EXPERIENCE

Mom Finds Her Old Classics in New Hip Hop: It’s No Coincidence

STORY BY ANURAG TAGAT

You don’t have to be a long-time listener of hip-hop to know that sampling is a key element of rap music. Your mom must be familiar with so many of the samples used in popular hip-hop tracks and that’s no coincidence. So when you’ve heard KRN$A’s “Joota Japani” (produced by Umair) or DIVINE’s “Baazigar” (produced by Karan Kanchan), you know that rappers love going over a classic hook that’s not just about nostalgia but tipping their hat to their influences.

This goes much further back and started with American hip-hop artists and beatsmiths first. Everyone from Madlib to Dan the Automator to Timbaland has sampled works by Bollywood master composers like Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant-Pyarelal, R.D. Burman, and more. Famously, or rather infamously, DJ Quik sampled “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai” by Bappi Lahiri for “Addictive” by Truth Hurts featuring Rakim. Timbaland put on “Choli Ke Peeche” from the movie Khalnayak for 2002’s “The Bounce” by Jay-Z and Kanye West. More recently, A$AP Ferg’s “Hummer Limo” starts off with a nod to the slightly obscure “Naseeb Ne Ki Bewafai” from the 1981 movie Divorce, sung by Usha Khanna.

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Rather famously, MIA sampled Bappi Lahiri for her song “Jimmy” and diaspora artists have been at it for a while, from Heems to Lapgan and everyone in between. Even in an unofficial (but presumably legal sense), Vijay DK, Sikander Kahlon, Paradox, Nanku (fka Udbhav), and producers like Vedang have regularly rapped on songs that have sampled new and older Bollywood songs.

What’s different now, however, is that hip-hop artists and major labels who hold copyright over iconic Bollywood songs are more than happy to partner together to spawn new hits. It took a few years, but KING’s “High Hukku” featuring Nikhita Gandhi became part of his 2023 album New Life after it got the all-clear from Tips, the company that owned the rights to the Anand-Milind song “Hai Hukku Hai Hukku Hai Hai” from 1994.

Saregama has partnered with KR$NA for “Joota Japani” and had artists like Pablo create rap versions of their existing catalog. It’s important to note here that Bohemia too sampled the classic song “Mera Joota Hai Japani” in his song, “Mera Joota Hai” in 2016.

Elsewhere, T-Series worked with Ikka and MC Stan for the bold “Urvashi,” which sampled the famed AR Rahman song from the movie Kadhalan, which then became Humse Hai Muqabala.

It was a few years prior that DIVINE, the torchbearer that he is, made the first move by dropping “Satya” with producer Karan Kanchan on his album Punya Paap. It interpolated the hook from the Vishal Bhardwaj-composed “Goli Maar,” which had lyrics written by Gulzar. DIVINE took it a step further on his next album, with Gunehgar giving us “Baazigar” which played on a similar formula but added even more punch, borrowing from the Anu Malik composition “Baazigar O Baazigar.”

Arguably, the doors have opened for bigger collaborations, and clearing samples and use of Bollywood songs may not be as much of a hurdle any longer for Indian hip-hop artists. The latest one being Ranj & Clifr’s upcoming track “Aint like me” which also has a sample from an old Tamil film. It might be specifically true for rappers who appear on the same Indian major labels who control a massive catalog of Bollywood songs. A familiar Bollywood song sampled or interpolated right can be a smash on places like Indian radio stations, which are not always ready to spin Indian hip-hop. These are all good signs for bringing in newer audiences, and for your mom who might just want to groove to your new playlist.

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