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The Five Best Songs That Sample the Beatles

A screencap from Frank Ocean's "Pyramids" video
A screencap from Frank Ocean's "Pyramids" video

Pop and R&B superstar Frank Ocean has recently opened up to MTV News that he's been on a Beatles and Beach Boys binge when seeking inspiration for his upcoming second full-length record. While it's not exactly surprising to hear of a young artist gorging himself on Beatles classics for ideas, it is a bit stranger coming from someone so rooted in R&B, hip-hop and sampling as Frank Ocean.

Ocean is quite familiar with sampling from the greats of yesterday. Check out his full-length sample of "Hotel California" in his song "American Wedding" from his mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra. Could we hear a sample of a Beatles song on the new record? It wouldn't be the first time, and maybe it would sound a little bit like one of these great re-appropriations of a Beatles classic.

5. MF Doom feat. MF Grimm, "Tick, Tick..." Given Doom's gimmick of literally being the supervillain Doctor Doom from the Fantastic Four comic books, the creepy, string-laden beat, reminding one of a silent horror film, that runs throughout "Tick, Tick..." is just perfect.

It's also copped from the outro to "Glass Onion" from the Beatles' White Album. Who would have thought somebody could listen to a Beatles record and find something to scary to sample? Incidentally, MF Grimm later grabbed a sample of "Helter Skelter" for his track "Karma."

4. Animal Collective, "Unsolved Mysteries" It's hard to tell where that little guitar loop that opens and runs throughout Animal Collective's "Unsolved Mysteries" comes from. One might guess it's just something they made up in the studio.

Actually, it's from the Beatles track "All Together Now," from the Yellow Submarine soundtrack album. In the Beatles canon, it's a relatively forgettable track, but it provides to the essential rhythm to this great song from AnCo's 2007 record Strawberry Jam.

3. RZA featuring Cilvaringz, "You'll Never Know" In this hard-as-fuck track off noted Beatles fan RZA's solo record Birth of a Prince, he samples a pretty obscure George Harrison penned Beatles song. Can you guess what it is?

Spoiler alert: it's an unapproved sample of the intro to "Do You Want to Know a Secret?" off of Please Please Me. It may be a re-recording of the chords by someone other than Harrison, but it's the exact same chord structure and progression as the Beatles track. RZA employs it brilliantly and so discreetly that most will probably never even notice it.

 

2. Beastie Boys, "The Sounds of Science" Off the legendary Paul's Boutique, "The Sounds of Science" is a classic hip-hop track and features some of the Beasties' best use of sampling to construct an avant-garde background for their rapping.

To be quite honest, the Beatles songs sampled here (the title track and its reprise of Sgt. Pepper's, "When I'm Sixty-Four," "Back in the U.S.S.R.," and "The End") aren't particularly recognizable, but it didn't quell fears of being sued. Mike D's classic response was, "What would be cooler than being sued by the Beatles?" Luckily, it didn't happen.

1. Wu-Tang Clan, "The Heart Gently Weeps" RZA already showed up once on this list, and here he is again with the controversial Wu-Tang Clan track "The Heart Gently Weeps." I say it was controversial because even two Wu-Tang members who performed on the track, Ghostface Killah and Raekwon, have criticized RZA's production on the album 8 Diagrams for not being true to the Wu-Tang style.

Nevertheless, RZA is in a league of his own as a producer and he predicted a good deal of the sound that indie rap would pursue shortly afterward with this track. One could see it being a much bigger hit today than in 2008. For my money, it's also the most memorable and well-done track on 8 Diagrams, featuring an immaculate and beautiful re-recording of the Beatles track "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" featuring George Harrison's son Dhani, John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Erykah Badu singing the chorus.



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