The Story Behind The Sample: How Kanye West flipped Blackjack on ‘Never Let Me Down’
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The Story Behind The Sample: How Kanye West flipped Blackjack on 'Never Let Me Down'

Sampling is an age-old practice in hip hop. In fact, some of the most popular songs in the genre contain other songs within their composition. Kanye West is undeniably considered the master of sampling, drawing many of his samples from 1970s and ’80s soul. On the other hand, Timbaland is also known for sampling but leans towards old Arabic music. Regardless of the type of music producers sample, it has always been an integral part of hip hop production.

However, sampling in its early days, especially within hip hop, meant young African-Americans sampling classic older African-American artists. Whether that be James Brown or Nina Simone, it usually stayed within the realms of blues, funk and soul. But as hip hop progressed and experimentation came into play, producers began widening their search for samples and abandoned the unwritten rule that they could only sample music from their own demographic.

It began with electro-hip hop producers sampling European EDM, and from there, the search only widened. As highlighted, Kanye West (now known as Ye) is usually looked to as the best sampler of all time. That’s not to say that producers such as J Dilla and Dr Dre weren’t good, but Kanye always manages to flip the most obscure samples, the ones that people would never think could become hip hop.

That is the case with his 2004 track ‘Never Let Me Down’. For this track, West went digging in the crates of American rock music. It is here that he stumbled upon the record ‘Maybe It’s The Power Love’ by the band Blackjack. The song is off their 1980 album Worlds Apart. However, this wasn’t the first record that Kanye had sampled a track from the band.

In 2002, West sampled the song ‘Stay’ for Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 2 album. The sample is included in the song ‘A Dream’ featuring The Notorious B.I.G. & Faith Evans. However, the song is not as well-known as ‘Never Let Me Down’.

Worlds Apart was Blackjack’s second album before they disbanded. The album, recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, was not met with any sort of critical acclaim and performed very poorly, which was one of the factors that led to the group’s disbandment. The group was only formed in 1979 and disbanded a year later. The name Blackjack was chosen by their record label and management, with the band having very little say so in their creative output.

However, their legacy still lives on in ‘Never Let Me Down’. When asked by West if he could sample ‘Maybe It’s The Power Of Love’, Blackjack’s frontman Michael Bolton gave his approval of the sampling and told Genius in a 2015 interview that he thinks “the song turned out beautifully.” Quite the opposite to Chaka Kahn, whose song was sampled for ‘Through The Wire’. In several interviews, she has expressed her disdain for the track and the manner in which West used her song.

‘Never Let Me Down’ is certified gold and is a fan favourite from Kanye’s triple platinum debut album The College Dropout. Below you can listen to the original sample and also hear the Kanye West rendition.