It is a sad day for music lovers as news broke early this morning about the passing of B.B. King. He is without a doubt one of the most influential guitar players of all time, having impacted generations of musicians inside and outside of the blues. King is often ranked with the likes of Chuck Berry and Jimi Hendrix as having altered the course of countless music genres with his guitar. Best known for his cover of the 1951 hit song “The Thrill Is Gone,” King can rest easy now as his name has been solidified in the history books.
Many rappers have mentioned his name in their lyrics, often hoping to achieve his level of mastery and status as a respected musician. This list comprises of seven cuts where King’s guitar playing and vocals were chopped up to give life to more music.
Ghostface feat. Shawn Wigs and Eamon – “Hold On”
Arguably the king of sped-up soul samples, Ghostface borrows the vocals of the “King of the Blues” to form the hook for this song. Fellow Wu-Tang member Method Man once even name-dropped B.B. King on the song “PLO Style.”
Kendrick Lamar feat. MC Eiht – “m.A.A.d City”
Halfway through this, Kendrick changes the beat and adds violins from a King tune to give the track a throwback West Coast vibe. The sample used here has been borrowed many times by the likes of Ice Cube, RZA, and even 50 Cent.
Masta Ace Incorporated – “Style Wars”
Masta Ace samples a bit of the King here for this track that was presumably named after the classic hip-hop documentary. The 20th anniversary of his Incorporated crew’s second album, Sittin’ On Chrome, was on April 30th.
Wale – “Walk N Live”
Wale flips the B.B. King song Kendrick used on “m.A.A.d City,” and comes up with a completely different interpretation of the often-sampled tune. This Wale track was a response to Complex omitting his album, The Gifted, from its 2013 list of top albums.
Kool G Rap & DJ Polo – “Jive Talk”
Masta Ace was not the only Juice Crew member who flipped B.B. King’s music, as Kool G Rap does here on a cut from his second classic album. DJ Polo was behind the boards producing this one.
Reef the Lost Cauze – “Sound of Philadelphia”
Underrated Philly rapper Reef the Lost Cauze pays homage to his hometown with this rocking sample of the legendary guitar player. Take the time to listen to the lyrics on this one as Reef provides a bird’s-eye view of his city.
X Clan – “Fire & Earth”
This single from X Clan’s second album, Xodus, actually has a sample of “The Thrill Is Gone” on it. The track was in some ways a shot at the group 3rd Bass.
Special Mention: Big K.R.I.T. feat. B.B. King – Praying Man
Big K.R.I.T. can boast about having worked with the legend on his debut album, Live From The Underground, as King plays guitar and sings on this track. Long live the King.
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