Let's go crate-digging.
Today, we’re taking a look at some of the instances in the past where big name hip-hop acts have sampled from songs originally written by Australian artists to explore just how deep of a culture crate-digging and sampling really is.
Beastie Boys – ‘Rock Hard’ (samples AC/DC – ‘Back In Black)
One of the first ever singles released on Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin’s newly minted Def Jam Records in 1984, ‘Rock Hard’ sees the Beasties and Rubin flip the guitar riff for AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ into a bona-fide golden age rap hit. ‘Rock Hard’ marked the first time that MCA, Ad Rock and Mike D really took rapping seriously, and hinted at the band’s trademark use of samples that would be explored further on later albums.
Legend has it that Angus Young wasn’t very happy about the Brooklyn trio’s tribute at the time, although given the amount of times the band have sampled AC/DC in their catalogue since, we’re guessing that the money probably did the talking for them.
LL Cool J – ‘Rock The Bells’ (samples AC/DC – ‘Flick of the Switch’)
If Rick Rubin hinted at his AC/DC fandom with his beat for Beastie Boys’ ‘Rock Hard’, then his production on ‘Rock The Bells’ surely asserts his Aussie rock dog credibility. Regarded as one of the most important beats of the mid ‘80s, ‘Rock The Bells’ sees Rubin sample the opening power chord of AC/DC’s ‘Flick of the Switch’ and sequence it atop of booming 808 drums and era-specific record scratches, effectively laying the blueprint for his barebones production style that would go on to influence generations of producers to come.
35 years after its release, the guitar stab from Rubin’s flip of ‘Flick of the Switch’ is still considered as a canonical sample in hip-hop, appearing in everything from Eric B. and Rakim’s ‘Chinese Arithmetic’ and Wu-Tang’s ‘Protect Ya Neck’ through to Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Backseat Freestyle’.
Snoop Dogg – ‘Ups and Downs’ (samples The Bee Gees – ‘Love You Inside Out’)
The only track on his 2004 album R&G (Rhythm & Gangsta) The Masterpiece not to be produced by The Neptunes, ‘Ups and Downs’ sees Snoop Dogg sample a 1979 cut from Australian disco exports The Bee Gees ‘Love You Inside Out’ to make for a smooth slice of West Coast G-Funk.
Interestingly enough, The Bee Gees are actually listed as a feature artist on this song, which was more than likely a move from Snoop’s label to reduce the cost of clearing the original sample – nevertheless, it knocks incredibly hard.
J. Dilla – ‘Anti-American Graffiti’ (samples Tin Tin – ‘Family Tree’)
The late great J Dilla was renowned for his eclectic sampling choices, and nothing demonstrates that quite like his instrumental hip-hop masterpiece Donuts; released two days before his passing in February 2006. Obviously, there’s tonnes of great samples on the Detroit producer’s swan song, but one of the most striking moments on the record is that of ‘Anti-American Graffiti’; best known among Dilla fans for the time-stretched drum loop that would have been an absolute nightmare to sync with the beat.
Perhaps unknown to many, however, is the fact that Dilla sampled the refrain of the track ‘My Family Tree’, a 1970 song recorded by Aussie rockers Tin Tin and featuring production from The Bee Gees’ own Maurice Gibb. Dilla really must have been digging deep to find this lost gem!
Mac Miller feat. Sir Michael Rocks – ‘Aliens Fighting Robots’ (samples The Avalanches – ‘Tonight’)
Macadelic was the mixtape that saw Mac Miller begin to evolve from a can-crushing frat rapper into the creative force we saw him become later in his career, with the Pittsburgh MC making use of eclectic samples and timbres for many of the beats on the project. For the Sir Michael Rocks-assisted cut ‘Aliens Fighting Robots’, Miller enlisted the use of a sample from The Avalanches’ Since I Left You album track ‘Tonight’, providing a free-flowing foundation for Miller to flex his lyrical chops on.
Kendrick Lamar – ‘DUCKWORTH.’ (samples Hiatus Kaiyote – ‘Atari’)
The final track from Kendrick Lamar’s 2017 Pulitzer Prize-winning album DAMN. sees the Compton MC deliver engrossing narrative of fate and circumstance across a lurching groove from 9th Wonder, ending the album on a high note with one of his best performances to date. Halfway through the beat, 9th Wonder flips a sample from Melbourne neo-soul band Hiatus Kaiyote’s 2015 track ‘Atari’, with the slinking groove of the original track acting as the perfect launchpad for Kendrick’s witty bars to do their thing.
Hiatus Kaiyote have proven to be incredibly popular with hip-hop producers since busting onto the scene in 2012. 9th Wonder also sampled the band on his Anderson .Paak and Rapsody collaboration ‘Without You’ in 2016, while other tracks have also been interpolated on songs from Chance The Rapper and Beyonce and Jay-Z. However, the band have also found quite a prominent fan in another hip-hop heavyweight: a man who goes by the name of…
Drake – ‘Free Smoke’ (samples Hiatus Kaiyote – ‘Building A Ladder’)
When the Canadian sensation’s hugely successful 2017 mixtape More Life opened with a sample of Hiatus Kaiyote’s ‘Building A Ladder’, you couldn’t help but feel patriotic as an Australian listener. It proved to be a huge moment for the band, and led to Nai Palm linking up with Drake again on ‘Is There More’, closing out the first side of 2018’s Scorpion with a passionate take on Aaliyah’s classic ‘More Than A Woman.’
A$AP Rocky – ‘Everyday’ ft. Rod Stewart, Miguel, Mark Ronson (samples Python Lee Jackson – ‘In A Broken Dream’)
On his exceptional 2015 track ‘Everyday’, Harlem hip-hop icon A$AP Rocky teams up with Miguel and Mark Ronson for a beat that flips ‘In A Broken Dream’, originally recorded by Australian rock group Python Lee Jackson in 1972 and featuring an uncredited appearance from Rod Stewart on vocals. Stewart himself actually receives a guest credit on Rocky’s newer track, which probably says a lot about how his celebrity profile has only risen since the recording of the original version.
A$AP Rocky – ‘Kids Turned Out Fine’ (samples Good Morning – ‘Don’t Come Home Today’)
Turns out Rocky has quite a thing for Aussie bands! Released on his last full-length release TESTING in 2018, the woozy ‘Kids Turned Out Fine’ heavily draws on the warbling guitars of ‘Don’t Come Home Today’ from beloved Melbourne lo-fi group Good Morning, who released the original song on Bedroom Suck Records back in 2017.
If you need any further proof of Rocky’s exquisite taste in local music, he also sampled Tame Impala’s ‘Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?’ for his 2018 standalone single ‘Sundress’ – the man certainly knows how to pick a good track out.
Eminem ft. Jessie Reyez – ‘Good Guy’ (samples Donna Burke – ‘Glassy Sky’)
Released on his surprise album Kamikaze in 2018, ‘Good Guy’ sees Eminem link up with Jessie Reyez for a track that, in all honesty, leaves a lot to be desired from the Detroit rap god. This mightn’t be one of the record’s standout tracks, but it does feature quite a unique Australian connection in the form of a sample of ‘Glassy Sky’, a track originally sung by Western Australian artist Donna Burke for the Japanese manga series Tokyo Ghoul. Who would have thunk it?
Keen for some more sample digging? Here’s some of our favourites from Kanye West’s Graduation.