Hip hop and metal are sometimes pitched as polar opposites, but the genres have mixed countless times over the past three decades. From nu metal stars like Korn and Limp Bizkit incorporating hip hop elements into their sound, to collaborations ranging from Linkin Park and Jay-Z to Anthax and Public Enemy, the collision of worlds has provided some of metal's most popular and groundbreaking acts.
But what happens when it goes the other way? The results can be no less stellar. To that end, here are 10 amazing hip hop songs that use metal samples to stunning effect.
1. Public Enemy - She Watch Channel Zero?! (It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, 1988)
Samples: Slayer - Angel of Death (Reign In Blood, 1986)
On their second album, It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back, Public Enemy wanted to create songs that matched the intensity of their live shows. What better way to do that than sample the iron-clad riff from Def Jam labelmates Slayer’s 1986 thrash landmark Angel Of Death?
The finished song was an updated version of Gill Scott Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, PE’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav bemoaning the consciousness-crushing banality of trash TV.
2. Ice-T - Midnight (O.G. Original Gangster, 1991)
Samples: Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath (Black Sabbath, 1970)
Way before the world had heard Body Count, Ice-T was sampling the godfathers of metal Black Sabbath, using their landmark eponymous track as the intro to his 1989 album The Iceberg, with Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra ranting deliriously over the top.
Two years later, he revisited the same Sabs song on Midnight, using Tony Iommi’s riff to soundtrack its bleak tale of LA gang violence. Side note: Sabbath have been massively popular with rappers down the years, sampled by everyone from Sir-Mix-A-Lot to Backxwash.
3. Boogie Down Productions - Ya Slippin' (By All Means Necessary, 1988)
Samples: Deep Purple - Smoke on the Water (Machine Head, 1972)
Deep Purple’s classic rock chestnut Smoke On The Water may be kryptonite to any guitar shop employee, but it forms part of this hugely influential 1988 track from KRS-One’s hip hop visionaries Boogie Down Productions. Snippets of this tune were later also used by both the Beastie Boys and House of Pain.
4. DJ Shadow - The Number Song (Endtroducing, 1996)
Samples: Metallica - Orion (Master Of Puppets, 1986)
Endtroducing, the debut album from crate-digging turntable wizard DJ Shadow, is a landmark instrumental hip hop record. Whosampled.com lists 18 different samples on The Number Song, but the most prominent is from Metallica’s Orion. Cliff Burton’s driving bass chords are combined with a He 6 drum beat before it breaks down with stabbing Pearly Queen trumpets.
5. Death Grips - Klink (Exmilitary, 2011)
Samples: Black Flag - Rise Above (Damaged, 1981)
Just five months after Sacramento provocateurs Death Grips got together, their Exmilitary mixtape set the underground alight with its cudgeling, experimental hip hop. Klink found them sampling Black Flag’s landmark early 80s hardcore anthem Rise Above and distorting it into a pounding backing for MC Ride to rap about racial profiling.
6. Ill Bill - When I Die (The Grimy Awards, 2013)
Samples: Mercyful Fate - To One Far Away (Don't Break The Oath, 1984)
A former member of a death metal band who has collaborated with Max Cavalera and Deftones’ Stephen Carpenter, and has a side project called Heavy Metal Kings, Brooklyn’s Ill Bill had quite the metal pedigree before moving to the world of hip-hop.
Bill has previously rapped over tracks from Dragonforce and Alice in Chains but on this track he takes on Mercyful Fate’s To One Far Away in an earnest tribute to his uncle.
7. Trae Tha Truth - I'm Fresh (2009)
Samples: Electric Wizard - Dopethrone (Dopethrone, 2000)
Trae The Truth is one of the stalwarts of the Houston rap scene, to the extent that July 22 is officially recognised as "Trae Day" in his his hometown. Respect for using a sample of Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone for his 2009 track I’m Fresh, even if the doom icons weren’t happy – the song was pulled and eventually re-released with a different beat.
8. Lil Peep - Hellboy (Hellboy, 2016)
Samples: Underoath - Too Bright To See, Too Loud To Hear (Lost In The Sound Of Seperation, 2008)
The late Lil Peep opened his fifth and final mixtape with a track about the pitfalls of his fast-paced lifestyle. Produced by Smokeasac & Yung Cortex, Peep’s droning and distorted vocals turn a nondescript Underoath intro into part of a grungey anthem for the disaffected.
9. Backxwash - BURN TO ASHES (I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And Dresses, 2021)
Samples: Godspeed You! Black Emperor - Static (Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, 2000)
Canadian post-rock icons Godspeed You! Black Emperor aren’t really a metal band, but the squall of the tremolo-heavy Static wouldn't feel out of place on a Deafheaven album. Maybe that's why Canadian trap-metal pioneer Backxwash sampled it for the closing track of her 2021 album I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses.
10. JPEGMAGIA - End Credits! (LP!, 2021)
Sample: Animals as Leaders - Monomyth (single, 2021)
Prog metal standard-bearers Animals As Leaders had only released Monomyth about a month before Brooklyn rapper JEPGMAFIA’s 2021 album LP! but he still found a way to squeeze a sample from Tosin Abasi’s guitar solo into End Credits!. Proof why Peggy is considered one of the most forward thinking rappers working today.