Top 10 Billy Squier-Sampled Hip-Hop Songs
Billy Squier’s early-’80s heyday may have come and gone — unceremoniously halted, he says, by an instantly dated video for ‘Rock Me Tonite’ in 1984 — but that doesn’t mean he’s not getting paid. In fact, Squier has become one of the most sampled artists in hip-hop, thanks to a series of thunderous rhythm tracks (courtesy of his late drummer Bobby Chouinard, whom his boss called “Mr. Big Feet”) on cuts like ‘The Big Beat’ and ‘The Stroke.’ Samples from these two songs alone have appeared on literally dozens of rap songs, earning Squier millions. “He’s definitely someone who helped mold and shape hip-hop with his music,” said rapper Big Daddy Kane. “I would put him in the category of James Brown, the Honeydrippers and Chic.” If you’re looking to explore the rocker’s second career as a fountain of cool cadences, we’ve got a list of the Top 10 Billy Squier-Sampled Hip Hop Songs to get you started.
‘Out of This World,’ A$AP Rocky (2011)
A$AP Rocky closed out his career-making debut mixtape ‘Live.Love’ with this Olympicks-produced track, which uses Squier’s aptly named rhythm as a foundation for a series of namedropping tips of the hat to Rocky’s hip-hop contemporaries.
‘Down With the Ship,’ Scatterbrain (1990)
This sample-filled highlight from the thrash-metal band Scatterbrain can be found on its debut album. While it’s decidedly more rock-oriented than other tracks on our list of the Top 10 Billy Squier-Sampled Hip-Hop Songs, ‘Down With the Ship’ makes the cut based on its hip-hop spirit.
‘We Can Get Down,’ A Tribe Called Quest (1993)
Squier’s ‘Big Beat’ once again provides the backbone for a propulsive sequence of boasts, coupled this time with snippets from Bill Cosby’s jazz track ‘Martin’s Funeral.’
‘Hip Hop Is Dead,’ Nas Feat. Will.i.am (2006)
The title track to an album that debuted at No. 1 grabbed the ageless rhythm of ‘The Big Beat’ and combined it with a portion of Iron Butterfly’s ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,’ proving once again that Squier’s beats still fuel the genre well into the ’00s.
‘Magic Carpet Ride,’ Grandmaster Flash Feat. Steppenwolf (1988)
Arriving in the aftermath of Run-DMC’s 1986 mashup with Aerosmith on ‘Walk This Way,’ this pairing of Grandmaster Flash and the newly reunited Furious Five with Steppenwolf seemed similarly unlikely. But they ended up with a fun hip-hop update of John Kay’s classic ’60s anthem, bolstered by yet another sample of Squier’s muscular album track from eight years earlier.
‘Girl on Fire,’ Alicia Keys (2012)
After a typically heartfelt opening stanza from Keys, the building-rattling cadence from Squier’s ‘Big Beat’ arrives with a stunning suddenness — propelling this startlingly empowering track to No. 11 on the chart.
‘Ain’t No Half-Steppin’,’ Big Daddy Kane (1988)
The first single from Kane’s debut album ‘Long Live the Kane’ illustrated both the lickety-split vocal prowess of this new talent and the seemingly endless versatility of Chouinard’s original stick work on 1980’s ‘The Tale of the Tape’ album.
‘Berzerk,’ Eminem (2013)
‘The Stroke,’ as with Squier’s oft-used ‘Big Beat,’ begins with a few bars of solo drumming, making it just as well-suited for samples like the one in this recent Eminem smash. Producer Rick Rubin also oversaw lifts from a couple of Beastie Boys songs that originally appeared on the similar-sounding, Rubin-produced ‘Licensed to Ill.’
’99 Problems,’ Jay-Z (2004)
Perhaps the musical template for ‘Berzerk,’ this earlier hit for Jay-Z features a series of old-school lifts — including Squier’s ubiquitous ‘Big Beat’ — on a production helmed once again by Rick Rubin. Jay-Z, meanwhile, updates the 1993 catchphrase from Ice-T for a new age, delving into issues far more complicated than the original’s brag-filled pillow talk.
‘Here We Go,’ Run-DMC (1983)
The earliest known sample of ‘The Big Beat’ remains the best, as Run-DMC kick off Squire’s unlikely journey to a second career. “I wouldn’t want to end up in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the Master of Hip-Hop Samples,” Squier said in 2005. “But you take what you can get.”