7 songs from the '80s and '90s that surprisingly sampled the Monkees
The Monkees had a bigger influence on hip-hop than you realized.
The Monkees are hip. Actually, they're hip-hop. Music snobs might have scoffed at the super-successful pop band back in the 1960s, but over the decades, the so-called "Pre-Fab Four" have only garnered credibilities. Everyone loves a Monkees song. Because there is a Monkees song for everyone, from the proto-punk riffing of "Circle Sky" to the gentle country balladry of "I'll Spend My Life with You."
The craftsmanship in the Monkees records is second to none, which is why studio heads have again and again mined the albums for funky drum breaks and amusing bits of dialogue.
In the heyday of sampling, namely the late '80s and early '90s, segments of Monkees songs turned up in unlikely places on the radio. Here are some of our favorite subtle Monkees usages in rap, dance and pop tracks.
1. "Mary Mary" by Run DMC
For large portion of Gen-Xers, the call of Micky Dolenz singing "Mary, Mary…" will evoke the response of "…why ya buggin?!" Such are the consequences of growing up in the '80s, when Run DMC turned rap into an MTV commodity. Produced by Rick Rubin, the group's original collaborator, "Mary, Mary" was the third single off the trio's 1988 album Tougher Than Leather, and the only one to chart from the record. Though Run and Darryl penned new lyrics for the rap-rock hybrid (a genre they pioneered), the album sleeve credited Michael Nesmith as the only writer on the song. But, no, Nesmith did not come up with the line "You cold thumb suckin'."
2. "Change in Speak" by De La Soul
1989 is the year that sampling blossomed into an artform, thanks to the Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique and De La Soul's 3 Feet High and Rising. In its nascency, sampling was primarily used for drum breaks, typically mining James Brown and George Clinton for funky loops. But in '89, a sample became something more like a LEGO brick, and those two records were Legoland. Producer Prince Paul put so many nostalgic sounds into 3 Feet — from Schoolhouse Rock! to the Turtles — that it seems inevitable that the Monkees would show up somewhere. Indeed, the drums and shakers of "Mary, Mary" provided the rhythmic bed of "Change In Speak."
3. "Shonen Knife" by Shonen Knife
Osaka, Japan's playful punk pastiche trio utilized the chiming guitar arpeggio from "Last Train to Clarksville" in the self-titled track that opens the album 712. Unsurprisingly, the Monkees were "big in Japan," where manufactured pop acts carry far more credibility. You can hear the Monkees guitar line come in around :18 seconds or so.
4. "Mistadobalina" by Del the Funky Homosapien
Del, cousin of Ice Cube, is perhaps best recognized from the Gorillaz hit "Clint Eastwood." A decade before that, the Bay Area MC was cutting playful, positive songs like "Mistadobalina." The track, a Billboard chart hit, was built around the unlikely source of "Zilch," a psychedelic spoken-word fugue buried on the back end of the Monkees' Headquarters album. Peter Tork had reportedly heard his repeated line, "Mr. Dobalina, Mr. Bob Dobalina," as an announcement over an airport intercom system.
5. "What's So Different" by Ginuwine
Timbaland changed the sound of R&B with his open-minded soundscapes. The producer has been known to use everything from glass bottles to baby coos to build his futuristic beats. This Billboard Top 50 single from 1999 utilized the fluttering flamenco guitar from the Monkees' "Valleri." You can hear it a couple minutes into the jam.
6. "Brut Force" by Roni Size
Like the Del track, this rumbling drum 'n' bass platter found surprising inspiration not in the music of the Monkees, but in their comical studio mumblings. At the start of "Daydream Believer," Davy Jones can be heard asking the producer which take they are doing. Several men in the booth shout, "7-A," to which a relaxed Davy says, "Don't get excited, man." You can hear a modulated sample of that bit at the 2:55 mark in this gut-rumbling 1996 electronic cut.
7. "E.S.P." by Deee-Lite
The colorful club trio ushered in the Nineties with their No. 4 smash "Groove Is in the Heart." The trio wore its Sixties and Seventies influences quite literally on their sleeves — and their flared pants and platform shoes. "E.S.P.," the preceding track on their debut album World Clique, sampled yet another spoken word bit from a Monkees album. Well, it's a sample of a sample. The Monkees' psychedelic Head soundtrack, compiled by Jack Nicholson, featured a sample of Bela Lugosi from the 1934 horror movie The Black Cat on the track "Superstitious." "Supernatural, perhaps," the actors says. You can hear it come in at 2:47 on this house groove.
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