Drake’s “Hotling Bling” is topping many “Best Song of the Year” lists despite only reaching number 2 on the Hot Billboard 100 Charts earlier this year. Several covers of the song have been released by fellow artists including Justin Bieber, Erykah Badu and Sam Smith & Disclosure. With its catchy hook, “I know when that hotline bling, that can only mean one thing,” and bouncy beats it was deemed an instant classic around the world.
What few people know, however, is that the song is itself is a sample of a top five hit by R&B artist Timmy Thomas. In 1973 his surprise hit “Why Can’t We Live Together,” reached number 3 on the pop charts and number 1 on the R&B charts. The message of universal peace was much different than Drake’s getting a booty call from an ex. Thomas’ song was covered by other artists before the Canadian rapper got hold of it, including: Sade, Steve Winwood, Santana and even MC Hammer on his Too Legit to Quit album. The success of “Hotline Bling” is now inspiring Thomas to get back on the road and re-launch as a one-man band.
In today’s rewind, reuse, recycle world, music is no different, especially in the crate-digging, trainspotting mentality of music production. There is nothing new in art however, that hasn’t already come or been inspired by something before. The Bible says so: “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) The poet T.S. Eliot reiterated: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something better.” From Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” to Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” it seems the future of today is something we’ve heard before. This list was taken from a compilation of “Best of” lists and doesn’t represent the complete, definite and last word on what’s sure to remain a hot topic of debate.
10 “Here We Go (Live at the Funhouse)” – Run-D.M.C. (1983)
9 “Impeach the President” – Honey Drippers (1973)
8 “La Di Da Di” – Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick (1985)
7 “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” – James Brown (1974) Cheech
6 “The Big Beat” – Billy Squier (1980)
5 “Funky Drummer” – James Brown (1970)
4 “Think (About It)” – Lyn Collins (1972)
3 “Long Red” – Mountain (1972)
2 “Change the Beat (Female Version)” – Beside/Fab 5 Freddy (1982)
1 “Amen, Brother” – The Winstons (1969)
A fundraising campaign was started in the UK to get royalties back to this band who, according to whosampled.com, is the most sampled song of all time. Unfortunately, the band’s drummer died penniless in 2006 but the campaign raised £24,000 or $40,000 USD after asking for an initial £1000 or $1600 USD. After a re-interest in the campaign, more people continue to contribute to what gave way to some of hip-hop’s greatest hits by more than 1900 artists: Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, and Skrillex. N.W.A. used the song’s drums on repeat in their debut single “Straight Outta Compton”, now a feature film starring none other than Ice Cube’s son, released earlier this year.
Sources: smithsonianmag.com, nytimes.com, forbes.com, vh1.com, whosampled.com
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