Five Songs that Sampled Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”
With the release of Thriller 25 — the 25th anniversary edition of Michael Jackson’s crowning achievement and the world’s biggest selling album of all time — it’s a good time to look back and consider the influence that Thriller had on the music world. In addition to laying down the blueprint for the Justin Timberlakes of the music world to follow and ushering in a new brand of high-pitched exclamations (hee-hee!), Thriller provided some fodder for later pop, R&B and rap acts to sample.
Consider these five songs, all of which used elements of tracks off Thriller to boost their own success:
1. “Don’t Stop the Music” by Rihanna – for this uptempo hit off her third CD, Good Girl Gone Bad, Def Jam princess Rihanna sampled Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin.'” The notorious African phrase “mamase mamasa mamakossa” (which also appeared on Jay-Z’s “Face Off”) was a nod to Jackson’s original use of the seemingly nonsensical but catchy line. The phrase was originally featured on “Soul Makossa” by Manu Dibango, a musical legend in Cameroon.
2. “Right Here (Remix)” by SWV – this mellow hit by R&B trio Sisters With Voices is built around a sample of Jackson’s “Human Nature.” The original track off their 1992 debut It’s About Time peaked at No. 92, but with the “Human Nature”-infused remix, the song reached No. 2 on the U.S. charts and No. 1 on the R&B charts in 1993.
3. “Good Life” by Kanye West — this track off Kanye West’s multiplatinum, Grammy-winning Graduation is built around a slowed-down sample of Jackson’s “P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing).” Even with T-Pain on the hook, the song clearly worked with help from Jackson’s melody, as it earned West a Grammy for Best Rap Song.
4. “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” by Nas – this track off Queens rapper Nas’ classic debut Illmatic also sampled Jackson’s “Human Nature.” Produced by Large Professor, the single was moderately successful, reaching No. 97 on the Hot 100, but more importantly was highly acclaimed.
5. “Hey Lover” by LL Cool J featuring Boyz II Men – Ladies Love Cool James and the melodious Philly foursome teamed up for a mellow rap track that sampled the opening riff to Jackson’s ballad, “The Lady In My Life.” The song appeared on LL Cool J’s twice-platinum 1995 album, Mr. Smith. And guess what? This song won a Grammy, too. Even in recycled form, Jackson apparently has the formula for musical success.