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In pursuit of “The girl with pearly hair”—American hip-hop tracks sampled from Eastern European songs

Sampling, which became widespread around the 1980s, was a major breakthrough in hip-hop and electronic genres and revolutionized the producers’ work. Finding the perfect gems through systematic research and creative processes involves careful manipulation, thus creating a delicate blend between the original melody and the new composition. Rap artists often turn East and even further East for an original sound, and in many cases, a folk song or a well-known European hit has been taken on a world tour by an American producer.

We have collected seven of these songs from today’s artists in this compilation.

Kanye West (feat. Frank Ocean)—New Slaves

One of the most successful artists, Kanye West, who has made six of the Rolling Stones’ top 500 albums of all time, was no less successful with his sixth studio album, Yeezus. Each sample is unique compared to his previous releases, with a raw and minimalist sound. This is especially true of the song made famous by the ambiguous use of Omega’s 1969 hit “The girl with pearly hair”—in Hungary. The very end of the song features the voice of singer János Kóbor, and the song was composed by Gábor Presser.

Sample appears: 2:53
Sample appears: 0:33

Diddy – Dirty Money—Hello Good Morning ft. T.I., Rick Ross 

As a successful producer, P. Diddy has collaborated with Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z and many other well-known artists, so it’s no surprise that he has also drawn from the legendary tunes of the Eastern Bloc. His 2010 album, created with the Dirty Money trio, features T.I. and Rick Ross alongside the song Hello Good Morning, with the intro of the 1980 song Bez Ciebie Jesień (Autumn Without You) by Polish pop legend Zdzisława Sośnicka.

Sample appears: 0:00
Sample appears: 0:00

Kendrick Lamar—DUCKWORTH.

No wonder Kendrick himself named DUCKWORTH as his favorite song on his album DAMN. Not only does the track tell a powerful and true story, but it’s also the closing chord of his Pulitzer Prize-winning 2017 album. The track brokes down into three different samples, one of which happens to be from a seventies Yugoslavian rock band, September. The title “Ostavi Trag” can be translated as “Leave a Trace,” which fits perfectly with Kendrick’s album.

Sample appears: 1:43
Sample appears: 0:27

T.I. (feat. Rihanna)—Live Your Life

A better-known adaptation is O-zone’s hit, Dragostea Din Tei, which peaked in 2004, topping most European charts. The tune, which has been featured in memes and videos since, was sampled on T.I. and Rihanna’s 2008 collaboration Live Your Life. The song was produced by Just Blaze and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, setting a record for the highest jump forward ever. 

Sample appears: 0:47
Sample appears: 0:40

Heltah Skeltah—Hellz Kitchen (Prod. By Evidence)

Heltah Skeltah was an American hip-hop duo formed by Jahmal “Rock” Bush and Sean “Ruck” Price. The Brooklyn rappers were members of the New York supergroup “Boot Camp Clik” alongside other famous producers. For the track “Hellz Kitchen,” they chose a Hungarian-song-based piano theme as inspiration, no wonder, as it was crying out to be the basis for a hip-hop song.

Sample appears: 0:00
Sample appears: 0:00

JAY-Z—D.O.A (Death Of Auto-Tune)

One of the most financially successful hip-hop artists, Jay-Z is an American rapper and producer whose albums have been landmarks in the genre’s history. D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune), from the Blueprint 3 album, also on the Rolling Stones’ list, deals with the use of tone correction, and Jay-Z’s opinion is underlined by the work of a Turkish-born French composer, Janko Nilović.

Sample appears: 0:06
Sample appears: 0:50

D Smoke & Snoop Dogg—Gaspar Yanga

Named after the 16th-century rebel leader of colonial Mexico’s first successful slave rebellion, later “Mexico’s national hero,” this 2020 track by D Smoke and Snoop Dogg was created using a sample from a Bulgarian folk song: Hey, Petrunko (Bre, Petrunko).

Sample appears: 1:05
Sample appears: 0:00

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