Losing a cultural icon is never easy, but today, the music world suffered an immense loss with the death of legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin, a pioneer, vanguard and one of the most accomplished artists of all-time. Franklin, 76, passed away at her home in Detroit as a result of advanced pancreatic cancer, according to her publicist.
Born on March 25, 1942, in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin was raised in Detroit, Michigan and got her start as a singer by performing in her father's church and on his traveling tours, quickly building a reputation as a talented vocalist. Following the death of her mother, Franklin began seriously pursuing a music career, ultimately inking a contract with Columbia Records, with whom she released a succession of hit singles and albums. Drawing from her experiences in the church, Franklin made a name for herself by infusing religious undertones into her secular recordings, resulting in songs like "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)," "Chain of Fools," "Share Your Love With Me" and "Bridge over Troubled Water" to top the R&B charts, and albums like Lady Soul, Aretha Now, Young, Gifted and Black, and Sparkle to all reach gold certification during the 60s and 70s.
However, Aretha's popularity would reach a crescendo in the 80s, releasing a string of successful albums after moving to Arista Records, the label she would remain with until the twilight of her career. Despite making her debut years before many rap fans were born, Franklin was a household name within the culture, largely due to the ubiquity of her 1967 single "Respect," which has become a pop culture staple throughout the years and an anthem for the feminist movement, but also due to rap artists and producers paying homage to her, whether through their lyrics or by sampling her work to create their new classic records. Although she may be gone in the physical form, Aretha will always be remembered as the Queen of Soul and her spirit and voice will forever live on through music, whether it be her own or that of others.
In honor of the soul-singer's impact and influence on the hip-hop community and in memory of her life, REVOLT highlights 10 Aretha Franklin songs that inspired some of your favorite rap songs of all-time.
"Rock Steady" (1971) // Public Enemy, "Miuzi Weighs a Ton" (1987), "Night of the Living Baseheads" (1988), "Shut 'Em Down" (1991)
One of Aretha Franklin's most frequently sampled cuts is "Rock Steady" which, in addition to being lifted by Organized Noize for OutKast's ATLiens single "Jazzy Belle," has been reworked by Public Enemy and the Bomb Squad on various occasions. On era-defining cuts like "Miuzi Weighs a Ton," "Night of the Living Baseheads" and "Shut 'Em Down," the Bomb Squad have channeled the magic of Aretha, translating it into some of the best rap songs we've ever heard.
"A Song for You" (1974) // Onyx, "Last Dayz" (1995)
After the massive success of their debut album, Bacdafucup, Onyx was regarded as one of the premier groups in rap, but the platinum plaques and fame couldn't offset the dark undertones that defined their sophomore release, 1995's All We Got Iz Us. "Last Dayz," the album's Fredro Starr-produced lead single, was powered by a vocal sample of Franklin's "A Song for You," and has since gone one to be ranked among the hardest rap instrumentals of all time.
"You Are My Sunshine" (1967) // Mobb Deep, "Drop a Gem on 'Em" (1996)
When Mobb Deep was tasked with taking on one of the most formidable rappers in the game in Tupac, the duo came with heavy artillery in the form of their 1996 single "Drop a Gem on 'Em," from the group's highly-anticipated third studio album, Hell on Earth. Produced by Havoc and powered by a sample of Franklin's 1967 cut "You Are My Sunshine," "Drop a Gem on 'Em"s initial impact would be diminished due to being released following Tupac's death, but remains one of the most recognizable Franklin rap samples to date.
"One Step Ahead" (1965) // Mos Def, "Ms. Fat Booty" (1999)
In 1999, Brooklyn rapper Mos Def released Black on Both Sides, his solo debut and an album that helped galvanize and influence generations of idealistic creatives. One song from the album, "Ms. Fat Booty," includes a vocal sample of Franklin's "One Step Ahead," which producer Ayatollah flips to create one of the most popular jams of Mos' career.
"The Long and Winding Road" (1972) // Styles P, "The Life" ft. Pharoahe Monch (2002)
Deciding to embark on a solo career during the early aughts, L.O.X. member Styles P's first hit record came in 2002 when the Yonkers native collaborated with rap vet Pharoahe Monch on "The Life," a song that created even more buzz around Styles' debut album, A Gangster and a Gentleman. Produced by Ayatollah and built around a sample of Franklin's "The Long and Winding Road," "The Life" would jumpstart Styles P's career outside of the L.O.X., bring Pharoahe Monch back to prominence, and serve as yet another testament to Franklin's influence on hip-hop.
"Day Dreaming" (1972) // T.I., "Let's Get Away" ft. Jazze Pha (2003)
T.I.'s intention may have been to put the world onto Trap Muzik with his sophomore album, however, he also inadvertently positioned himself as one of rap's leading ladies' men with his 2003 single "Let's Get Away." Produced by Jazze Pha, who also appears on the song's hook, "Let's Get Away" reworks Franklin's "Day Dreaming" and would become one of multiple hits from Trap Muzik, peaking at No.35 on the Billboard Hot 100, in large part due to the presence of Aretha.
"Call Me" (1970) // Slum Village, "Selfish" ft. Kanye West (2004)
In 1970, Franklin released This Girl's in Love with You, the soul singer's eighteenth studio album. "Call Me," the album's lead single, was a massive hit for Franklin, peaking atop the US R&B Singles chart, and has since lived on as one of her most sampled records, with producers like Kanye West, who pilfered the song for Slum Village's 2004 single "Selfish," putting a unique spin on the original.
"Spirit in the Dark" (1970) // Kanye West, "School Spirit" (2004)
Known as one of the boardsmen to bring sampling back to the forefront in rap, Kanye West has borrowed from Franklin's catalog on numerous occasions, one of them being the time he sped up her vocals from "Spirit in the Dark," the title track from the singer's nineteenth studio album.
"In the Sunshine" (1967) // Meek Mill, "War Pain" (2016)
Amid Meek Mill's bitter feud with Drake, the Philly rhyme animal unleashed a slew of records aimed at his rival, among them "War Pain," a scathing rebuttal to "Back to Back" featuring his Dreamchasers partner Omelly. Boasting a sample of Franklin's 1967 single "In the Sunshine," "War Pain" may not have sunk the OVO battleship, but made a major wave, as Meek's impassioned delivery and Aretha's soulful wails are a match made in heaven.
"Young, Gifted and Black" (1972) // Rapsody, "Laila's Wisdom" (2017)
With nearly a decade making her bones in the indie scene, North Carolina spitter Rapsody made the big leap to the majors with her 2017 album Laila's Wisdom, an album that showcased her lyrical ability and talent as a songwriter. On the album's title track, Rapsody glides over a sample of Franklin's "Young, Gifted and Black," which producer Nottz utilizes to concoct a regal soundscape that would help Rapsody earn a Grammy nomination while paying homage to the Queen of Soul, simultaneously.
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