Even before Michael Jackson’s 2009 death, his legacy was a frequent topic of discussion among fans and critics. Almost always missing from that discussion, though, is the love he showed for hip-hop. The new jack swing-styled Dangerous brought in Heavy D for a verse on “Jam,” and Michael Jackson himself strung together some bars on the title track. The 1995 follow-up, HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I, enlisted The Notorious B.I.G. and platinum-selling rapper Shaquille O’Neal. Even more notably, Michael Jackson graced Summer Jam 2001 with his presence during JAY-Z’s set (Hov would remix “You Rock My World” that same year).
Even if MJ didn’t constantly big-up the culture, he’d still be a favorite to sample because, well, he’s Michael Jackson. Until recently, Thriller was the highest-selling album of all-time. Hip-hop has a decades-old habit of refashioning pieces of culture in its own image, so it makes perfect sense that Jackson’s sounds have found new life in a number of hip-hop tracks throughout the years.
Most recently, Drake sampled previously unheard MJ vocals from a 1983 recording session with Canadian singer Paul Anka on Scorpion’s “Don’t Matter to Me.” Other jams that have been turned into hip-hop gold include “Human Nature,” “Thriller,” and “ABC.” To commemorate what would’ve been his 60th birthday, check out the 15 best Michael Jackson samples below.