It's been one year since the world lost Prince, but his legacy lives on in the countless musicians he influenced. And one of the beautiful things about hip-hop is that producers and rappers wear their influences on their sleeves. You can tell what a beatmaker is listening to by the artists they choose to sample, and looking at the many occasions that Prince's work has found its way into hip-hop tracks, it's clear that many of your favorite rappers and producers fucked with The Purple One heavy.
Today, in remembering what Prince meant to the world, we take a glance at some of the classic rap tracks that sample him. From a signature guitar wail to one sung word, his material has been a treasure trove of funk, hits, and style that helped ignite some of the illest rappers to show up and show out. Rest in beats, Prince.
2Pac - "To Live And Die In L.A."
Prince Song Used: "Do Me, Baby"
'Pac is said to have been a huge Prince fan; E.D.I. told XXL that "A lot of people don't know that 'Pac was a big Prince fan. He fucked with Prince. If you listened to a lot of 'Pac's shit, he sampled Prince in different ways." "To Live And Die In L.A.," from Pac's Makaveli album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, contains an interpolation of Prince's "Do Me, Baby," from his fourth album Controversy, sped up and replayed with live guitar and drums. Prince is the perfect funky backdrop for a true Los Angeles anthem.
Arrested Development - "Tennessee"
Prince Song Used: "Alphabet St."
Arrested Development's smash hit "Tennessee" features a tiny sample of Prince singing "Tennessee" on Lovesexy's "Alphabet St." It's small, but it's used throughout the song, and was reportedly not cleared at the time. As the story goes, Prince decided to charge Arrested Development a one-time payment of $100,000 for the use of his voice after "Tennessee" blew up, instead of getting a songwriting credit. Speech, the lead rhymer of Arrested Development, told Atlanta that Prince essentially cut them a huge break. "In those days, when you had a [hit] throughout the nation, we made way more than that, so we paid it. But he waited for the very moment it went down the charts, and only once it went down, did we get the call. I think that was a testimony to his savvy and how he thought. Nonetheless, when we did meet up, he was a fan, and had respected what we had done."
MC Lyte - "Paper Thin"
Prince Song Used: "17 Days"
If you listen to these two songs back to back carefully, you can hear that the distorted guitar loop in the beginning of "17 Days" is slowed down and roughed up for Lyte's classic single "Paper Thin." It's also a testament to how hip-hop tracks were spliced together back in the day, as the Prince loop was used along with samples of Al Green, Earth, Wind & Fire, and even a hint of Ray Charles. The Prince sample adds a level of aggression that's perfect for the venom Lyte spit on the mic, though.
Public Enemy - "Brothers Gonna Work It Out"
Prince Song Used: "Let's Go Crazy"
Public Enemy and their production team The Bomb Squad were known for creating a chaotic wall of sound that borrowed from a number of samples and sources. On Fear of a Black Planet's iconic single "Brothers Gonna Work It Out," mixed in with a litany of samples from Roy Ayers, Sly & The Family Stone, James Brown, and George Clinton (among many others), is a snippet of Prince's iconic guitar solo from Purple Rain's "Let's Go Crazy." Prince's intense guitar workout adds to the overall mania of the track.
Jay Z ft. Pharrell - "Excuse Me Miss"
Prince Song Used: "Walk Don't Walk"
With Hov talking about wanting to get grown and sexy on the Pharrell-assisted "Excuse Me Miss," it made sense that they borrowed a percussive drum loop from Prince's "Walk Don't Walk," taken from the vainglorious Diamonds & Pearls album. It was a Neptunes production, and the duo didn't just let that foundation linger on its own: There are all kinds of signature Chad & Pharrell keyboards over it. But when you play the intros to the two tracks side-by-side? The similarities are there, and so is the magic.