A super brief history on the samples used in that song you can’t get out of your head
Pharrell danced his way to the bank and eternal greatness with the song “Happy.” Now, rap god Kendrick Lamar is prancing in his footsteps. This past Tuesday (Sept. 23), he (finally!) released “i,” the first official release since his pristine 2013 LP good kid, m.A.A.d city. While the Internets continue to sort their feelings about the feel-good tune (Pharrell digs it, though), there’s no shaking the track’s proclamation of self love and its funky, toe-tapping sample courtesy of The Isley Brothers. Below, a salute to the “Who’s That Lady” and the guys who gave it life.
Sample Identified: Kendrick Lamar’s “i”
As first heard on: The Isley Brothers’ “Who’s That Lady” – Way before Swiffer cut the Isley Bros. a check, the Cincinnati-bred trio—comprised of real-life siblings O’Kelly Isley, Jr., Rudolph Isley and Ronald Isley—made the charts dance in the ’70s with their impeccable harmony and sticky melodies. The ultimate moneymaker was their positive, borderline preachy lyrics. On their 1969 hit “It’s Your Thing,” the Isleys sang, “It’s your thing, do what you wanna do/I can’t tell you, who to sock it to” to a gal on the fence about giving her heart. But their smoothest pick-up line came in the form of 1973’s “Who’s That Lady.” Way before sexting and sliding into DMs became relationship protocol, simple complements were paid to a woman. Imagine that?
For “i,” KDot flips the script and shifts the focus from a lady to himself. Not on some Kanye narcissism, “i” is the defense against hate and self-loathing. After the Michael Brown tragedy and turmoil in Ferguson, it’s the perfect alarm clock music for a world still sleep on positivity.
Spin-off samples: While “Who’s That Lady” permeates through Charles Hamilton’s 2009 “The Awkward Prequel,” The Beastie Boys showcased the beat in a smorgasbord of bars on their 1989 track “B-Boy Bouillabaisse.” The 12-minute suite—chock full of mixtape cuts, record scratches and sixteens about urban life in the ’80s—was culled from the Boys’ unfinished songs. Its home, the Paul’s Boutique LP, was second to the New York rap group’s show-stopping debut License To Ill (1986). Though L.T.I. sold seven million more than its follow-up, both sat comfortably on Rolling Stone‘s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list at 219 and 156, respectively. Flip to 3:13-minute mark below for the Isley Brothers cameo.
Special shoutout: “Footsteps In The Dark” – The Isley Brothers catalog is a sample goldmine. This 1977 slow jam even made Ice Cube’s 1992 classic “It Was A Good Day” extra cool.