I am a child of the Golden Age of Hip Hop, which most would argue is the late 80s and early 90s. Many believe this time represents the golden age due to the evolution of lyrical content and delivery. Additionally, the musical styles and the artists that used them became more diverse. Another significant factor was the upgraded use of sampling. My favorite production team during this time was The Bomb Squad comprised of Hank Shocklee, Keith Shocklee, Chuck D. and Eric Sadler. This team powered the sound of Public Enemy, Ice Cube and many others. They were one of the first to utilize multiple samples in a song. This is the period that I fell in love with Hip Hop.
I also fell in love with Gospel Music during this time. The first two albums I remember listening to front to back were John P. Kee and New Life’s We Walk by Faith and the Mississippi Mass Choir Debut project (the one with “Near the Cross”). Since then I’ve seen so much growth and evolution in Gospel. It too has seen production values vastly improve while artists have pushed creative boundaries.
Both genres became an integral part of my life so it’s always interesting when the two collide in different ways. In the last few years, I’ve noticed more hip hop songs with samples from gospel artists. I’d like to share a list of a few of my favorites.
Fred Hammond’s “Let the Praise Begin” – sampled by Chance the Rapper in “Blessings (Reprise)”
This example involves two of my favorite artists. I firmly believe that Fred Hammond is the best gospel artists of the last 30 years. Every Fred Hammond release has advanced the Gospel Music forward, starting from his days in Commissioned. For “Blessings”, Chance sampled the melody as well as the hook. To me both songs communicated the anticipation of good things after challenging circumstances.
Kirk Franklin’s “Don’t Cry” – sampled by Nas in “No Intro”
Many would argue that Kirk Franklin is the greatest gospel artists of this generation. It’s hard to disagree. While Fred Hammond was the architect of the urban praise & worship sound heard in many black churches to this day, Kirk took the art form and message outside the church walls. Apropos that Nas, arguably the greatest lyricist of this generation, would rhyme over this particular J.U.S.T.I.C.E League beat that sampled Kirk.
Florida Mass Choir “Be Ye Steadfast” – sampled by Gallant “Talking to Myself”
This one is subtler. Listen to the first 30 seconds of Florida Mass and you’ll notice the riff used n Gallant’s song. It reminds me of the work of two of the greatest producers, 9th Wonder and the late J Dilla, who are able to take a snippet of an obscure song and reimagine it into a masterpiece.
There are many more songs like the three I outlined. I look forward to sharing those in future posts.