Games make for some of hip-hop’s freshest samples

Interscope

A tweet going around from DJ and comedian Shaliek Jenkins connects two very dissimilar things: Kendrick Lamar and Animal Crossing.

“I have a natural ear for interpolated samples and I’m pretty sure Kendrick and his producer sample Animal Crossing on DAMN,” Lamar’s newest album, Jenkins wrote on Twitter. He proceeds to play a bit of “XXX” and Animal Crossing: New Leaf’s 11 p.m. track side-by-side and then at the same time to hammer in the similarities.

i have a natural ear for interpolated samples and I'm pretty damn sure Kendrick & his producers sampled Animal Crossing on DAMN, check: pic.twitter.com/6vTJ8h6ykP

— lionel nietzsche (@hateshaliek) April 25, 2017

This sounds like a reach to us and many other hip-hop fans, although Jenkins argues his case well. Knowing his background as a comic — and earlier tweets comparing tracks off Damn to, uh, the Backstreet Boys — it’s easy to call this comparison another gag. But then Jenkins reminds us that we shouldn’t be so dismissive of the idea that a renowned rapper draws inspiration from video games.

“For anyone that wants to cry ‘COINCIDENCE,’ fuck you,” Jenkins wrote. “Because Drake interpolated Sonic 06 on More Life and had to credit cause its almost 1:1.”

Drake caught Sonic fans’ ears by surprise last month when his new mixtape included a clear sample of the theme song to 2006’s dreaded Sonic the Hedgehog; it’s in the song “KMT.” It’s a sped-up version of the tune, but it’s recognizable all the same. Sega shows up on the long list of More Life’s credits because of the sample.

This isn’t the first time Drake’s culled samples from games. “6 God” on If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late used part of “Haunted Chase,” a song in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy King’s Quest.

In 2015, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” became a meme as scores of listeners noticed the similarities to the track and the Wii Shop Channel’s familiar theme music.

Funny enough, the reason for “Hotline Bling” sounding so Nintendo-like is because it actually does use a Mario sample, albeit indirectly. “Hotline Bling” borrows from “Cha Cha” by D.R.A.M., which itself samples a track from Super Mario World (but don’t tell Drake that the tracks sound the same).

Other members of Drake and Kendrick Lamar’s cohort make their love of games more obvious. Frank Ocean’s “Start,” the opening track to his commercial breakthrough Channel Orange, is mostly made up of the PlayStation start-up screen noise, followed by some Street Fighter sounds. (Ocean’s got a song called “Street Fighter,” too.)

Lil Yachty borrowed from Super Mario 64 for “Run/Running,” using the classic Nintendo 64 game’s menu music in 2016. This came nearly a year after he made his love for Super Mario 64’s soundtrack public on Twitter, as The Ringer charted last year.

Childish Gambino, otherwise known as Donald Glover, also used a sample from the first Donkey Kong Country on his track “Eat Your Vegetables.” Glover gave credit to his producer, Chemist, for that one, as he told Fuse in 2012.

"He actually samples a lot of video games, specifically Donkey Kong," Glover said of Chemist’s Donkey Kong Country reference. "I didn't even know it, which was really funny because nerds were losing their minds about it."

Whether or not it appeared because of the rapper’s own affinity for games doesn’t matter much. Instead, it’s a salient reminder of the intersections of several things: mainstream music, video games — and, most important of all, nostalgia. (The jury’s still out on that so-called Damn sample, though.)

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