Rap royalty loves the Queen of Soul. Or, at least, some very prestigious hip-hop types have found the intimate grooves of Aretha Franklin’s discography to be fine and fertile fodder for their sampling kicks. So with Franklin preparing to warble her way through a couple of back-to-back shows at Radio City Music Hall this coming Friday and Saturday, here’s a rap-centric tribute to the enduring impact of her music. Respect!
10. Public Enemy, “My Uzi Weighs A Ton” (Sampled: “Rock Steady”)
Franklin’s most sample-friendly moment is also one of her unabashedly funkiest, as she hollers joyfully, “Rock steady baby, that’s what I feel now” and coxes the listener to “just move your hips with a feeling from side to side now.” Her wailings proved a lure for Public Enemy during the group’s Bomb Squad era, with Franklin’s “Rock!” peppering one of Chuck and Flav’s first album standouts. The Enemy also went on to tap up the song for the harrowing anti-drug lambast “Night Of The Living Baseheads,” while E.P.M.D, Outkast and hip-hop icon Afrika Bambaataa have also been seduced by the song’s treats.
9. The Fugees, “Some Seek Stardom” (Sampled: “Bridge Over Troubled Water”)
Back before their cover of “Killing Me Softly” took the group’s profile stratospheric, the Fugees etched out a low-key position as boho hip-hop happy-go-lucky types. Over a beat based on Franklin’s take on “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Lauryn drops a series of social observations straight from her coffee shop pedestal while airing out a flow that quivers on the edge of slipping into a tongue-twisting style. Hey, that was a popular thing to do back in the ’90s!
8. The Bizzie Boys, “Droppin’ It” (Sampled: “Baby I Love You”)
Cult golden-era rap crew the Bizzie Boys based their most well-remembered single around a low-slung loop from Franklin’s “Baby I Love You,” with “Droppin’ It” replacing Franklin’s lyrical sentiment about pleasing a lover with breezy brag raps. For notable nerd kicks, Bizzie Boy member Ski would later go on to find a second wind as a producer on Jay-Z’s debut album, Reasonable Doubt. Speaking of whom…
7. Jay-Z, “In My Lifetime” (Big Jaz Radio Remix) (Sampled: “Oh Baby”)
Before Jay-Z scored a rap radio hit in ’96 with his sexual tête-à-tête with Foxy Brown, “Ain’t No Nigga,” and launched his solo career in earnest, the Jigga man dropped “In My Lifetime,” a midtempo, piano-lead lament about the tensions of his hustling days—although its dominant sampling shenanigan is interpolating Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life” for the hook.
6. The Real Roxanne, “Respect” (Sampled: “Respect”)
Any excuse to include a rapper who was part of the Roxanne wars—which, at the very least, threw up the most amount of female rappers claiming to be named Roxanne at the same time in the history of the world—here producer Howie Tee takes Franklin’s calling card and uses it as the basis for a poppy rap jaunt. In a pivotal moment in rap lyrical history, she informs the crowd, “I don’t be taking shorts—I wear ’em”—a sentiment the perm-tastic video thoroughly proves.
5. Kanye West, “School Spirit” (Sampled: “Spirit In The Dark”)
Franklin’s early-’70s, piano-propelled “Spirit In The Dark” is a sterling and stirring demonstration of the depth and power of her lungs, but under ‘Ye’s guidance it’s flipped into a classic case of chipmunk-soul. So that means the vocals are sped-up, while West runs through his cocky, self-determined and possibly anti-collegiate anthem—and then references Norah Jones. Cray!
4. De La Soul, “The Art Of Getting Jumped” (Sampled: “Jump To It”)
In which Plugs One, Two and Three drop an intelligent cursory warning about the random and trifling nature of nightclub violence—complete with Pos’s warning that “being positive is no exclusion/ That’s an illusion/ You can still catch contusions.” The beat is fiery and fittingly boisterous, with Franklin’s vocal from her perky early-’80s Luther Vandross-produced “Jump To It” punctuating the Plugs’ proceedings.
3. Slum Village, “Selfish” (Sampled: “Call Me”)
Dilla day may have just passed, but Slum Village’s embrace of Franklin’s music came courtesy of a Kanye West guest production and accompanying rap. West’s beat isn’t the most adventurous of snags, as he largely loops up the opening refrain of “Call Me,” but it acts as a fine bed for SV’s raps about girls in different states and, er, ‘Ye’s own boast about paying for a certain lady’s “fake boobies.”
2. 3rd Bass, “The Gas Face” (Sampled: “Think”)
Franklin’s “Think” is an uptempo, rousing soul work-out, but for “The Gas Face” Def Jam’s original two-thirds white rap troupe 3rd Bass slowed down the opening piano riff and turned it into an off-kilter, funky back-beat. (Early De La Soul cohort gets an assist on the production tip.) The track also gave MF Doom his first official appearance on wax back when he rolled with the Zev Love X moniker, while its flick includes a fine example of hip-hop thronery.
1. Mos Def, “Ms. Fat Booty” (Sampled: “One Step Ahead”)
Simple and sweet with the sample, producer Ayatollah taps into Franklin’s tender “One Step Ahead” for the mighty Mos Def’s rapped obsession about a girl prone to “giving out the fake cell-phone and name.” Franklin’s lyrics coin an affectionate lament; Mos’s story is focussed on Ms. Booty’s high-maintenance ways, with the rapper playing it “type polite” until he eventually gets permission to “smash it like an Idaho potato.” But, alas, after Mos’s possibly farmers’ market-inspired fantasy comes the kicker: She ditches him for some “bangin’-ass Asian.”