The ‘90s were an extremely exciting and diverse decade for popular music. Yeah sure, we were occasionally plagued with “artists” like Rednex and Nickleback but we were also spoiled to death by the likes of; Nirvana, Pulp, Massive Attack, Biggie, Beck, Prodigy, Radiohead, Beastie Boys, the list just goes on and on… You may or may not be surprised to find out that many of your favourite ‘90s tunes were either covered, borrowed, or just simply stolen from other artists. I’m sure there are some I’ve forgotten, but here are my ‘Top Ten Covers, Rip Offs and Sampled ’90s Tracks’…
10. Coolio – ‘1 2 3 4 (Sumpin New)’
Sampled. It was a tough choice between this or Gangsta’s Paradise. This dance-floor filler sampled bits from Tom Browne – ‘Thighs High’ and The Evasions ‘Wikka Wrap’. Sounds like he borrowed bits from Chic’s ‘Good Times’ too. However, he put his own stamp on it with lyrics like ‘If ya got beef then nigga eat a pork chop’. Pure genius.
9. The Source Feat. Candi Staton – ‘You’ve Got The Love’ (Now Voyager Mix)
Sampled. I like Candi Staton’s original from ’86 but the production’s a tad on the cheesy side. I also like the The Source’s mix in ’91 with the Frankie Knuckles ‘Your Love’ sample, but the Now Voyager Mix kicks it up a couple of notches further for me. A mind-blowingly good remix!
8. Happy Mondays – ‘Step On’
Cover. One of the best party tunes of the ‘90s. I love John Kongos’ original recording ‘He’s Gonna Step On You’ but with Ryder’s snarl and added lyrics, ‘You know you talk so hip man, you’re twistin’ my melon man. Call the cops!’, it feels like the Mondays may have bettered the original, just.
7. Eminem – ‘My Name Is’
Sampled. A Dre production. Here he sampled British artist Labi Siffre’s ‘I Got The…’. Make sure you skip to the middle of the song to hear the sample though, the beginning sounds more like P Diddy’s ‘Bad Boy For Life’.
6. Radiohead – ‘Creep’
Rip Off. Yep, The Hollies even sued Radiohead for ripping off their 1972 hit, ‘The Air That I Breathe’.
5. Biggie – ‘Juicy’
Sampled. This song contains a sample of Mtume‘s ‘Juicy Fruit‘. Without a doubt one of the greatest rap tunes of all time.
4. Oasis – ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’
Rip Off. Now we all know Noel’s self-confessed to stealing melodies and riffs from many songwriters in his career, but none are as blatant as this one. He totally stole the riff from T Rex‘s ‘Get It On’, which was one of Bolan’s biggest hits. Funnily enough, Bolan admitted himself that he stole the riff from Chuck Berry. There’s too much thievery going on here!!!
3. 2pac – ‘California Love’
Sampled. Another great Dre production. He sampled Joe Coker’s ‘Woman To Woman’, ‘West Coast Poplock’ by Ronnie Hudson, brought in Roger Troutman of Zapp & Roger in on vocals, and gave it to arguably the most poetic rapper of all time. Colossal tune!
2. Verve – ‘Bittersweet Symphony’
Sampled. The band would’ve felt bitter (sorry) having to split their royalties 50/50 with The Rolling Stones for sampling the strings from Adam Loog Oldham’s orchestral version of the Stones’ hit, ’The Last Time’. 50 Mick, 50 Keith that is, thanks to their manager Alan Klein. It’s an even bigger bitter pill to swallow considering The Stones ripped off The Staple Sisters song, ‘This May Be The Last Time’, in the first place, and the fact that Oldham’s version sounds nothing like the original Stones track. However, Verve enjoyed the sweetness of success, this was the song that launched them to the masses and helped their album, Urban Hymns, sell over ten million copies.
1. Nirvana – ‘Come As You Are’
Rip Off. They completely thieved the bass line from Killing Joke’s hit ‘Eighties’ here. Like one of the YouTube commenter’s wrote, Nirvana should’ve called it ‘Nineties’!
George Runciman is the vocalist for British Grunge band Storms and DJ/Promoter for ‘90s club night ‘Jump!’ every Saturday at Rolling Stock (Shoreditch). For more info – www.StormsBand.com / www.JumpClub.London
Words: George Runciman