Travis Scott’s Astroworld has only been out for a couple of weeks, and yet it’s already heralded as one of the best albums—let alone in hip hop—this year. It’s easy to see why.
The LP may epitomize Scott’s penchant for great collaborations with contemporary musicians, but it also samples from some of the greatest hip hop artists ever. Following his 2017 collaborative effort Huncho Jack, Jack Huncho, the rapper has taken his sampling game to a whole new level. Here’s a deeper look at three of our favorite samples off the record.
“Gimme the Loot” by Notorious BIG on “SICKO MODE”
Are you even a hip hop fan if you don’t know this track by the one, the only Biggie Smalls?
Travis Scott and producers Rogét Chahayed, Hit-Boy, OZ, Tay Keith and CuBeat, were on point sampling this classic on “SICKO MODE.” You’ll hear Notorious BIG a little over a minute in, but you’ll want to keep your ears peeled—the sample just zooms by.
“Gimme the Loot” is off the late rapper’s essential album, Ready to Die, released in 1994 when he was only 21—only three years before his untimely death. The track was produced by Easy Mo Bee, who has worked with the likes of Big Daddy Kane and Miles Davis.
While “Gimme the Loot” wasn’t released as a single on Ready to Die—that honor went to “Juicy,” “Big Poppa,” “One More Chance” and “Warning”—it’s one of the more hard-hitting tracks on the record. Biggie spits bars about gangbanging, armed robbery and other hardcore pursuits. Gangsta rap through and through.
“SICKO MODE,” on the other hand, swaps brutality for braggadocio. La Flame’s rhymes are all about balling out. And where Biggie’s track relies on his inimitable flow, Scott’s depends on brilliant production. Which doesn’t make it a lesser song. In fact, it’s a great example of how hip hop has evolved over the years.
“Cell Therapy” by Goodie Mob on “5% TINT”
Back before Cee-Lo Green got all “Crazy,” he was part of a maverick hip hop group called Goodie Mob. They did some great work, putting out songs that broach touchy topics most didn’t even want to acknowledge.
Scott’s sampling of their track “Cell Therapy” on “5% TINT” is another nod to hip hop’s roots. The Houston native borrows the repetitive piano movement and hook from the Goodie Mob tune. And let’s just say it ought to bring a smile to the face of the most stubborn oldhead.
“Cell Therapy” was the first single off Goodie Mob’s debut album, Soul Food, released in 1995. At the time, the group comprised Cee-Lo, Big Gipp, Khujo, and T-Mo. The record saw considerable success, peaking at number 45 on the Billboard 200, but the track did even better. It climbed to the 39th spot on the Billboard Hot 100, and it remains the group’s only Top 40 hit.
As with most of the Mob’s songs, “Cell Therapy” shone a light on several controversial subjects. It alluded to slavery, the Holocaust, problems within the American tax system, drug addiction and Operation Heartbreak Hotel, to name a few.
Unlike Cee-Lo Green and crew, Scott doesn’t tackle heavy issues in “5% TINT.” He rarely ever does, though, so no surprises there. Instead, his Auto-Tuned cadence centers on carnal and chemical pleasures. Not all music needs to aspire to change the world.
“The New Style” by Beastie Boys on “CAROUSEL”
Scott wasn’t even born when Beastie Boys released “The New Style” in 1986. But, like his mentor Kanye West, the 26-year-old has a keen eye (and ear) for curation—especially of sounds from the past. He deploys the NYC trio’s beat as a background layer for his track “CAROUSEL,” and he couldn’t have opted for a better canvas to lay down his rhymes on.
The track appears on Beastie Boys’ debut studio album, License to Ill. It met with critical and commercial success, becoming the first rap LP to top the Billboard charts, and it remains one of Columbia Records’ fastest-selling debut albums. And as of 2015, the record crossed the ten-million-copies-sold mark, earning it a gleaming “diamond” certification.
“The New Style” was the third single released from the album, and is one of those infectious songs that has been sampled many, many times—over 200 in fact. Some of the big names that have borrowed from the track include MC Hammer, Ice Cube, The Pharcyde and, in more recent times, the Odd Future collective. It’s so iconic that even Beastie Boys re-sampled it on “Johnny Ryall” and “Intergalactic.”
So it’s no surprise that Scott wanted to get in on the fun as well. Like with the Biggie and Goodie Mob sounds, he manages to cleverly carve a space on “CAROUSEL” where Beastie Boys, guest vocalist Frank Ocean and his own syruped-up verses feed off one another. Which is precisely the triumph of Astroworld: that cosmic blend of collaboration, curation and killer production to tie everything up.
Stream Astroworld on Spotify.