The Story Behind The Sample: Kanye West and Sister Nancy
(Credit: Hip Hop Hero)


The Story Behind The Sample: Kanye West and Sister Nancy

Kanye West is the wealthiest man in hip hop and is just one of two self-made billionaires in the genre. Since his emergence on the Chicago underground hip hop scene in the late 1990s, West has gone on to work with all the greats in the business, but it was not easy.

Coming up under the wing of Chicago rapper and record producer No I.D., Kanye was primarily regarded as a producer. Never a rapper. Having moved with his mother to Chicago when he was just a young boy West was a talented drawer but wanted to pursue music full-time. Eager to get into the business and ferociously networking with Chicago rappers, No I.D. saw Kanye’s potential and, throughout the mid-90s, invited him to his studio sessions so West could gain firsthand experience of the record-making process. But West wanted more and decided that Chicago was a dead end and that to reach the heights he wanted to reach, he had to relocate to the home of hip hop, New York.

Upon telling No I.D. that he was relocating to New York to ensure he was in good hands, the record producer (real name Ernest Wilson) introduced West to an associate he had in New York, Kyambo “Hip Hop” Joshua, who was A&R for Roc-A-Fella Records and by 2002, West (as a rapper and producer) was officially signed to the main Roc-A-Fella label run by Dame Dash.

Ever since West has continued to grow and evolve. The rapper is a big advocate for sampling and has always been a producer who revives old music in new and exciting ways for his fans. West has sampled the likes of Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan and Steely Dan. Even in the billionaire’s early days, he was sampling artists such as Nina Simone and Shirley Murdock.

However, one sample that people are not so aware of is the sample featured in his track ‘Famous’ which is that of Sister Nancy’s ‘Bam Bam’. A beloved reggae song that has been sampled in over 50 songs.

‘Bam Bam’ by Sister Nancy was released in 1982 on Techniques Records in Jamaica. It was recorded in Channel One Studios. A famous recording studio on the island based in the West Kingston area was instrumental in the growth and evolution of reggae and sound system culture.

Sister Nancy was unaware if the song would do well outside of the Caribbean. However, it gained a lot of traction in both the US and the UK. The hook of the song was inspired by a 1966 song of the same name by The Maytals, Byron Lee and the Dragonaires. The song itself samples the ‘Stalag Riddim’, produced by reggae producer Ansell Collins which was a popular beat in Jamaica.

Despite ‘Bam Bam’ by Sister Nancy being sampled on numerous occasions, due to an ambiguous contract, for 32 years, she did not receive any royalties for the song. Nancy decided to take legal action after hearing the music in a Reebok advert. However, she was unable to receive compensation for all 32 years of unpaid royalties but did receive royalties from the last 10 years and acquired 50% of the rights to her song ‘Bam Bam’.

The song has been sampled by the likes of Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Lauryn Hill and even Pete Rock. Of course, the song was used by Kanye for the outro of his infamous song ‘Famous’, which not only reignited his odd feud with Taylor Swift but had a very strange music video in which we see a multitude of celebrities sleeping naked. Most of them are waxworks. However, there has been a lot of speculation as to whether some of them were actually real.

You can hear ‘Bam Bam’ below as well as listen to ‘Famous’.