Timeless: Ten Tracks You didn’t Know Sampled Fela Kuti

Fela Kuti is famous across the globe as a spiritualist, Pan-Africanist, revolutionary, and the Father of Afrobeat. It is no surprise that Fela’s music has proven to be a timeless influence in Black culture. From Afrobeats to Jazz, Hip-Hop, and various other music genres, Fela’s work continues to live on. To celebrate Fela Kuti and his significant influence on music, we have created a list of ten tracks that sampled Fela’s work.

10. “Pops Rap III…All My Children” – Common

In the year 2000, Common dropped, “Pops Rap III…All My Children” featuring his father, Lonnie “Pops” Lynn. You may not hear the Fela Kuti sample when you first listen to the track, in fact it actually starts out sampling Erykah Badu’s “Next Lifetime.” However, with 30 seconds left on the track, Common sampled Fela Kuti’s “Water No Get Enemyhook.

9. “Watcha Gonna Do” – Missy Elliott ft. Timbaland

Missy Elliott has also been on that Fela wave, even long before she was posting shoki videos on Instagram. Missy sampled Fela’s “Sorrow Tears and Blood” on her 2001 track, “Whatcha Gonna Do.”

8. “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” – Buckshot Lefonque

Yes, this is the title of that Maya Angelou book you had to read in 8th grade and yes, it is also a song. I remember my teacher playing this and I had immediately thought the beat was African. It didn’t really click that this was a Fela sample until I heard, “AYAKATA AYAKOTO AYAKOTO AYAKATA.I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” sampled “Beast of No Nations.”

7. “Feel Good Inc.”- Amerigo Gazaway ft. Gorillaz

America Gazaway is an American producer and DJ, known for his digital sampling and remixes of songs. He released Fela Soul, an album centered on mixing afrobeat rhythms with classic hip-hop and funk, in 2011. “Feel Good Inc.,” one of the more popular tracks from Fela Soul, sampled “Trouble Sleeps Yanga Wake Am.

6. “Warrior Song” – Nas ft. Alicia Keys

Nas and Alicia Keys dropped “Warrior Song” which sampled Fela’s “Na Poi.” It was only right for a song relaying a political message and emphasizing with the inner warriors of black people to sample a political activist like Fela. Nas’ sampling of many elements in Na Poiwas an attempt to connect with his African heritage and paint himself as a man of the people.

5. “Temper Remix” – Skales ft. Burna Boy

We shouldn’t be too shocked at Afrobeats artist sampling the Father of Afrobeat. But I was a little surprised to find out “Temper“(Remix) is a sample of Fela’s “Sorrow Tears and Blood. When you listen to both tracks side by side, there is no mistake that there is both instrumental and vocal sampling going on.

4. “Mortal Man” – Kendrick Lamar

This one is a tricky one! Kendrick’s “Mortal Man” sampled Fela’s “I No Get Eye For Back,but it took forever to actually hear the sample. After about three replays, I finally heard the saxophone rhythm with a slightly different tone. Why is that? Kendrick Lamar sampled Houston Pearson’s saxophone cover of  “I No Get Eye For Back.” If you are adamant about hearing where the sample is, I would suggest that you listen to Fela’s “I No Get Eye For Back,” then Houston Pearson’s sample, and then lastly, “Mortal Man.

3. “I Will Not Apologize” – The Roots

The Root’s “I Will Not Apologize” from their album, Rising Down, is another track that sampled the GOAT, Fela Kuti. This track sampled various elements of “Mr. Grammarticalogylisationalism Is the Boss”.

2. “Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It?” – X-Clan

The iconic group released “Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It?” on their debut album, To The East Backwards. They directly sampled the lyrics from the second half of Fela Kuti’s “Sorrow Tears and Blood.” They continued to work various afrobeat rhythms from Fela’s era into their tracks before they broke up.

“Let Nas Down” – J Cole

When J Cole dropped Born SinnerLet Nas Down was one of the tracks that generated conversations. Did he really let Nas down? Did Nas really say he hated his single? While we saw many other questions, nobody stopped to ask where that instrumental was from. J Cole directly sampled the hook of Gentleman by Fela Kuti on the track. He didn’t let Fela Down.

Got one that we missed? Let us know on Twitter: @Onetribemag

Written by:

Dami Molumo is a Junior Sports Medicine major, Chemitry and African American studies minor at Howard University. Dami was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria. At the age of 10, she moved to Maryland, United States, where she currently resides. She recently began documenting her journey on her blog, Blameless Creations. She loves dancing, traveling, self-reflecting, and laughing.

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