At the height of their powers, Led Zeppelin were the biggest, baddest and most brilliant band on earth. The English quartet were an absolute powerhouse, and their back catalogue speaks for itself. From ‘Stairway to Heaven’ to ‘Kashmir’, they’ve got their names on countless classics.
The band, comprised of Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Bonham and John Paul Jones, made such a significant impact on the world of music, that we can still see their influence alive and well today. From Maneskin to the likes of Arctic Monkeys, you can hear flecks of Zeppelin’s influence still in the supremacy. Remarkably, the band have a relatively small back catalogue, with just over 70 songs, when their contemporaries Pink have 165 and The Beatles over the 300, but this tells us one thing. Unlike their British rock peers, for Zeppelin, the primary goal was quality.
Zeppelin formed in the wake of psychedelic heroes The Yardbirds splitting up in 1968 and quickly made a name for themselves as the most exciting group around, even eclipsing The Beatles in terms of the thrills that they had to offer. Famously, the band lifted their name from a quip by The Who drummer, Keith Moon, who posited that the new band would go down like “a lead balloon “.
Moon was right. Before too long, they were signed to Ahmet Ertegun’s rapidly expanding Atlantic Records, which would become their longtime home. They seemingly never ceased touring and filled the void that The Beatles left with their breakup in 1970. Zeppelin took rock in a much darker and heavier direction, thanks to the creative vision of guitarist Jimmy Page, and in addition to the works of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly, they laid the foundations of what would become metal.
However, it’s not just within the world of rock that Zeppelin made an impact. It’s across music that they’ve had a transformative impact, from pop to rock. Surprisingly, they’ve also had a great effect on rap and hip-hop, and have been sampled on numerous occasions, adding their unique style to the works of others, and helping to create truly refreshing sounds.
Duly, we’ve listed the ten best rap songs that sample Robert Plant and Co. Expect to see some classics and some lesser-known numbers.
10 rap songs that sample Led Zeppelin:
‘Come With Me’ – Diddy featuring Jimmy Page
Where else than to start with what is perhaps the most memorable rap song that samples Led Zeppelin? It was written by Sean Coombes, then known as Puff Daddy, for the soundtrack of the 1998 soundtrack to the Matthew Broderick-starring version of Godzilla.
The song recreates the 1975 classic, ‘Kashmir’, and Coombes actually managed to enlist Jimmy Page to come to the studio and rework his iconic guitar part of the song. It’s orchestral, overblown, and so very ’90s.
‘Life’s So Hard’ – 2Pac
‘Life’s So Hard’ by iconic West Coast rapper, 2Pac, is one of his most forgotten cuts, primarily owing to the fact it was never released on one of his own albums, and only saw the light of day posthumously.
This overlooked banger was released as part of the soundtrack to Jim Kouf’s 1997 crime film Gang Related, and for it, he sampled ‘Ten Years Gone’ from 1975’s Physical Graffiti. It shouldn’t work, but it does, creating a sense of atmosphere that has you on the edge of your seat.
‘Lyrical Gangbang’ – Dr. Dre featuring The Lady of Rage, Kurupt and RBX
‘Lyrical Gangbang’ is another unforgettable entry that features in Dr. Dre‘s seminal masterpiece, 1991’s The Chronic. It’s track 11 on the record and features stellar verses from The Lady of Rage, Kurupt and RBX.
This legendary cut features a sample of the timeless ‘When The Levee Breaks’ from 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV. It’s in your face and expertly switches up Zeppelin’s version, creating something truly refreshing, and effortlessly cool.
‘Beastie Groove’ – Beastie Boys
‘Beastie Groove’ is one of the earliest releases by New York alternative rap legends, Beastie Boys. Released in 1985 as the B-side to ‘Rock Hard’, the track was one of the earliest indicators of their unique style, and the collective genius of MCA, Mike D and Ad-Rock.
‘Beastie Groove’ briefly samples ‘Black Dog’ from 1971’s Led Zeppelin IV, appropriating the central line “hey, hey mama”, in the middle of the song. This one will have your head bopping.
‘Doctor’s Advocate’ – The Game featuring Busta Rhymes
‘Doctor’s Advocate’ is an absolute slammer and is taken from The Game’s 2006 sophomore album of the same name. Adding to the quality of the track is the New York hero, Busta Rhymes, who also delivers some exemplary bars.
The song is meant as an ode to super-producer and N.W.A. member Dr. Dre, and suitably it samples the melody of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ from Led Zeppelin IV. However, the guitar line is turned into a slightly haunting piano melody, and it really works.
‘Kim’ – Eminem
‘Kim’ is one of the definitive Eminem cuts, taken from 2000’s incredibly influential The Marshall Mathers LP. A horrorcore staple, ‘Kim’ saw Eminem get really dark as he discussed killing his then-wife, the mother of his child, Kim Mathers.
Memorably, at the end of the song, he kills Kim and dumps her body in the trunk of his car. The song is made even more horrifying by the atmospheric beat of ‘When The Levee Breaks’, which constantly pounds throughout the song’s entire duration, creating a sense of dread that makes you want to turn it off.
‘Voltage’ – B.o.B. featuring Playboy Tre and Mickey Factz
Does anyone remember North Carolina rapper, B.o.B., the man who scored a ubiquitous hit with Paramore’s Hayley Williams in 2010 with ‘Airplanes’? Well, this 2009 cut will take you right back. It’s a funky piece featuring a fusion of rock and rap, and it samples the fan favourite ‘Trampled Under Foot’ from Physical Graffiti.
It’s so catchy that it bears many similarities to an OutKast song, and even though it’s cheesy, you can’t help but move. Added to the excitement is the fact that the lyrics even name drop Led Zeppelin.
‘Gladiator’ – Bun B featuring Truck Buck
‘Gladiator’ is taken from Trill OG, the third studio album from Bun B, formerly one half of Texan heroes, UGK. Even though it’s a lesser-known piece, it’s a stellar piece of southern hip-hop and features one hell of a sub at the introduction.
If the guitar line sounds familiar, that’s because it is. It samples Jimmy Page’s work on ‘No Quarter’ from 1973’s Houses of the Holy, which is a stroke of genius. It carries the track and perfectly accentuates the hi-hat triplets.
‘D.E.M.O.N.S.’ – Elzhi
‘D.E.M.O.N.S.’ is taken from Detroit rapper Elzhi’s debut album, 2008’s The Preface. It’s an atmospheric piece that could quite easily have been released in 1998, clearly taking its cues from Doggystyle-era Snoop Dogg and Mobb Deep’s The Infamous… On the track, Elzhi takes the famous “close the door” line from 1973’s ‘No Quarter’ and reappropriates it for one of his own dark scenes. This is one of the best entries on the list.
‘Lesson 6: The Lecture’ – Jurassic 5
Jurassic 5 are alternative rap gods, so there’s no real surprise that they’ve made their way onto this list. The Los Angeles group’s music is some of the most refreshing and iconic in rap/hip-hop, and they’ve given us numerous unforgettable moments over the years, including ‘Lesson 6: The Lecture’.
The sample directly asks us if we think Led Zeppelin and Frank Sinatra would go well together before meshing ‘The Crunge’ from Houses of the Holy with some swing. From start to finish, the track is pure genius.