Samples reveal Kanye West’s obsession with James Brown: Credit to the OG 👑


Kanye and Kim Kardashian signed a prenuptial agreement that entitles Kim to $1 million for every year of marriage capped at $10 million. Kanye wasn’t playing when he holla’d “we want prenup!”.

Slick Motive is all about originality but when it comes to hip-hop, it’s often hard to get that authentic sound. I mean the whole genre is built on taking an existing track and sampling part or sometimes all of it to make an entirely new track.

This time, the “Credit to the O.G” feature looks at James Brown’s 70’s hit, ‘Funky President’. This classic tune is one of the most sampled records in hip-hop history.  However, taking a closer look at the song, it revealed Kanye West’s obsession with James Brown.

Now James Brown was not only the Godfather of Soul, he was also King of the breakbeat. Most hip-hoppers know that the breakbeat was the foundation on which the art of rapping or mc-ing was later formed. So it was no surprise to find that the Funky President track has been sampled over 824 times in hip-hop ?The track was sampled mostly for the vocals which have been used as adlibs in many songs such as The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (Outro) by DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince (1992), Fuck Tha Police by N.W.A (1988) and many more.

Kanye and James Brown at the 2005 Grammys. Thankfully, Kanye didn’t grab the mic this time!!

So we did a little more digging to see what were the most popular songs that sampled James Brown’s Funky President and also looked at what elements of the original track were used. To our surprise, the results showed Kanye West all over the list. In terms of commercial success, it’s a given that Kanye West is one of the hardest samplers of our time.  If you think otherwise, just check out the frenzy caused by Kanye West brackets online recently. However, we never expected this trend:

Most popular uses of the James Brown Funky President sample:

Clique by Kanye West, Big Sean and Jay-Z (2012)

Although very subtle and near enough impossible to spot, this track sampled vocals and lyrics as adlibs to give this hard tune that airy feeling.

3005 by Childish Gambino (2013)

First of all, we’ve got mad love for this album. This is another subtle use of the vocals as adlibs. Often going unnoticed, the sample doesn’t do much in adding value for the listener but seems more for the artist’s/ producer’s own pleasure. Ducers drop little gems like this all the time. Sometimes just for giggles like a musical version of the game Word Sneak.

Live Fast, Die Young by Rick Ross feat. Kanye West (2010)

Kanye West’s style has often been criticized for what some regard as lazy looping. With that said, this track is a classic example of why that simple formula is so effective. In case you missed it, Kanye used just one word,  “Hey!” from the James Brown song, looped it over some horns from the 60s classic, If This World Were Mine by The Bar-Kays and made it an instant hit.

New God Flow by Pusha T and Kanye West (2012)

So it’s evident that Kanye is a fan of that “Hey” sample and it featured regularly on his studio kits. In this track, we actually hear the sample used on two layers. The first time being a faded direct lace followed by the Ghost Face Killer sample which also used the same sample through the track. Straight out of Preemo’s book!

Turns out Kanye used the sample on many more tracks including Runaway featuring Pusha T too. In an interview with DJ Pharris on Power 92 FM, Kanye West declared James Brown as his favourite artist ever. His choice of samples clearly shows this as the James Brown vocals used often go unnoticed by the listener but that’s exactly the point. Kanye’s obsession with James Brown has been cleverly hidden in plain sight all along.

Given the hype stirred up by the subliminal messages in Childish Gambino’s This is America, it begs the question, what else has Kanye been hiding in his tracks? Let us know what you think via our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page.


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