Les McCann, Soul Jazz Pianist and Singer Sampled by Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and Notorious B.I.G., Dead at 88

His work has been sampled by nearly 300 artists.

Image via Getty/Paul Natkin

Les McCann, a soul jazz pianist and singer who has been sampled in several popular hip-hop songs, such as Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's "The Next Episode" and "10 Crack Commandments" by Notorious B.I.G., has passed away at the age of 88.

After being hospitalized with pneumonia last week, McCann was pronounced dead on Friday, according to his longtime manager Alan Abrahams and the New York Times.

McCann rose to fame with his performance of "Compared to What" at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, which was recorded and released as a collaborative album with saxophonist Eddie Harris and trumpeter Benny Bailey titled Swiss Movement. The project was reissued in 1996 with liner notes from McCann, who revealed he had smoked hash for the first time prior to taking the stage.

"Just before we went onstage, and for the first time in my life, I smoked some hash," McCann recalled. "I didn’t know where the hell I was [once I got to the bandstand]. I was totally disoriented. The other guys said, 'OK, play, man!' Somehow I got myself together, and after that, everything just took off."

McCann's work took on a new life starting in the 1990s, thanks to sampling in hip-hop. According to Rolling Stone, his song "Vallarta" was used for the Notorious B.I.G.'s "10 Crack Commandments," while "The Next Episode" sampled "Go On and Cry." A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, Slick Rick and Warren G are among the nearly 300 artists who have utilized his compositions in one way or another.

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