covers of popular rock songs but in fact includes covers of classical songs. (The creation and marketing of so many of these types of post-Switched on Bach records is an interesting side-story.) Prolific soundtrack/exotica composer Les Baxter was behind the project. The Beasties again found a not-all-too-obvious part of a Rachmaninoff composition and deftly turned it into undeniably thumping hip-hop. (Again a track with some personal significance, 'cause when I opened a show for Blackstar in '00, they took the stage to the "Intergalactic" instrumental.)

Buy "Intergalactic" (via iTunes)

Buy "Prelude C# Minor" (via iTunes)

5. Jimmy James (sampled artist: Jimi Hendrix)

For a song dedicated to Jimi Hendrix, the Beasties decided to throw a half-dozen of his songs into a blender and chop them all up. But the sample that serves as the anchor is from an early Hendrix song with The Curtis Knight Band, "Happy Birthday." The Beasties layered the guitar and drums from the Hendrix song with often-sampled drums from The Turtles' "Chief Kamanawanalea."

Buy "Jimmy James" (via iTunes)

Buy "Happy Birthday" (via iTunes)

4. Egg Man (sampled artist: Curtis Mayfield, Tower of Power, Lightning Rod)

Samples are typically either layered on top of one another or chopped and rearranged from a single source. But in constructing "Egg Man," the Dust Brothers used some sleight-of-hand, stitching two records together to make a complete, coherent bass loop that sounds remarkably natural. The drums are from Lightning Rod's "Sport" (Kool & The Gang are the uncredited musicians on the song) and bassline is from Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly," but every three bars throughout the verses, the last phrase is a drum/bass phrase from Tower of Power's "Drop It In The Slot" that was pitched up to compliment the "Superfly" loop, breaking up the repetition and really accents the rhyme phrases. Extra Credit!

Lenny Kravitz, Grace Jones, Lauryn Hill, Lion Babe, Thundercat, SZA & More Rock The Afropunk Festival 2015 in Brooklyn, NY.

Buy "Egg Man" (via iTunes)

Buy "Superfly" (via iTunes)

Buy "Sport" (via iTunes)

3. Sure Shot (sampled artist: Jeremy Steig)

Just like "Flute Thing," the Beasties found another improvisational flute sample to rhyme over on Ill Communication. This time, jazz flutist Jeremy Steig provides the loop. It's from his Legwork LP, and the Beasties used the one-bar loop throughout the entire song, almost without interruption. Hella catchy, instantly recognizable--and their rhymes keep it fresh.

Buy "Sure Shot" (via iTunes)

Buy "Howling for Judy" (via iTunes)

2. Rhyming and Stealing (sampled artist: Led Zeppelin)

We have John Bonham and Rick Rubin to thank for one of the most memorable first few seconds of a debut hip-hop album. It almost seems too perfect that the LP that launched the career of "rock's most realized group" began with the disruptive scratching of a naked drum loop from the kings of hard rock, Led Zeppelin. The whole concept of sampling was really just becoming popular in those days. And then consider that fact that it was such an obvious loop. That kind of irreverence really freaked out a lot of adults, making it the new rock and roll. It also personified the Beasties as a group and, coupled with the marketing genius of Russell Simmons, played a big role in launching Def Jam into the stratosphere, or more literally, into the cassette decks of every other teenage kid in America (me included).

Buy "Rhyming and Stealing" (via iTunes)

Buy "When the Levee Breaks" (via iTunes)

1. Get it Together (sampled artist: The Moog Machine)

"Get It Together" features one of the best one-bar loops in sample history. The Beasties fished the sample out of the middle of a cover version of "Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In," composed for the Hair soundtrack but featured on one of a thousand Moog-cover albums from the late 60s called Switched on Rock by The Moog Machine. The sample was looped up with some Fred Wesley drums (known to Gangstarr fans as the "Step in the Arena" break) and Eugene McDaniels' cautionary phrase from the rare-groove classic "Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse." Then Q-Tip dropped some sex-themed rhymes, including a John Holmes name-check, and a song was made that a generation of frat dudes and serious hip-hop nerds alike can agree on.

Buy "Get it Together" (via iTunes)

Buy "Headless Heroes" (via iTunes)