Aretha Franklin’s Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

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There’s no denying how much Aretha Franklin’s discography pumped inspiration into today’s biggest acts. Her songs calling for love’s grace, black excellence and peace climbed to the top of the charts, making her one of the most lauded artists of all time. As Franklin built her legacy, future creatives were listening, using her sound in their music–especially the students of hip-hop.

Aside from James Brown, Franklin’s melodious chords are some of the most sought-after samples in the game. Yasiin Bey and producer Ayatollah set the bar high with their flip of 1967’s “One Step Ahead” into then-Mos Def’s solo jam, “Ms. Fat Booty.” Providing the perfect feminine touch to Bey’s titular rhymes, the sample helped solidify the song as one of the biggest tracks of the rap titan’s career. Franklin’s magic touch was replicated many times over, from Kanye West’s use of 1970’s “Call Me” in Slum Village’s “Selfish” to Outkast’s use of 1971’s “Rock Steady” for “Jazze Belle.”

Ironically, Franklin has been able to deliver dynamic covers and interpolations as well. The 1967 recording of “Respect” happened to be a cover of fellow soul legend Otis Redding’s song of the same title. After changing the lyrics to fit the persona of a dynamic and confident woman (a la herself), “Respect” became one of the most important songs in music history and the go-to track on your Auntie playlist.

Below are just a few songs in Franklin’s catalog that have found a new home from a variety of acts like Ab-Soul, Mobb Deep, Cypress Hill as well as stirring covers of the singer’s hits from Tamia, Mary J. Blige, Prince and so much more.

READ MORE: Aretha Franklin Tribute Concert Set For Madison Square Garden

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8. “Day Dreaming” | Young, Gifted & Black (1972)

Sampled On: 
Ab-Soul – “Bohemian Groove” | Control System (2011)
Cam’ron – “Day Dreaming” feat. Tiffany Carlin | Come Home With Me (2002)
T.I. – “Let’s Get Away” feat. Jazze Pha | Trap Musik (2003)

Standout:
Cam’ron – “Day Dreaming” feat. Tiffany Carlin | Come Home With Me (2002)

Arguably his best album, Come Home With Me took us to the streets of Harlem with “Oh Boy” and “On Fire Tonight,” but Cam was able to slow things down with “Day Dreaming,” with a humbling use of Franklin’s 1972 track. A majority of Franklin’s “Day Dreaming” served as a juxtaposition to the rapper’s lovey-dovey bars about his special lady, giving us all hint into his vulnerability and artistry.

Covered By: 
Tamia, Between Friends (2006)
Tweet, Simply Tweet EP (2013)
Mary J Blige, The Tour (Live) (1998)
Natalie Cole, Leavin (2006)

Standout:
Tweet, Simply Tweet EP (2013)

Underrated songbird Tweet took a unique approach at a comeback in 2013 with her #TweetTuesday series. Every week listeners were served a new song, including her cover of “Day Dreaming.” With the instrumental providing an aroma of acoustic bliss, Tweet delivers her own flavor and falsettos on the timeless track.

7. “One Step Ahead” | Take A Look (1967)

Sampled On:
Mos Def – “Ms. Fat Booty” | Black on Both Sides (1999)
Blu and Exile – “The Only One” | Give Me My Flowers While I Can Smell Them (2011)
Danileigh – “All I Know” feat. Kes | Summer With Friends (2017)

Standout:
Mos Def – “Ms. Fat Booty” | Black on Both Sides (1999)

The standout track from Black on Both Sides told a tale of wavering lust with “One Step Ahead” as the backdrop. As we all know, what was seen as love by the rapper was quickly rattled when the girl next door turned out to be someone else. With “One Step Ahead” on the path of love and happiness, it’s a fascinating sample and a love lesson worth paying attention to.

Covered By:
Ms. Lauryn Hill, Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Performance (2011)
Ledisi, Pieces Of Me (2011)
Amaziah, One Hello (2014)

Standout:
Amaziah, One Hello (2014)

It may be hard to find on streaming platforms but the reggae singer carries warm harmonies on her version of the classic track. The riddims aren’t overbearing, allowing Amaziah’s voice to command any listener’s attention.

6. “Call Me” | This Girl’s In Love With You (1970)

Sampled On:
Slum Village – “Selfish” feat. Kanye West and John Legend | Detroit Deli, A Taste Of Detroit (2004)
Big Sean – “Call Me” | Finally Famous (2007)
Joey Bada$$ – “Reign” | Summer Knights (2013)

Standout:
Slum Village – “Selfish” feat. Kanye West and John Legend | Detroit Deli, A Taste Of Detroit (2004)

A true testimony to Kanye’s sample game, “Selfish” was a groove curated by the group, ‘Ye and a very young John Legend. With the sample on a constant loop, it was easy to love “Selfish” along with the odes to all the pretty girls around the world.

Covered By:
Diana Ross, Everything is Everything (1970)
Phil Perry, The Heart of the Man (1991)
L.J. Reynolds, Travelin’ (1982)

Standout:
Diana Ross, Everything is Everything (1970)

Ms. Ross’ version was so eloquently slayed, it earned her a Grammy nomination for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 1971. Her angelic take added a trait of innocent love as Franklin’s held a more mature tone of love. Both versions helped form a powerful union for the R&B divas.

READ MORE: Aretha Franklin Handpicks Jennifer Hudson To Star In Her Upcoming Biopic

5. Rock Steady | Young Gifted & Black (1971)

Sampled On:
Outkast – “Jazze Belle” | ATLiens (1996)
Dr. Dre – “Rat-tat-tat-tat” feat. RBX and Snoop Dogg | The Chronic (1992)
J. Dilla – “Rockhuh!
Roxanne Shante – “Pay Back” Pop Art 12″ (1987)

Standout:
Roxanne Shante – “Pay Back” Pop Art 12″ (1987)

“Pay Back” was a complex clapback to the wave of female rappers following Shante’s come up. The samples were just as varied as “Rock Steady” were cleverly woven in the track next to patches of “The Bridge” by MC Shan, “Fresh, Wild, Fly and Bold” by the Cold Crush Brothers, “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” by James Brown, “Dazz” by Brick, “It’s Yours” by T La Rock and Jazzy Jay, “Let’s Dance” by Pleasure and lastly, “Ain’t We Funkin Now” by The Brothers Johnson. The genre was new, experimental and fresh, giving the youth bars for days by Shante and a burst of ideas to the DJs and future producers.

Covered By:
Prince, New Power Generation feat. Beverley Knight | Indigo Nights, Live (2008)
Hall and Oates, Our Kind of Soul (2004)
Dawn Robinson, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout:
Prince, New Power Generation feat. Beverley Knight | Indigo Nights, Live (2008)

This version hasn’t seen the internet just yet but it was performed during Prince’s set at London’s O2 Arena with theater maven Beverly Knight. The Purple One has passed on, but Knight has still traveled with the icon’s signature band, New Power Generation. Their recent show ironically happened to be at the O2 Arena. She also sings their glitzy rendition in the video above.

4. “Let It Be” | This Girl’s In Love With You (1970)

The Original:
The Beatles – “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

The UK release of The Queen Of Soul compilation in 2007 featured more revelations than intended. The late Jerry Wexler and author David Ritz shared how The Beatles’ “Let It Be” was specifically written for the singer by Paul McCartney. Franklin recorded the song but didn’t release it until The Beatles’ version rose to the charts. Fans have debated the reason behind Franklin’s reluctance to release the song as a single. Some claimed she was wary of the song’s assumed catholic undertones (ie: “Mother Mary” lyric). Given that that mother Mary was an ode to McCartney’s mom, we’ll never know what the delay was about.

3. “Respect” | I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You (1967)

The Original: 
Otis Redding – “Respect” | Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul (1965)

Franklin’s version of Redding’s single was shift in meaning and tone. Written by his road manager Speedo Sims, Redding altered the lyrics and sped up the song from its ballad roots. Redding’s version was a command from his partner, giving the work he’s put in the home and his career. After Franklin heard the song, she provided a perfect cover and at times, a response to Redding’s take on relationship dynamics. The song also reflected the times of the Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Liberation Movements respectively, catapulting the song to legend status.

2. “You Are My Sunshine” | Aretha Arrives (1967)

Sampled On:
Mobb Deep – “Drop A Gem On ‘Em” | Hell on Earth (1996)
Cypress Hill – “The Funky Cypress Hill S**t | Cypress Hill (1991)
Lady Blaktronicka – “If Some Rain” | Future Blues Vol. 1 (2009)

Standout:
Mobb Deep – “Drop A Gem On ‘Em” | Hell on Earth (1996)

By far, Mobb Deep’s use of “You Are My Sunshine” takes the cake as one of the most daring samples of the 1967 recording. The song was intended to be a response to the late Tupac Shakur’s “Hit ‘Em Up” track aimed at the late Prodigy. The song was also intended to be the first single from the group’s Hell On Earth album, but after Pac’s death, plans were quickly altered. The song has been helmed as one of the best diss tracks and also a testament to Havoc’s production skills.

1. “(To Be)Young Gifted & Black” | Young Gifted & Black (1972)

Sampled On:
Rapsody – “Laila’s Wisdom” | Lailia’s Wisdom (2017)
Gang Starr – “92 Interlude” | Daily Operation (1992)
Heavy D & The Boyz – “Yes Y’all” | Blue Funk (1992)

Standout:
Heavy D & The Boyz – “Yes Y’all” | Blue Funk (1992)

The late Dwight Errington Myers put his signature rhymes on “Blue Funk,” the group’s third single from the album of the same name. Produced by Pete Rock, the sample creeps in between amidst an arrangement of horns and record scratches. The song’s traditional ode to Franklin with a twist of new jack swing makes it a nice ode to the overlooked style of ’90s rap.

The Original:
Nina Simone – “To Be Young Gifted & Black” | Black Gold (1970)

Ms. Nina Simone inspired a bevy of legends, including Aretha Franklin. Like many, Franklin was moved by “(To Be) Young, Gifted & Black” so much so, she named her 20th album after it. The album was an array of mature and lovely songs aligned with Franklin’s powerful vocals with “(To Be) Young, Gifted & Black” standing out from the crowd.

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.