The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.
—by Rashad D. Grove
There aren’t many who can claim that they have been an active participant in the evolution of American music. Quincy Delight Jones is such a person. He is arguably the most decorated and accomplished musician in recorded history. As a producer, writer, composer, and arranger, his career spans over 60 years in music, film and television. For his work, he has received a record 79 Grammy Award nominations, 27 Grammy wins, and a Grammy Legend Award. From Off the Wall, Thriller, Bad, and his critically acclaimed and commercially successful solo work, Jones’s music has been the soundtrack to many of our lives.
His true genius lies in is his ability to collaborate with a diverse group of artists, transcending genres. Beginning as a jazz trumpeter with Lionel Hampton, Jones has worked with Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, and a host of others too numerous to mention. He’s stayed on the cutting edge of the music industry by cultivating relationships with younger musicians, even those of hip-hop. Unlike many of his contemporaries who failed to see the phenomenon as a continuation of the Black music tradition, he willingly tapped into the energy and creativity of the culture. He included Big Daddy Kane, Ice-T, and Kool Moe Dee on his Back on the Block LP which won a Grammy Award for Album of the Year. On Q’s Juke Joint, he enlisted Kid Capri, Funkmaster Flex, LL Cool J, Queen Latifah, and Heavy D. He handpicked Will Smith to star in his own show The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, which he also executive produced. But my favorite moment was when he was seen in Wu-Tang Clan’s epic “Triumph” video nodding his head in agreement with RZA behind the production boards.
From the very beginning, Jones has connected himself with hip-hop culture. In return, the genre’s artists have used compositions from Jones’ extensive catalogue as source material to create their own sonic backdrops. With his new documentary Quincy due September 21, here’s a look at 10 hip-hop hits that sampled his songs.
10 | “Soul Bossa Nova” (1962) // Ludacris, “Number One Spot” (2004)
In 2004, Ludacris was one of the biggest rappers on the planet. His albums and guest appearances routinely garnered massive radio play and his innovative music videos stayed in consistent rotation on TV. As one of the most animated rappers, Luda parlayed his success in music into acting roles on the big screen, so who else but he could rock over the hypnotic “Soul Bossa Nova” by Jones and recreate the entire Austin Powers film series in one video? Ludacris’ epic, DJ Green Lantern-produced “Number One Spot” track served as the second single from his multi-platinum 2004 album The Red Light District, and its lyrics were replete with references and catchphrases from the major movie trilogy. The epitome of cool, Jones even makes a cameo in the video—as himself. Yeah, baby!
9 | “The Lady in My Life” (1982) // LL Cool J, “Hey Lover” (1995)
In 1995, LL Cool J‘s acting career was gaining momentum with his own television show In The House. But he returned to his first love of being an MC and dropped “Hey Lover,” a rap ballad featuring Boyz II Men, and the first single from his Mr. Smith album. Produced by the hitmaking duo The Trackmasters, “Hey Lover” samples Michael Jackson’s “The Lady in My Life,” a Quiet Storm favorite produced by Jones. LL’s story of chasing after the woman of his dreams is flawlessly interwoven with Q’s plush composition and, as undoubtedly one of LL’s best efforts in the later half of the 90s, it introduced him to a new fanbase.
8 | “Roots Mural Theme” (1977) // Juelz Santana, “Mic Check” (2004)
In 2004, Dipset had the streets on fire with their cult-like following. One of their generals, Juelz Santana, was on the rise and seeking to carve out his own place in the game, using the Neo Da Matrix-produced “Mic Check” as the first single from his sophomore album What the Game’s Been Missing! The track soon became a street anthem thanks to Jones’ genius from almost 30 years earlier as it boasted a chopped up of the “Roots Mural Theme” that Jones had composed for the groundbreaking miniseries Roots. It’s one of his most memorable arrangements and a favorite for MCs to freestyle over, ultimately assisting in “Mic Check” becoming an underground classic.
7 | “Summer in the City” (1973) // The Pharcyde, “Passin’ Me By” (1993)
The West Coast never seems to get enough credit for the diverse voices that emerged from their hip-hop scene. While The Chronic by Dr. Dre was omnipresent in 1993, an alternative underground group called The Pharcyde cooked up a classic of their own. “Passin’ Me By”—on which all the members of the group recall schoolboy crushes that all eventually led to broken hearts—was released in March of the same year, as the second single from their brilliant debut Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde. With captivating production by J-Swift, the track employs a sample from the opening bars of Jones’ “Summer in the City,” a funk masterpiece from his 1973 album You Got It Bad Girl. Without question, “Passin’ Me By” still has one the best hooks ever in hip-hop history.
6 | “Liberian Girl” (1989) // MC Lyte, “Keep On, Keepin’ On”(1996)
After being a pioneer for female rappers and providing a catalogue of incredible music, in 1996, MC Lyte conquered the pop charts with her biggest hit “Keep On, Keepin’ On” featuring Xscape. The track was first released as a single from the Sunset Park soundtrack and it later appeared on MC Lyte’s fifth studio album, Bad As I Wanna B. Produced and co-written by Songwriter Hall of Famer Jermaine Dupri, it features a sample loop of an overlooked Michael Jackson gem, “Liberian Girl” from his Bad album, produced by Jones. Dupri’s rearrangement of Jones’ work was the perfect complement to the raw lyrics of Lyte and the sensual vocals of Xscape.
5 | “Kitty With the Bent Frame” (1972) // Mobb Deep, “Shook Ones Part II” (1995)
From the moment Prodigy spit “To all the dealers and the hundred-dollar billers,” we knew we were listening to a classic. “Shook Ones (Part II)” by Mobb Deep features one of the greatest verses ever by Prodigy and one of the best tracks ever produced by Havoc. Released in 1995 as the lead single from their album The Infamous, and a remix of sorts to “Shook Ones,” it is essential 90s-era New York City street hip-hop. On “Part II,” Havoc skillfully samples the song “Kitty With the Bent Frame,” a rare Jones record from the 1972 soundtrack album Dollar$. Even rare finds from Q’s vault had the potential to produce hip-hop masterpieces.
4 | “Body Heat” (1974) // 2Pac, “How Do You Want It” (1996)
In 1996, at the height of the East Coast vs. West Coast feud, 2Pac took his talents to Death Row Records where he began work on an ambitious double-album he would title All Eyez On Me. During the recording sessions, ‘Pac reportedly knew he needed another song that would get spins on the radio across the country. Cut in one take, “How Do U Want It” became one the hottest songs from the album, in large part due to K-Ci & JoJo lending their Southern fried vocals on the hook. Produced by one of ‘Pac’s favorite boardsmen, Johnny J, it utilizes “Body Heat” by Jones, a record that has been heavily sampled in hip-hop—most notably by Mobb Deep on “Temperatures Rising.” Never one to shy away from controversy, in “How Do You Want It” ‘Pac takes shots at political figures Bill Clinton, Bob Dole and C. Delores Tucker, all the while creating a jam full of sexual energy that kept the dancefloors packed.
3 | “I Can’t Help It” (1979) // De La Soul, “Breakadawn” (1993)
De La Soul were geniuses at redefining themselves. They rejected being put in any kind of box. Their third album, Buhloone Mindstate, was no exception. The trio released “Breakadawn” as a single from the album in 1993 and it was De La Soul at their best. Produced by their longtime collaborator, the legendary DJ Paul, “Breakadawn” samples the deep cut and fan favorite “I Can’t Help It” by Michael Jackson, written by Stevie Wonder and produced by Jones, from the Off the Wall album. Like most of De La Soul’s music, “Breakadawn” was ahead of its time and still sounds fresh today proving that Jones still had the Midas touch.
2 | “Human Nature” (1983) // Nas, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” (1994)
“Hit the earth like a comet invasion / Nas is like the Afrocentric Asian / Half man, half amazing.” Those rhymes from “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” by Nas, the second single from the masterpiece Illmatic, accurately describe the prowess of the Queensbridge MC. The potency of Nas’ pen game has never sounded so good as it did then. Large Professor, who was at the helm of the production, masterfully uses “Human Nature” from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, another Q production, as the sonic backdrop for Nas’ poetic lyricism. Boasting one of the most recognizable arrangements from Jones, “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” was a mission statement not only for Illmatic, but for Nas’ artistry as he effortlessly glided over the sample.
1 | “P.Y.T.” (1982) // Kanye West, “Good Life”(2007)
Kanye West was at the top of his game as a producer and artist in 2007. After establishing himself among hip-hop’s elite by outselling 50 Cent in their first week standoff of Graduation vs. Curtis, he was in the mood to enjoy the fruits of his labor, and “Good Life” featuring T-Pain was the perfect way to celebrate his breakthrough success. As the third single, and produced by West and DJ Toomp, it brilliantly samples the keyboard outro of Michael Jackson’s classic “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing),” written by James Ingram and produced Jones for Thriller. That Quincy Jones magic was still working. I’m gooood!
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