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Hip-Hop Songs That Sample Classical Music (ft. Nas, Meek Mill, A+, Tory Lanez)

A+ - Enjoy Yourself (1998)

A song from 1998 -- I remember seeing this video on MTV in Israel (I was 11 or 12 at the time). It is one of the earliest hip-hop songs I ever liked -- along with Everything is Everything by Lauryn Hill and Hard Knock Life by Jay-Z (I still remember sitting on the couch in our apartment in Ramat-Gan and seeing the street move in Lauryn's video).

The very first "real hip-hop" song I heard was Changes by 2Pac, introduced to me by arch-nemesis in class -- the leader of the popular kids (kind of reminds me of Angry Bob). Before that, I had heard only "pop music" with rap in it, like 5ive's If Ya Getting Down or Eiffel 65's Too Much of Heaven.

I haven't heard anything from A+ since this song -- let me know in the comments if you have (or if you've ever heard this song at all).

It is probably my favorite classical sample in a hip hop beat -- beating out even Nas' I Can, which I also love.

The beat samples the famous line from Beethoven's Fifth -- officially known as Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 (which is 36 minutes long -- luckily, the sample appears right at the beginning of the piece).

The original came from 1808 -- 191 years before A+.

Technically -- the A+ song, produced by Ty Fyffe (aka Sugarless), samples a remix of Beethoven -- Walter Murphy's 1976 track A Fifth of Beethoven. The groove is already there -- Ty just beefed up the drums and arranged it.

You could argue he didn't do much -- but I would disagree :-)

Nas - I Can (2003)

Nas' song samples Fur Elise (Beethoven from 1810). Salaam Remi production (watch his interviews on VladTV). This one I probably heard in high school. My buddy Moses's favorite rapper was Nas and he must've showed it to me -- in 2003, I was a sophomore.

We had a hip-hop group in Cupertino High School called the Fascinators - a Chinese kid on viola and a slightly (very slightly) more rugged Chinese kid (Moses) and Jewish kid (me) switching off beatboxing and rapping. That was the outfit -- it went off great at high school talent shows.

I remember we were in the living room of his house across the street from our high school -- we'd go hang out there during lunch -- and he told me that Nas was his favorite rapper. I remember feeling surprised because even though he was really smooth and lyrical, I didn't think he was animated enough to be anyone's favorite rapper. I guess in that moment, I realized everyone looks for something different -- even your buddies in the same rap group.

One thing that's interesting about the Fur Elise piece -- is that it's one of the most iconic pieces of (classical?) music ever -- but it actually was never released during Beethoven's lifetime. Even though he wrote it in 1810, it wasn't found until 1867, forty years after his death. Did he not think it was fire enough to release?

Could've made some money.

Bonus Track: Meek Mill - Lord Knows (ft. Tory Lanez)

Before I say anything else -- the music video version is censored. Click for the uncensored audio, if you're so inclined.

Now if you don't like anything newer than 2007, you may not like this song, but if you do -- then this is a good example of a turn-up anthem (with a message). 

It samples Mozart's Requiem from 1791 -- or more accurately, a recording of the piece by the Slovak Orchestra and Choir from 1987 (we don't have any sound recordings from the seventeen hundreds).

The section of the piece that producer Play Picasso sampled is called "Lacrimosa dies illa" -- which means "that tearful day" -- referring to the day that the guilty man rises from the ashes and is redeemed by God again.

Mozart started this piece the year of his death and it was finished by assistant Franz Xaver Süssmayr at the request of Mozart's wife Constanze.

The musical idea had transformed and passed through many hands over the 200+ years, but one thing is for certain -- no Mozart draft, no Meek song.

Lord knows...

- Pavel

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