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Ice Cube's sampling masterclass

He’s known for his vocals but Ice Cube’s genius as a producer is still unsung. We pick five moments in sampling that defined his chops as a beatmaker.

Justin Tam

David Bowie - Fame

‘I thought David Bowie was black,’ Cube told Rolling Stone in a 2016 interview after hearing ‘Fame’ on the radio. ‘It was so funky.’ It later became the riff that churns through ‘Alive on Arrival’. Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Ice Cube later released a shredded, gut-churning remix of ‘I’m Afraid of Americans’, a Bowie and Brian Eno single that was featured in the film Showgirls.


Most Parliament & Funkadelic songs

George Clinton’s space age funk drawl might be the defining sound of Ice Cube’s production. The gentle groove of ‘Dr. Funkenstein’ accompanying Cube’s opening monologue in ‘Steady Mobbin’, the guitar run in ‘Standing on the Verge of Getting It On’ hidden deep in ‘Endangered Species (Tales From the Darkside)’, and the drum snap in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ stretched out for ‘Alive on Arrival’.


Kool & the Gang ‘Summer Madness’

The Rhodes pulses that weave through this instrumental from Kool & the Gang became a go-to sound for an entire school of hip-hop. Jazzy Jeff & the French Prince famously added a vocal hook for their summer soundtrack. Mila J throws back to nostalgia with ‘Kickin’ Back’, layering the chords over an updated half-time Dirty South-type beat. Snoop’s ‘Doggy Dogg World’ picks it out and adds a harder, G-funk knock, while Erykah Badu’s ‘Certainly’ threads it through a bebop bed of strings and piano. Cube’s ‘You Know How We Do It’ stands as the most quintessentially 'West Coast' use of the sample, with his lyrical references to Zapp and P-Funk layered on top of an Evelyn 'Champagne' King' vocal and a Dr. Dre-styled G-funk synth whistle which carries the melody.


Selda Bağcan ‘İnce İnce’

In 2015, Dr. Dre returned with Compton, his ultimate tribute to SoCal. ‘Issues’ with Ice Cube, Anderson .Paak and Dem Jointz samples ‘İnce İnce’ by Selda Bağcan, a Turkish psych-rock deep dig that was surfaced by producer Oh No and made famous in Mos Def’s album opener ‘Supermagic’ (Dre’s song also reuses bars from Ice Cube’s ‘It Was A Good Day’). Before that, K.A.R. and Fat Joe spat over it in the romantic ‘Oh Baby’ (2009), and Percee P and beatmaker Koushik let it simmer in the background of the beat for ‘Reverse Part 2’ (2007). There’s a story that gets constructed when samples are recycled through the years, an unspoken homage to the producers before them that spent hours digging through crates hoping they’d find that one rare Anatolian guitar riff to spark the inspiration for their next beat.


Quincy Jones ‘Ironside - Theme From “Ironside”’

The theme from Ironside is one of those earworms that burrowed its way into your ears a decade ago yet you’ve never been able to figure out exactly where or when it first popped up. The pulp crime drama where it started was about a San Francisco police chief in a wheelchair, and went for eight seasons on NBC in the late ‘60s. Quincy Jones wrote the original, and Cube brought it back two decades later for ‘Down For Whatever’. Other notable flips of this sample include Dr. Dre, 2Pac, a Drake and Future collab, and at least another hundred other tracks.


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