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A Brief History of Rappers Sampling Radiohead


In 2011, “Looking for the perfect beat” increasingly means digging on the Hype Machine for out nerdball indie rock — in the last two years, you can hear Lupe Fiasco rap over Modest Mouse, E-40 flipping Bjork, the Roots borrowing Joanna Newsom, B.o.B. ganking Vampire Weekend, and of course Kanye West pulling Bon Iver from his cabin and giving him a shutter shade makeover. Adding to that inglorious list is “Cold Corner 2 (Eyes Wide),” the latest mixtape from G-Unit soldier Lloyd Banks, which flips Radiohead’s OK Computer heatrock “Climbing Up the Walls” (via Stereogum). It’s not exactly that surprising since the new Drake record is basically Kid A + codeine (and, uh, Chino XL was flipping Radiohead tracks when Banks was still at August Mountain High School), but we’ll take it.

Banks’ track reminded us about Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s recent collaboration with DOOM, as well as this outtake from SPIN editor William Goodman’s recent chat with the Roots’ ?uestlove where he explains how he had to get Jay-Z to dial up Thom Yorke for him:

You’ve collaborated with Monsters of Folk and undun features Sufjan, Big K.R.I.T., and more. Does Late Night aid the collaborative process?
Oh yeah. One of the coolest things about this job is cutting out the middleman. When Sufjan comes to play Fallon, you get to talk to him. You exchange numbers. You have camaraderie. We wanted to do something with James Blake, but time wouldn’t allow it. So the next time he’s around we’ll do something with James. And we met him on the show. When the Dirty Projectors came to perform on Fallon we had the best seats in the house. When Jim James came with Monsters of Folk, we were shocked. We are really big fans of his work and he said, “Oh, yeah, I’m fan of your work.” We figured he didn’t even know the Roots existed. But once you find out that you’re mutual fans then you do the next logical thing — “Hey, want to work together?” Usually the answer is yes. Once you have lawyers involved is when the problems start. A good example was Radiohead. They’re notorious for saying no all the time. We toured with them in Europe when Kid A came out, and I felt my relationship was cool enough with Thom [Yorke] to ask if the Roots could have liberal use of “You and Whose Army.” Of course the label said no. The lawyers said no. I had to use Jay-Z and the bat signal. Jay got Radiohead on the phone in five minutes. And they were over the top excited about it. Lawyers have destroyed hip-hop.

Wait… Jay-Z called Thom Yorke for you?
Jay-Z is the president of the world. Even now that he’s not my label president I’ll call him up and ask something like, “Hey, can you get me tickets to Michael Jackson’s funeral?” Done. Jay-Z is like Mr. Wolf in Pulp Fiction. This is when we were releasing Game Theory, back in 2006. Lawyers were holding up the record because of the “You and Whose Army” sample. Jay-Z was still president of the label then. I was like, “Can you get me on the phone with those guys in five minutes?” He was like, “Yeah.” I said, “Do you know those guys?” He said, “No.” I was confused. So I asked, “Well, how are you going to get through to those guys?” He said, “Watch.” Sure enough, in five minutes I was jogging on the treadmill talking to the Radiohead guys. Lawyers can’t make it work, but Jay-Z can.

What other MCs have relied on the work of Oxfordshire’s finest? SPIN came up with 10. Read and listen on:

Chino XL’s “Kreep” (1996)
Track Sampled: “Creep”

The Roots’ “Atonement” (2006)
Track Sampled: “You and Whose Army?”

Plan B’s “Missing Links” (2006)
Track Sampled:”Pyramid Song”

CRS’ “Us Placers” (2007)
Track Sampled: Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser”

Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip’s “Letter From God to Man” (2007)
Track Sampled: “Planet Telex”

Joe Budden’s “Never Again” (2009)
Track Sampled: “Street Spirit (Fade Out)”

Lupe Fiasco’s “The National Anthem” (2009)
Track Sampled: “The National Anthem”

People Under the Stairs’ “All Good Things” (2009)
Track Sampled: “Reckoner”

Blu’s “Untitled(LovedU)2” (2010)
Track Sampled: “You and Whose Army?”

Frank Ocean’s “Bitches Talkin’ ” (skit) (2011)
Track Sampled: “Optimistic”