Remember the 90s? Even if you didn’t live in the era, or else maybe the 90s were a quick blur in the timeline of your life, they were a time of classic music nonetheless. What makes the 90s interesting now, is that, like everything that happens in the past, they’re getting more and more distan (!). Nostalgia, memories and the weight of history is making the 90s into an era that defined lives. And who knows more about taking moments from the past and bringing them into the present, than rap music?
Here at HotNewHipHop, we’ve compiled ten different cuts that rely on samples from 90s R&B. Some of these are as melodic as the records which they’ve decided to flip, and a few others actually take their source material and turn it into something new and quite strange. No doubt a few readers will think of many more classics that slipped our mind, and as time proceeds even more will be emerging with each and every new release. More and more, the 90s feel both right at home and untouchable in the current musical climate, but it’s records like these that can allow us to appreciate how much hold they have on musicians and listeners today.
What’s your favorite?
Photo: Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic/Getty Images
Bryson Tiller – Exchange
Contains a sample of KP & Envyi – Shawty Swing My Way
J Cole fans may have been able to brag about their boy going platinum with no features, but you don’t see likewise praise fawned upon the boy Pen Griffey. Bryson Tiller’s T R A P S O U L album proved to be one of the sleeper smashes of 2015, and makes him arguably one of the biggest successes of the so-called ‘soundcloud rap’ era. One of the ways that happened was the perfect pop of “Exchange.” A song that basks in the singer’s nostalgia, tempered by the melodramatic mood provided by Mechaniks member Foreign Teck. Sure, “Exchange” might rely heavily on the vibe of the past, but it does it with a remarkable amount of necessity in order to help ensure that the listeners truly understand why they’re being brought down memory lane along with Tiller.
Chris Brown & Tyga – Better
Contains a sample of TLC – Take Our Time
A pop-rap duet record that for all its merits is characterized more or less by its authors having such dubious reputations, Fan Of A Fan will perhaps one day receive a more favorable interpretation in both of the discographies of Chris Brown and Tyga. One of the deep cuts of the record that feels neglected is “Better,” a testimony to the talents of frequent Tyga collaborator Jess Jackson. Armed with a subdued, filtered loop drafted from peak-era TLC, Jackson gives an album characterized by flexing and levity a moment of real emotiveness. For all the sultriness of the original, instead you find the two forced to take a break from all their usual knucklehead antics and try to demonstrate a clarity and understanding they’re usually too busy stunting to acknowledge.
Drake – How Bout Now
Contains a sample of Jodeci – My Heart Belongs to You
If OVO and their head honcho hadn’t have shown up on this list at some point, no doubt it’d be a bit of a cruel prank. More than a few jokes have been made at the expense of Drake’s 90s R&B infatuations, but it’s certainly resulted in some of Drake’s best work. No doubt the same way the 60s & 70s were a goldmine of endless inspiration for the artists Drake looked up to, he likewise takes their gems and makes them into all kinds of spectacles. Here, Boi-1da and Jordan Evans take a sample of heartthrobs Jodeci, and not only flip a loop but warp it, drag it, and make it sound a radio tuning in somewhere out of hell. Just goes to show that for all his many impersonators and detractors, only Drake could take a song that sounds so heartwarming and place it in a context to make it feel like nothing short of heartbreak. The song appeared as a bonus record on the physical edition of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late making it tricky to find in proper form online.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Roses (ft. Earl Sweatshirt & Domo Genesis)
Contains a sample of TLC – Waterfalls
One of the rap underground’s standard bearers, California producer Madlib loves to grab the most bizarre obscurities to sample for his rap beats; Brazilian lounge bands, obscure house tunes and Bollywood scores have all managed to make their way into the soundtracks of his tracks for rappers as diverse as MF Doom, Talib Kweli, and Kanye West. Inexplicably though, when assigned to work with none other than Gangsta Gibbs and the more traditional rappers of the Odd Future collective, his sampling selection was… oddly traditional. “Roses” is a chance for a lot of hard-spitting from the rappers, but it definitely stands out as a time where an iconoclastic rap producer took a Top 10 hit from TLC and made it into a backpacker banger.
Kendrick Lamar – Poetic Justice (feat. Drake)
Contains a sample of Janet Jackson – Any Place Any Time
Producer Scoop DeVille knows very well how to mine classic hip-hop and R&B from the so-called ‘Golden Age’ very well, and has done it to great success for the likes of Snoop Dogg, Fat Joe & more. But it feels more than appropriate to say one of his cuts for current LA-Rap superstar Kendrick Lamar would be an essential pick, especially this one. The Janet Jackson flip on “Poetic Justice” (pretty cheeky wink of 90s nostalgia there alone) is a masterwork of seductive grooves, complimented by both Lamar and guest Drake doing their best to provide flurries of cool charm to their hypothetical lovers. Sometimes rappers can take a slow jam that’s already a classic, ramp up everything about the original, and somehow come out with a record that’s even more satisfying.
Lil B – Last Chance
Contains a sample of Johnny Gill – I’m Still Waiting
Neither man nor myth, the Based God has more than a few quirks. Cursing NBA MVPs, being vague on twitter, threatening the world with mixtapes he’s been supposedly working on back at the beginning of the decade… But one of his more rewarding quirks is his bizarre penchant for finding the most intriguing samples you could expect. Japanese Pop? Backmasked loops from Prince side-projects? The X-Men cartoon theme song? He’s rapped over all those things, and a lot more weird. So, in retrospect, his deciding to rap over a beat that samples an obscure Johnny Gill cut from the New Jack City soundtrack is just your run of the mill Lil B. It’s no wonder that his musical output attracted as many fans as it did to so bizarre a character.
PartyNextDoor – Muse
Contains a sample of Ginuwine – Only When Ur Lonely
Jahron Lanier AKA PartyNextDoor is a wunderkind of production and songwriting, who eased himself into becoming one of the right hand men to Drake amongst the OVO Camp’s ranks. Whether it’s on his own solo mixtapes or his numerous appearances on Drake’s projects, PND is known for finding some choice selections for sampling and turning them into records that sound absolutely unnatural. Take for instance “Muse” of his second solo mixtape; few would think of taking that brief snippet of a classic early Ginuwine single and make it sound like such an aimless dreamy landscape. By the time he reveals his trick at the end by having the original material manifest itself, Party’s magic trick will leave you astonished that someone could convince you such a familiar record could sound like something entirely new.
Tory Lanez – Say It
Contains a sample of Brownstone – If You Love Me
Say what you will about Tory Lanez, but if you’ve been around since the Chixtape series you know one thing; this is a guy who knows how to make even the least likely 90s jams into an anthem. For goodness’ sake, the guy once flipped the theme for kid’s comedy show All That into such a dark and druggy record, you’d think it was built for Amanda Bynes twitter account. One thing is for sure though, “Say It” is a testimony to both Lanez’ songwriting gifts and producer Pop’s (of team Pop & Oak) expert execution of taking a classic from Brownstone, and lettig Tory’s penchant for nostalgia become a sense of timeless romance.
Ty Dolla $ign – My Cabana
Ty Dolla $ign – My Cabana
Contains a sample of Mint Condition – Pretty Brown Eyes
Arguably one of the weirdest flips here, “My Cabana” was one of the earliest showcases of just how adventurous Ty Dolla $ign was as both a producer and a songwriter. Making a song about escaping with girls to get high and get down is certainly nothing new but making a hybrid R&B/EDM jam where he took a Skrillex remix and the horns from slow-jam classic “Pretty Brown Eyes” and somehow made both seem perfectly complementary? It’s no wonder that this gifted artist would attract the attention of the likes of Kanye West and Rihanna down the line. Perhaps of all the artists here, Ty Dolla $ign feels like someone making the past not only seem like the soundtrack to now, but a glimpse at the future.
Young M.A – Summer Story
Contains a sample of Mary J Blige- Everything
Few things feel more emblematic of the 90s than New York City rappers. Sure, you had more than a few superstars still emerge out of the Big Apple and some of them are even fond of bringing back that old classic ‘boom-bap’ sound that the East Coast was known for. For now one of the last of her kind, Young M.A put out her “Summer Story” as a classic storyteller record. It seems a little bit ironic on some level G’Sparkz brought out a sample from someone like 90s songstress Mary J Blige, as both of the two women are iconoclasts for their respective genres, but are as close as you can get to being emblematic of New Yorkers.