Whether it’s the acoustic rarity and the delicate groove of Ain’t No Sunshine, or the heavy funk of songs like Use Me, here are some of the greatest songs that use samples from Bill Withers, and wouldn’t be all the same without them.
Blackstreet feat. Dr Dre and Queen Pen
Samples: Grandma’s Hands
Launch No Diggity in a crowded room and you will have a hard time making people dance. But the success of Blackstreet in 1996 could have been in several hands if things had changed slightly.
Dr. Dre constructed the rhythm from a sample from the hands of Bill Withers’ grandmother and planned his release from Death Row Records when he partnered with New Jack Swing king Teddy Riley to produce Blackstreet. To get under the radar, Dre’s contribution outside of his credited verse was kept discreet, Riley being credited as a producer.
Legend has it that Suge Knight originally offered the rhythm to 2Pac, to appear on All Eyez On Me, his first album for Death Row, but Dr. Dre had already sold the rhythm to Riley, who in turn had proposed to r ‘n’b group, Guy. The sessions failed to produce, and even a final offer to Guy’s lead singer Aaron Hall was refused, keeping it destined for Blackstreet. The acoustic guitar sample is taken from the start of the song, with the humming voice featured throughout the song. Bill Withers has given us many gifts, but in addition to the music, he should be applauded for providing the basis for the song that brought Macarena from its top spot on the 14-week chart.
Kendrick Lamar: Sing about me, I’m dying of thirst
Samples: use me
The incredible kick, hat and crosstick groove of James Gadson of Withers’ funky masterpiece, Use Me laid the groundwork for many hip-hop songs. UGK (Underground Kings) used the drums, reinforced by samples and the unified riff of the song, as well as the title of Use Me Up in 1992. Nas and Kanye West joined to create Still Dreaming using rhythm and Logic sought to use Moi twice in 2014 on Under Pressure and Metropolis. But Bill Withers is clearly strong in the lineage of the Dr Dre family, while Kendrick Lamar put the groove to its best use in Sing About Me, I Dying of Thirst of 2012, the good child of the city of m.A.A.d.
The rhythm is Gadson par excellence: sixteenths with one hand played delicately on the hi-hats (with barking accents), a dead and percussive bass drum and a crosstick so thick and fat, you would swear it was a sample. In other words, if James Gadson was not the guy who is sampled, rather than using them.
Dr Dre feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg: Let me go up
Samples: Kiss my love
Dr. Dre’s first solo album, Da Chronic, set a new bar for bass bass in hip-hop, making it the perfect partner for an Impala of 64 equipped with a bouncy suspension and (like the name and the cover image suggests it) the occasional botanical cigarette.
Da Chronic also gave us Snoop Dogg, (still using his “middle name”, Doggy at this point) which Dr. Dre has honored with multiple collaborations on the album. One of them, Let Me Ride, borrows his battery from Kiss With My’s Billingers. Once again, Gadson demonstrates his incredible hi-hat technique on the song, keeping a rhythmic mix throughout which requires endurance and sensation to reproduce properly. With Dr Dre’s funky bass and the Mini Moog trademark layered on top, this is a perfect sample of the booming G-Funk.
Eminem: Just The Two Of Us / ’97 Bonnie and Clyde
Samples: just the two of us
We bet that when Bill co-wrote Just The Two Of Us with Grover Washington Jr, he was in a better position to predict Will Smith’s paternity ode in 1997 than to trace the soundtrack of a fantastic body. But that’s exactly how Eminem used the samples and tweens from 97 Bonnie And Clyde’s song. Eminem’s early disregard for Will Smith’s sleek rap style is well known, and Smith’s version of the song offers a sickly and sweet statement of joy at becoming a parent. Eminem, meanwhile, follows his journey with his daughter Hailie – the body of ex-wife Kim in the trunk of his car – to the beach, where he rolls the body of a pier, finishing the last verse with the phrase “Ninety-seven Bonnie and Clyde, me and my daughter”. Listen to these original chords anyway!
Kanye West Roses
Kanye West aimed for social justice on her song Roses, against the backdrop of Rosie’s bluesy piano chords, and also includes vocal samples from the rack. Representing her dying grandmother in a hospital, where staff are as concerned about getting their autograph as helping their patient. He is taking a look at Magic Johnson – a long-time victim of HIV – and how he views celebrities as a priority in society with the phrase “You tell me if my grandmother is in the NBA right now, would it be OK? ‘. The original is from Withers’ Menagerie album, released in 1978.
Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello: I know what you did last summer
Samples: Ain’t No Sunshine (interpolation)
Every songwriter and capo have tackled Ain’t No Sunshine at one time or another, because it’s one of the best songs ever written. But in 2015, Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello borrowed the famous line “Je sais, je sais …” for their song I Know What You Did last summer. The two singers tried different times of the song, and while we don’t think anyone who will team up with Bill singing the line, just under 345 million people seem to have enjoyed the official video on YouTube.
Joe Budden The Future
Samples: you don’t want to stay
Joe Budden and Eminem may not be seeing a lot these days, but we think they’re united in their opinion on Bill Withers’ ability to write a stellar groove.
You do not want to stay? from 1975, Making music sounds almost baroque when it is introduced, then as soon as the beat comes into play, it has all the ingredients of a ready-to-use hip-hop sample, in particular the bass line . This is probably why Biz Markie, Kendrick Lammar and Tech N9ne all have leads based around it. Budden’s version appears on his 2005 mixtape, Mood Muzik 2.
DMX: Ain’t no Sunshine
Samples: Ain’t No Sunshine
When you are already co-starring alongside Steven Seagal in a crime drama on the nasty streets of Detroit, you might as well write part of the soundtrack. That’s what the rapper DMX did for his involvement in Exit Wounds in 2001, and he used Ain’t No Sunshine as the basis for his tune. By changing the lyrics and keeping the melody, DMX declares “There is no sun when it is on” before slightly bending the syllabic pattern to threaten its rivals.
The ingredients for Bill Withers’ Ain’t No Sunshine fit extremely comfortably under a heavier groove, proving once again that Bill’s contribution to music is immeasurable.