The Story Behind The Sample: Lil Wayne and Harry Belafonte’s ‘Day O’
(Credit: Alamy)


The Story Behind The Sample: Lil Wayne and Harry Belafonte's 'Day O'

Louisiana lyricist Lil Wayne has released copious amounts of music. Having produced 14 studio albums, five EPs and a huge 29 mixtapes, the Young Money founder has a hefty catalogue of material. The New Orleans native (real name Dwayne Carter) has been a household name in hip-hop since 1999 when he released Tha Block Is Hot and has since become one of the wealthiest men in the industry. 

Aside from his 2008 single ‘A Milli,’ one of Carter’s most acclaimed songs is ‘6 Foot 7 Foot.’ The track was the lead single of Wayne’s 2011 album Tha Carter IV. Written while he was in prison, the song is revered for its witty lyricism and clever metaphors that could go right over your head. Featuring Bronx rapper Cory Gunz who delivers a lethal, fully-automatic barrage of lyrics in the second half of the song, ‘6 Foot 7 Foot’ is a classic.

Produced by renowned beatmaker Bangladesh (real name Shondrae Crawford), ‘6 Foot 7 Foot’ uses a rather intriguing sample. Entitled ‘Day O (Banana Boat Song),’ this Wayne single contains a Harry Belafonte track from the 1950s. Belafonte was a Caribbean-American artist who popularised genres such as Calypso, Mento and Salsa that were prevalent in the West Indies and Central America during the 1950s.

‘Day O (Banana Boat Song),’ is a Mento-Calypso track released in 1956 through RCA Victor. Recorded in 1955 at the Grand Ballroom in New York City, the song appeared on Belafonte’s third album, Calypso.

‘Day O’ was a rendition of a pre-existing Caribbean song ‘The Banana Boat Song’, considered to have been sung during the era of West-Indian slavery. First recorded by Trinidadian singer Edric Connor and his band the Caribbeans in 1952, the song has been recorded a multitude of times by different artists. However, Belafonte was the first African-American to record a rendition of the track.

Calypso peaked at number one on the ’50s equivalent of the Billboard 200, and ‘Day O (Banana Boat Song)’ peaked at number five on the Billboard Pop Chart. It has since been inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress as a culturally significant body of work.

You can hear the original sample below and how it was used for ‘6 Foot 7 Foot.’