If your mandate as an MC is to “Move The Crowd” there is no better tool to have in your musical arsenal than a segment of the Godfather of Soul’s sonic fabric. Whether it’s his frantic percussion, a horn stab, trance-inducing bass or one of his signature Gospel-flavored wails, James Joseph Brown, Jr. remains one of the most sampled artists of all time, if not THE most sampled.
“James Brown is music period,” says DJ Scratch, award winning turntablist and deejay for EPMD. “He spawned other genres of music. He was Rock-n-Roll, he was the Funk and the best live performer in the history of performance period. This genre that we are a part of is all based on James Brown. So if it wasn’t for James there would be no me, there would be no Hip-Hop.”
As part of our tribute to the Godfather Of Soul for the upcoming biopic, “Get On Up,” we asked two of hip-hop’s premier producers and DJs, Pete Rock and DJ Scratch to talk about 5 of the most sampled James Brown songs of all time.
5) “Get Up Offa That Thing” (1976)
Appeared on: “Doctor Detroit” Soundtrack
Times Sampled: 144
Popular Uses: “South Bronx,” by Boogie Down Productions, “Neva Go Back” by Special Ed
As infectious as this groove is, the “two-times” horn stab at the :20 mark and his “I’m back” shout were all most hip-hop heads needed to build a beat.
This song always reminded me of my mother and father in the living room having company, you know when your parents have that get together. All of their friends are in the living room sipping Melon Nipps, the beaded curtains and everybody’s just dancing. It was one of those party groove records to me.
James Brown had a very unique voice. When he started screaming on records then you heard a lot of other soul artists doing it like Joe Tex. You can tell how many artists he inspired by the way he sings. It made you feel the beat more. It’s like a rapper making a beat hotter, he’s making the beat better with how he projects.
4) “Get Up, Get Into, Get Involved” (1970)
Appeared on: “In The Jungle Groove”
Times Sampled: 205
Popular Uses: “Set It Off,” by Big Daddy Kane, “Nighttrain” by Public Enemy
As with any James Brown composition there is a buffet of sounds to pillage throughout this track, but the stripped down guitar grooves at 3:04 and 3:33 respectively were just too good to pass up for most DJs and producers.
The guitar is so mean! That was probably one of the funkiest James Brown and Bobby Byrd records I’ve heard. “I Know You Got Soul” is a great Bobby Byrd solo record but this was James and Bobby together. He’s screaming…that’s one of the best songs to cut up at a party or really want to get in a soul groove. That’s one of the songs that will get people going right there.
“Get Up…” is one of my favorite records to cut up because there are so many different elements in that song. You didn’t really pay attention to what James was saying, sometimes you couldn’t really understand what he was saying. But whatever he was saying was so dope. That’s one of those records you just got off on whether you’re on the dance floor or on the tables.
3) “The Payback” (1973)
Appeared on: The Payback
Times Sampled: 210
Popular Uses: “Can’t You See” by Total F/ The Notorious B.I.G. , “Boomin System” by LL Cool J, “Hold On” by En Vogue
So why was Mr. Brown so angry? “The Payback” was originally recorded to be the soundtrack to the blaxploitaton film “Hell Up In Harlem,” but it was rejected by the movie’s producers. So Brown just released it on his own. It went on to become the first of three consecutive #1 R&B records he would have that year and was James only certified Gold album.
“The Payback” for me was an anthem that everybody in the world could relate to not matter what country you’re from or what color your skin is. It was about being done wrong and getting revenge. Everybody in this world has been done wrong by somebody and you thought about revenge, so that record will live forever. The beat was so amazing. That was the genius of James Brown. His music was so funky that you didn’t pay attention to the message that was in the music. That’s what makes records iconic.
It has to be the most sampled after “Funky Drummer.” It was a relatable song. Everyone could relate to how you would feel if someone was trying to talk to your woman. But beat wise the music was so incredible, he knew what he was doing. The way it was used for Notorious BIG (TOTAL) and Heavy D, I know I touched it a few times. But hearing it being used by different artists was always intriguing. I always liked to hear how another producer (Would use it).
2) “Funky President” (People It’s Bad) (1974)
Appeared on: “Reality”
Times Sampled: 479
Popular Uses: “Clique” and “New God Flow” by Kanye West, “We Got Our Thang” by Heavy D and The Boys, “Shake Your Thang” by Salt-N-Pepa
Along with the opening drums and guitar lick, James’ plea “Let’s get together” and “Gotta get over, before we go under” and the female voice’s “Hey, listen to the man” have been sprinkled across dozens of tracks. The President in question? #38, Gerald Ford.
My first time I hearing somebody rhyme over “Funky President” was The Cold Crush Brothers. This was before hip-hop records were being made. The DJ was just catching it and I was like ‘How is he keeping the beat?” I couldn’t figure it out and I asked my mother to try and find that version where the beat keeps going. But that didn’t exist…I didn’t know they were using two turntables because there was no video of The Cold Crush. But that was my first time hearing MCs rhyme over “Funky President.”
Funky President’s message wise was talking about how we need someone (in office) that would fight for us Black people, too.
1) “Funky Drummer” (1970)
Appeared on: “In The Jungle Groove” (1986)
Times Sampled: 814 +
Popular uses: “It’s A Demo,” by Kool G Rap and DJ Polo, “Rebel Without A Pause” by Public Enemy, “Run’s House” by RUN DMC, “Mama Said Knock You Out” LL Cool J, “South Bronx” by Boogie Down Productions
James telegraphs what is about to go down when he tells drummer Clyde Stubblefied, “You don’t have to do no soloing, brother, just keep what you got… Don’t turn it loose, ’cause it’s a mother.” After Brown counts in “1,2,3,4…” Stubblefield’s resulting eight-bar unaccompanied solo at the 5:34 mark became—along with James grunts and ad-libs— what hip-hop producers and DJs call “open drums” and one the most sampled pieces of music ever.
“Funky Drummer” is basically the creation of hip-hop. As soon as James says “when I count the four let the drummer go…” that was the beginning of hip-hop. No other record had a drum beat like that. Later on when I got older I did my research on who that drummer was, Clyde Stubblefied. That record created hip-hop to me. My favorite use of FD was Kool G. Rap’s “It’s A Demo,” there is nothing topping that. Then just the technical part of it, what he was doing with the equipment at that time, I don’t even know what Marley was using in the 80s to make that record that way. My second favorite was Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause.”
First James Brown record I probably sampled was “Funky Drummer” but there was another one I loved called “Same Beat” by the JBs. “Funky Drummer” was the one I practiced on the most and all the rest of his stuff was like a given. FD was something going on in his head, something natural. He’d been successful with “Poppa’s Gotta Brand New Bag” and took it to other places with the funk.
“Get On Up” is in theaters August 1st!