Late Sunday evening, David Bowie succumbed to his 18-month battle with cancer at the age of 69. His publicist stated, “While many of you will share in this loss, we ask that you respect the family’s privacy during their time of grief.”
The notion of death is jarring for most people, but especially devastating when the person who has passed away had a kinship with millions around the world thanks to a career which spanned four decades and a constant reinvention of self and sound which made him a near universal icon.
“Genius is an overused word but I think musically, creatively, artistically, David Bowie was a genius,” said British Prime Minister, David Cameron. “He was a master of reinvention, and one of the things that’s so incredible is almost all his reinventions were incredible successes and worked brilliantly. And so we mourn the loss of a great talent.”
Whether it was his space-alien alter ego “Ziggy Stardust,” or when it was rumored that he lived off of only red peppers, cocaine, and milk during his time as “The Thin White Duke,” David Bowie’s legacy is unmatched.
Hip-hop and David Bowie may seem like a strange marriage at first, but there were several notable instances – both commercial hits and boom-bap purities – which made the union a natural fit thanks to his eclectic and theatrical sensibilities.
In the hours after his passing, Kanye West tweeted, “David Bowie was one of my most important inspirations, so fearless, so creative, he gave us magic for a lifetime.”
Here are David Bowie’s 10 best contributions to the genre.
Jay Z “The Takeover”
During his bitter feud with Nas and Mobb Deep, Jay Z recorded one of the most memorable “diss” songs in recent memory.
Although the most notable sample in the Kanye West-produced song is “Five to One” by The Doors, David Bowie’s “Fame” from Young Americans can be heard in the memorable “fame/lame” call and response refrain about Nas’ status as an emcee.
Puff Daddy featuring The Notorious B.I.G. & Mase “Been Around The World”
When it came time for Diddy to emerge from behind the boards with his debut studio album, David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” served as a major driving force in taking his single, “Been Around The World” to Number 1 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Tracks and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.
J Dilla featuring Guilty Simpson “Take Notice”
J Dilla was another revolutionary artist that was taken too soon from music fans. Known for his inventive and layered production, Dilla turned to David Bowie – and specifically his drums on “Soul Love” – when creating “Take Notice.”
MF DOOM featuring Mr. Fantastik “Rap Snitch Knishes”
In this instance, MF DOOM actually used a cover from Dave Matthews which saw in the indie crooner covering Bowie’s “Space Oddity” which was his first single from his sophomore album.
ODB “Dirty Run”
ODB’s “Dirty Run” is another notable instances of David Bowie’s “Fame” being reappropriated – as evidenced by the release of his 2005 posthumous mixtape album, Osirus.
Crooked I “Rap or Die”
For many, David Bowie’s role as a Jareth the Goblin King in Labyrinth is as memorable as many of his most iconic albums ever were.
Crooked I’s “Rap or Die” – which was produced the The Alchemist – draws from Bowie and Trevor Jones’ “Opening Titles Including Underground,” which appeared on the 1986 soundtrack for the Jim Henson film.
Vanilla Ice “Ice Ice Baby”
Although he may be one of the best examples of artists that were built on a gimmick rather than talent and longevity, there’s no denying that Vanilla Ice’s temporary status as a rap icon after his breakout smash “Ice Ice Baby” probably had more to do with Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure” than anything else.
Public Enemy “Night of the Living Baseheads”
Public Enemy’s “Night of the Living Baseheads” from their 1988 sophomore effort It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back is further proof that David Bowie’s “Fame” may have been the most sampled record in hip-hop history.
The Bullitts featuring Jay Electronica “Run and Hide”
The Bullitts are known for blending stunning music with compelling visuals. Having collaborated with a diverse cast of musicians and actors – ranging from Lucy Liu to Mos Def – their collaboration with Jay Electronica saw them using musical references from David Bowie’s “Quicksand” from his 1971 album, Hunky Dory.
Ice Cube “Alive on Arrival”
If you needed any further proof that the sonic qualities and themes on David Bowie’s “Fame” registered with hip-hop royalty, look no further than Ice Cube’s “Alive on Arrival.”