6 songs that prove Queen and hip-hop are a match made in heaven
With the trailer release of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” we investigate hip-hop’s history of Queen samples.
In Bohemian Rhapsody, the long-gestating Queen biopic, the world will finally get to see the life and times of the band’s extraordinary lead singer Freddie Mercury. Mr Robot‘s Rami Malek takes reigns as the exuberant frontman, who has long been referred to as rock’s showman incarnate. The first trailer for the film was released today (May 15), setting up its box office arrival on November 2.
Now depending on your musical taste, Queen may not be familiar — that is, unless you’re thinking of Nicki Minaj’s forthcoming album of the same name (due June 15). Don’t sell yourself short, though, because some of your favorite records have a little Queen in ’em. Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby”? That’s a Queen sample. “Shootouts” by Jadakiss? Yep, that’s a Queen sample. “Phone Numbers” by Wiz Khalifa? Well, you kind of get the idea.
With that said, read on for a breakdown of the many hip-hop sampling Queen records that may or may not already be a part of your daily rotation.
“Under Pressure” (1981)
Sure, Vanilla Ice is, well, Vanilla Ice. However, the one thing that critics can never take away from him is that he had one helluva hit with 1990’s “Ice Ice Baby.” Other than the ghostwriter (Mario “Chocolate” Johnson), the big draw to this song is, of course, its classic instrumental, which lifts Queen and Davie Bowie’s classic 1981 collaboration “Under Pressure.” You may not know the words to “Ice Ice Baby,” but it’s a guarantee that you can mimic the production off of memory.
“Reaching Out” (2005)
Coincidentally, today (May 15) marks nine years since Eminem returned from his five-year hiatus to deliver Relapse. Opinions on the album aside, Em’s comeback featured the Queen-sampling number “Beautiful.” The song borrows “Reaching Out,” which was originally recorded by the band Rock Therapy and performed during the Queen + Paul Rodgers 2005-2006 tour. The latter iteration is where this song’s sample is pulled from.
“We Are the Champions” (1977)
As the perennial celebratory anthem, it’s no surprise that elements of Queen’s “We Are the Champions” have traveled through several rap records. The most notable of the pack is Dame Dash’s ultimate Roc-A-Fella posse cut with the same name. Marking a pivotal benchmark in the journey of the Roc, the song and its sample were fitting in every sense of the word.
“Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)
Back in 2011, Pusha T made his solo run official on the mixtape Fear of God. The project added weight (no pun) to P’s name and featured the undeniable gem “Open Your Eyes.” Other than its entree of double entendres and razor-sharp lyricism, the production adds extra zest and it pulls a sample from, drum roll, Queen’s operatic rock ballad “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
“Another One Bites the Dust” (1980)
The Neptunes knew what they were doing when they blessed Gwen Stefani with her massive 2004 hit “Hollaback Girl.” As Stefani was prepping her solo debut, the producers laced the singer with a hard-hitting banger that just so happened to contain a few elements from Queen’s best-selling hit, “Another One Bites the Dust”. Coincidentally, “Hollaback Girl” would end up becoming one of Stefani’s best-selling hits. In addition to Stefani, Flying Lotus also references the record on his 2014 track “Dead Man’s Tetris.”
“Made In Heaven” (1985)
On 2004’s Kiss of Death, Jadakiss and Styles P trade the gulliest of lines on “Shootouts.” Like the title suggests, the record is as hard as concrete and nails. To bring it home though, their rhymes all dance over Queen’s “Made In Heaven” ballad. While producer Elite brings the umph with his pothole-shattering production, the arena rock sample wraps it altogether in a perfect bow.