Kanye West, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (2005)
Album: Late Registration
Sample: Shirley Bassey “Diamonds Are Forever”
Shirley Bassey had nerve to beef about the use of this sample and she didn’t even have rights to the track. Ye’s cousin Devo Springsteen gave him the idea to sample Barry and Don Black’s “Diamonds Are Forever” from the James Bond flick and Jon Brion sprinkled his Fiona Apple-flavored sazon. Who says Kanye doesn’t play nice with others? So why number one? With it's dips and accelerations and halts, the epic instrumental feels like a roller coaster. The sample is a classic example of Kanye flipping an unexpected rare gem in a meaningful way. The song’s significance to his career and the Roc is twofold, and the way he chopped up Shirley is what really gets his message across, even more so than the words he (and Jay-Z on the remix) are rapping. Blood diamonds, “it’s the Roc,” and all that aside, the beat is what makes this record. And there's not a better example of that in Ye’s portfolio.