Cos and Effect: The Bill Cosby Hip-Hop Samples


This Saturday, September 7th at the Westchester County Center, comedy legend Bill Cosby will be performing his time-tested classic brand of stand-up. From the stage to the television to on record, The Cos has touched several generations with his many comedic gifts. His impact is clear even on the hip-hop generation, who’ve expressed their admiration through incorporating snippets of his work into their songs. In honor of Mr. Cosby returning to the area, here are our picks for the most memorable Bill Cosby hip-hop samples.

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Boogie Down Productions – “Illegal Business” 1988
The first wave of hip-hop pioneers were likely to have grown up on Cosby’s Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids cartoon. As a result, the show’s rich score and distinct vocal performances have found their way into some of the most memorable cuts of the era. On Boogie Down Production’s second album By All Means Necessary, “Illegal Business” was created largely around a few seconds from an episode of Fat Albert. MC/Producer El-P considers this Dr. Dre Ft. Cosby

De La Soul – “In The Woods” 1993
The most used sample from a Bill Cosby recording is probably his take on Lee Dorsey’s “Get Out My Life Now Woman” from his 1968 Bill Cosby Sings Hooray For the Salvation Army Band album. A song whose many incarnations have lead to the drums being prime collectors’ pieces for producers, DJs and record enthusiasts alike, Cosby’s rendition has been heard in tracks from De La Soul, Cypress Hill, Gang Starr, and Chubb Rock.

Quasimoto – “Real Eyes” 2000
Perhaps the most ambitious use of sampling Cosby was heard in Quasimoto’s “Real Eyes.” Here, producer Madlib augments an already sample heavy soundscape with several clips from the 1971 Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs album. It’s a testament to Madlib’s abilities how so many rapidfire quick cuts of Cosby’s dialogue can make an effective introduction for the track.

See also: Hip-Hop’s 25 Best Weed Songs

Atmosphere – “Panic Attack” 2005
The Bill Cosby Talks to Kids About Drugs album was also utilized a few times in Atmosphere’s 2005 track “Panic Attack.” It’s worth noting how just a little sprinkling of that Cosby magic can really bring a record to life, so much so that compilations of untouched Cosby/”Fat Albert” samples have been in circulation for years. There was even an early 2000s trend of repeating dialogue from the show over parts of promotion copies to prevent piracy.

Studged – “Dr. Dre Ft. Cosby” 2006
One of the most memorable creations of the YTMND era was Studged’s bafflingly on-point edit “Dr. Dre Ft. Cosby.” While that summer had seen several users make attempts at re-appropriating clips of Dan Castellaneta’s Cosby impression from The Simpsons and Kevin Michael Richardson’s impression from Family Guy into full songs, including the impressive “Cosby Bebop,” our favorite has to be the way Studged manipulates the clips into actually mimicking the flow of Dr. Dre’s “What’s the Difference” over the instrumental. While, no, there’s no actual clips of Cosby being heard here, we wouldn’t have been able to zip-zop with our zoobity-bop without mentioning it.

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