Five Hip-Hop Songs That Sample Can

Can circa 1970

Hive Five: Our Daily Listicle of Musical Musings

Back in the beard-rock era, when Americans were busy grooving to Grand Funk railroad, German boundary-pushers like Can, Faust, and Neu! were nudging musical preconceptions over the edge of a steep cliff. Few of these classic krautrock acts projected their visions further into the future than Can, whose unprecedented blend of slippery funk, swirling psychedelia, and avant-garde oddness has fueled the subsequent innovations of countless ambitious bands. This week, the three-disc archival Can set The Lost Tapes let the world in on the secrets that have been shut away in the band’s archives for decades, with track after track of previously unreleased music from the group’s glory days of the late-‘60s/early ‘70s. Listening to the crucial combination of kinetic rhythms and electronic expertise unveiled on The Lost Tapes, it’s easy to see how Can inspired legions of electronic/dance artists, and somewhere along the way, their sound seeped into the building blocks of hip-hop too. Last week we tallied up songs that sampled Rush, getting a bit of a rush ourselves in the process, and to celebrate the arrival of The Lost Tapes’ bounty of formerly hidden krautrock treasures, here are a few of the hip-hop tracks that were set in motion by the Teutonic trigger of Can.

1. Kanye West with Mos Def, “Drunk & Hot Girls”

In the sample-fodder universe, you know you’ve arrived when you’ve been sampled by Kanye. But not only does the druggy, waltz-time weirdness of Can’s 1972 track “Sing Swan Song” get interpolated into “Drunk & Hot Girls,” the latter is an out-and-out homage, practically to the point of being a cover version, with West duplicating the original’s vocal melody and seemingly basing the lyrics around a phonetic approximation of Japanese singer Damo Suzuki’s lyrics.

2. Q-Tip with Amanda Diva, “Manwomanboogie”

Even from the beginning, the James Brown admirers of Can forged some of the funkiest beats in krautrock, and in the late ‘70s, when they added Jamaican/Ghanaian rhythm section Rosko Gee and Reebop Kwaku Baah, the funk flames were fanned even further. There’s a long list of cuts built around killer Can grooves, but Q-Tip takes the cake, kicking up a burning beat based around “A Spectacle” from the band’s self-titled 1979 album.

3. Busdriver, “Avantcore”

Busdriver is known for crafting his cuts from sources outside the conventional hip-hop crate-digger’s realm, but he topped himself on his 2005 single “Avantcore.” The song is centered on a giddy piano riff that previously powered a kooky Can tune called “Turtles Have Short Legs,” which was the A side of non-LP 45 from 1971.

4. Spank Rock, “Energy”

“Vitamin C” from Can’s 1972 milestone Ege Bamyasi is one of the bands best-known tunes, and its greasy groove has found its way into tracks by everybody from Tha Dogg Pound’s Kurupt to 3rd Bass’s Pete Nice, but let’s give the edge to the ever-eclectic Spank Rock for taking an adult dose of “Vitamin C” and spinning it into something we can almost imagine as an alternate-universe Can cut.

5. Fonky Family, “Verset VI”

Just to show that Can’s appeal is truly global, let’s get Gallic for a moment with French hip-hop crew Fonky Family, who used the eerie electronic textures from a 1975 Can track called “Unfinished” to set the mood for their Marseilles moves.

RELATED POSTS