Hip hop is known for its creativity and its ability to make something out of nothing, or in the case of sampling, something out of something. Like any other art form, there is a right and wrong way to sample. The obvious is to give credit to whoever you sampled from; it’s just the right thing to do. If you neglect to do so, you could end up like Vanilla Ice and Queen with “Ice Ice Baby.” That was a horrible idea and anyone with ears could tell that he completely ripped off “Pressure.” Another lazy way to sample is to just take the original work and lay some bars over the top. Almost like baking a cake and instead of making it from scratch, you use the box. The best way is to literally take a sample of the original piece and make it into something different.
When it comes to sampling in the Hip hop culture you have to start with one of the most sampled artist. The Debarge family is by far one of my favorite groups, and El of course is my favorite member. They were like the Jacksons, but they were “about that life.” Their fair complexion and “good hair” made them Motown’s crossover pop group. This talented family consisted of El, Bunny, Randy, James, Chico, Bobby, Tommy and Mark. I believe there are two more Peaches and Darrell but I don’t know if they did music. They were all super talented with ridiculous vocal range and songwriting skills. Back in the day, they had mad hits that later resurfaced as hits for other hip hop artists. They had everything going for themselves but family issues, prison, and drug problems kept them from reaching their full potential. Their music will continue to live on due to the major hits that sampled their work. Lets take a look at a few of my favorites:
1. A Dream: This song is one of the most sampled, written by Bunny and El Debarge. This was a contemporary hit from the album “In a Special Way.” A Few of my all-time favorite artists sampled this song. If you don’t know this song alone, once you see the songs that sampled, you will say “ooooooh! I know that song!” What gives this song away is the piano, it’s my favorite; you know exactly what this song is when its played. I will go over a few of my favorites that sampled but just know that this song has been sampled at least 16 times.
“I Ain’t Mad at Cha” by 2Pac – This was a tribute to friend and is probably on a few funeral playlists. Yes, there is a playlist for my funeral and a guest list. Don’t tell me how to live my life, or plan my death. This is a whole different article let’s just stick to the topic at hand. If you are a Pac fan and you know this song, just know that Debarge made this song possible.
“Don’t Leave Me” by Blackstreet - Everybody knows Teddy was a beast, but this song was that “sing along to all the parts” type song. This song had you stop in your tracks singing “If you take your love away from me I’ll go crazy, crazy insane!” I’m pretty sure a few high school talent shows were won with this song as well.
“American Dream” by Children of the Corn – Ok, so, if the first two songs didn’t ring a bell maybe you real, true hip hop fans know this one. This Harlem group had the late great Big L., Murder Mase (before the shiny suits with Puff), Cam’ron, McGruff and Bloodshed basically Eastcoast Gangsta Rap.
“Paper Gangsta” by Lady GaGa- Now this was a surprise for me. This happens to be my favorite Lady GaGa song. The sample in here is not as noticeable as the others mentioned but if you know that piano you will be able to hear it.
2. Stay with Me: Also from the “In a Special Way” album this song gave us a few more hits that we all love today. Mark, El, and Bunny did their thing on this one. I hate it, but I feel like with every song I mention, I will be saying “this is one of my favorites.” I can’t help that I'm a Debarge fan, and they were hot before I was born. Again…it’s that dang piano.
“One More Chance” by Notorious B.I.G – I started the last one with 2Pac, it's only right that I start this one with the Notorious B.I.G. Before we were begging biggie to give us one more chance, Debarge was begging us to stay.
“Foolish” by Ashanti – First of all, I just would like to point out that the video for this song was dope with the “Goodfellas” theme and having Terrence Howard as the lead. I’m positive that this song was on a few “break up” list.
“MVP” by Big L – Yes, once again the lyrical genius sampled this group, this song went hard too. He definitely would have given the skinny jean rappers a run for their money if he was around today.
3.“All This Love”: El Debarge and Iris Gordy produced a really nice track everyone knows the beginning. “I had some problems…”
“Problems” by AZ – One of Nas mans 'nem, AZ had this song back in 2001. He had this hit from the album “9 Lives.” Didn’t really hear too much from him after that.
“Problem” by Wale – Wale is kind of hit or miss. You either like him, or you don’t. I personally like him because he’s a sneaker head and he really is not that bad.
“I Want It All” by Warren G - I don’t care what type of rap you listen to, everybody loved Warren G right? Who doesn’t remember the “Regulate” album? Well, like most sophomore albums, Warren's didn’t do the best. However, the title track “I Want It All” which sampled Debarge was his biggest hit. Coincidence? I think not.
“That’s How You Like It” by Beyoncé - Alright Beyhive, yes the Queen Bey used a Debarge sample. You know the part, “I like the way you brush your hair, I like the stylish clothes you wear…” yea man, that's straight out of a Debarge song.
4. I Call Your Name by Switch – If you are my age, which is 30, you probably heard this song when your mom was cleaning up the house on Saturday morning. This song was made back when it was cool to have a 5-minute-long intro of just talking. You may even recognize the falsetto voice that’s wondering if this chick really loves him or not. That intro use to crack me up because he was so serious like “I use to think about immature things like, do you love me, do you want me, are you gon’ call me like you said you would, is this really your real phone number?” This song was made by the group who had the two oldest Debarge siblings Tommy and Bobby. They were once a studio band for Barry White before they decided to do their own thing.
“Throw Some D’s” by Rich Boy - This was one of my favorite songs in 2006. They were able to take this soulful love song and turned it into anthem. Took it from a guy dang near crying over a girl to a rich boy that was selling crack. Even though all the haters wanted to jack, he just bought a Cadillac and eventually threw some D’s on it. Now if that’s not a “rags to riches” story I don’t know what is.
Aside from being heavily sampled, some of them would come out of retirement and have an album here and there. When Chico got out of jail, his album “Long Time No See” did well. He was also featured on a Jim Jones track “Spanish Fly” from the album “On My Way to Church.” El would just pop anywhere from a cameo in a movie to the occasional award show, and even my church. Popped up on one of the many Sundays I missed. He did have a comeback album “Second Chance” and he had a few features from hip hop artists like Fabolous, and 50 Cent. So, as you can see, this is why I call the Debarge family the aunties and uncles of hip hop. Without this family we would not have the hits we love so dearly, and if you claim to be a real hip hop fan, then there should be a special place in your heart for them. If anyone out there knows a Debarge tell them I said thanks.