Sampling in hip hop is as necessary as a microphone. Not only did the genre spawn the artform of selecting only the freshest or juiciest beat, capturing it and reimagining it in a new song and a brand new context, but it has since become a vital practice that almost every facet of music incorporates into its genesis. While some tracks are obscure gems, others, like this song, are as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. This track is most certainly the latter.
The second most used song in sampling history is Beside / Fab 5 Freddy with ‘Change The Beat’. It was initially recorded for the Celluloid label in 1982, and since then, the track has enjoyed thousands of lives thanks to sampling. In total, the track has been sampled over 2,500 times, and the part of the song you’ll be familiar with is from the end of the Side B version, where the phrase “Ahhhhh, this stuff is really fresh” is spoken.
During a conversation where DJ Roger johnson claims this to be the most sampled track in history, the BBC man explains how the song came to be in its original format. The story goes that a French producer named Jean Caracas, aka Beside, came to New York City in the 1980s and fell in love with its bustling street culture. Much the same way a million other tourists land in the Big Apple and fall head over heels, Caracas wanted a holiday romance.
Unlike most tourists, however, Caracas wanted a moment of the trip that he could take home with him and so got in contact with hip hop pioneer, Fab 5 Freddy. Face to face with the rapper, Caracas has a hair-brained idea where he would provide some classic European electro-pop beats for Freddy and he would deliver a classic rap, not only in English but in French too. It was almost a perfect marriage.
In truth, Freddy delivers some classic lines during his English verses but to imagine his French bars as anything but a little cringey is lying only to yourself. However, perhaps ironically, the real moment of brilliance comes at the end of the song when the french producer comes into the studio and says in English: “Ahhhhhh, this stuff is really fresh.”
Like so many great pieces of art, the pure genius of this sample comes from the happenstance of its origin. The line at the end of the song would be clipped up and used thousands of times over the years. not only can you count Eminem, Eazy-E, Eric B and Rakim, Bad Bunny and a host more hip hop heroes, but it has also been used by pop stars and rock stars alike, such as Britney Spears and Linkin Park.
The sample, we hope, will be continued to be used for decades to come as it becomes one of the most sampled songs in history. Below, you can hear the entire thing as we listen back to Fab 5 Freddy song ‘Change the Beat’.