It goes without saying that I love Kanye West, the good and the bad. The man’s music has been a big part of my life since I first listened to the album that started it all The College Dropout. Something beyond just loving his music is that I love music in general and whenever I find out a song has a music sample in it I try and listen to that original song to see where the musician was going from when they put their own song together. With that in mind, here are five songs that Kanye West sampled worth listening to.
“Bound” by Ponderosa Twins Plus One (Used in Bound 2)
Yeezus has a ton of great songs on it but the one that stuck out to me the most upon my first listening was the song Bound 2. The song has a similar vibe songs on Kanye’s older albums like School Spirit and Gone. Its that same high pitched sound using old Motown style music from the 70s that just gives it a very distinct sound. First time I heard Bound 2 I started searching to see if I could find where this sample was from. Luckily the internet in the form of twitter delivered and had a link for a YouTube from that was the original song that Kanye sampled. That song was Bound by the group Ponderosa Twins Plus One.
The group may not sound familiar to you because it was a short lived act that only stuck around for five years. It’s kind of sad, I wish these guys had put out more stuff because this is type of stuff I would listen to if I was doing work around the house or just relaxing. Bound is a simple song about meeting someone eventually falling in love with them. The vocals remind a lot of The Jackson 5 or New Edition with the youngest singer standing out the most in the chorus and for the song that Kanye was singing it really stood out whenever we got to Kayne’s chorus. There was a bit of controversy in the form of Kanye West was sued by Ricky Spicer, a member of the band, after it was revealed that he along with several other people associated with the making of Yeezus. The lawsuit was never brought to court and the two parties settled. The sampling of the song was not without controversy, in the form of If you want to check Ponderosa Twins Plus One you don’t have to worry about doing a deep dive. The band only put out one album back in 1971. I would give it a listen if you have a free afternoon.
"Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger," by Daft Punk(Used in Stronger)
Daft Punk is just one of those bands that I’ve loved ever since they showed up on Toonami back ion the day. I remember watching that Interstellar:5555 clip way back in the dial up internet and after that I was hooked. In a way I was like one of those hipsters, only it was sixth grade and people called this kind of music “nerd shit”. But by the time high school rolled around and I was well versed with Kanye West and Daft Punk my mind was really blown away when both showed up on the song Stronger. I finally felt like I was some music god when I was the only kid in my English class who knew who Daft Punk was and was able to whip out my then still relevant iPod nano and played Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger for my classmates. I still got a bit of push back, like “okay, so Kanye used this robot music, who cares?” I still felt like I hadn’t reached people, like they didn’t get that Daft Punk was this cool due they should check out. Finally I felt vindicated when at the 2008 Grammy’s Kanye West performed Stronger live and low and behold DAFT PUNK showed up in their famous pyramid from their 2007 Alive tour. Let’s just say the next day people were talking about Kanye West and now were asking “Who were those two robot looking dudes?”
So, now onto the song. What really takes me back was that this song is also a sample. A sample within a sample if you will. Daft Punk sampled this song from an older song by musician Edwin Birdsong called Cola Bottle Baby. Now I can get more in-depth about this sample, but we’d be here all day. Just sticking to what Kanye sampled, Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is just this great song on an already great album called Discovery. I would highly recommend if you haven’t had a chance to listen to it you should sit down and play this in one go. It such good album that it’s no wonder Kanye decided to sample from the music gods that are Daft Punk.
"Comment #1" by Gil Scott-Heron (Used for “Who Will Survive in America”)
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of those albums that I don’t know will ever be topped by Kanye ever again. I remember there were some people calling Kanye out for doing an autotune album (the great album 808 or Heartbreak) and saying that Kanye just wasn’t going to be putting out great albums like Graduation anymore. Boy were they wrong. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is just one of these albums that every time you give it a listen you pickup something new. So with that in mind, I had always wondered where the sample came from because whoever it was that was speaking had so much passion in the things he was saying. A simple google search later revealed that this was from a soul and jazz poet named Gil Scott-Heron. In Who Will Survive in America the spoken word is taken from a piece called Comment #1. The more I listened to Scott-Heron, the more I really felt engrossed in the words and the thoughts that this man had to say. It made me wonder what he would have to say no in today’s current political climate.
"I Got A Woman" by Ray Charles (Used for “Gold Digger”)
Kanye West and Jamie Foxx put out one of the best songs of the year back in 2005 with the hit Gold Digger. It was playing everywhere when I was in high school and it was really funny thinking back that most kids didn’t even understand what a gold digger was, they just loved listening to the song. So when I found out that it was based off a hit song by Ray Charles I had to give it a listen. One of my favorite songs by Ray Charles is Hit the Road Jack, it was played in my house constantly by my mom.
So with that in mind, I Got A Woman is a great Ray Charles song. I love that when I hear Ray Charles say “She gives me money when I’m in need, Yeah, she’s a kind of friend indeed” my mind immediately defaults to the next line being “Oh she’s a gold digger, way over town, that dig on me”. But for what it’s worth I would highly recommend checking out the original Ray Charles track, it deserves a lot more loves and attention.
“Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan (Used for “Through The Wire”)
One of my favorite songs that Kanye ever put out was from his first album The College Dropout is near the end of the album. It’s a track called Through the Wire. It kind of came out of nowhere when I first heard it but what really stuck out to me was the story it told. Kanye West was in a car accident and was seriously injured. His jar had to be wired shut. So instead of resting, Kanye went into the studio and decided to record a song. Through the Wire is that album. It’s probably the most raw song Kanye has ever put out and it’s worth listening to. I would highly that if you haven’t heard it in a while to listen to it because you be reminded why Kanye is one of the greatest. The song used in the sample, Chaka Khan’s Through the Fire is also a great song. Released in 1984, Through the Wire is a great song that I can see why Kanye would chose to use as a sample on his own track.