When the news of the death of David Bowie hit the Web, it was no wonder that hip-hop stars flocked to their feeds to pay homage. Kanye West called the music legend one of his “most important inspirations.” Q-Tip heralded Bowie as one of his “heroes.” Pharrell Williams called him “a true innovator, a true creative.” Though the singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has also etched a legacy that transcends music–he is also a fashion and art icon–his artistry became the source of some of hip-hop’s biggest records. From Public Enemy, to Jay Z, to Puff Daddy & the Family, David Bowie served as a blueprint, time and time again.
A Bowie favorite of hip-hop artists to sample has been “Fame,” his 1975 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hit from his album, Young Americans. The track was tapped for Hov’s arsenal of fury on Takeover,” tracks from Ice Cube and Public Enemy and for a Dr. Dre track of the same name. Transformed constantly were Bowie’s enigmatic melodies into hardcore hip-hop tracks, proving that his tunes were not only iconic, but also malleable. His music was even behind the first hip-hop single to top the Billboard charts: Vanilla Ice’s “Ice Ice Baby.”
If you’re not up on the importance of David Bowie, take a small glimpse into his influence with these 12 rap songs that drew from his genius. Get familiar.