Hip-hop and film have always been intertwined, with each medium boiling down to storytelling that immerses listeners and viewers in unique and new points of view. Whereas we’ve had entire conceptual albums influenced by films like American Gangster, often an artist’s tastes and homages to classic characters and scenes boil down to tiny pieces of dialogue that serve as “in-song” interludes or precursors to lyrical subject matter. We sifted through countless instances of the mediums colliding – whether actual dialogue or film scores – for some of our favorites. So sit back, relax and enjoy the show.
For Part 2, expect the musical stylings of the Beastie Boys, Mobb Deep, Big Pun, Jay Electronica, Juggaknots, Geto Boys and more to make an appearance.
Editor’s note: these are not arranged in any particular order. The one we “missed” is probably in part 2 (breathe…GZA’s “Liquid Swords” is in there).
Ice Cube – “The First Day of School”
Pulled from the 1992 film American Me which spotlighted the Mexican mafia in the California prison system, Ice Cube incorporated it into the intro of his album The Predator.
Big Pun – “Intro”
Featuring performances by young Samuel L. Jackson and Giancarlo Esposito of Breaking Bad fame, Big Pun used “name recognition” from Fresh as a way to get listeners attention on 1994’s Capital Punishment.
Kanye West – “Diamonds from Sierra Leone”
Forgoing vocal samples in favor of musical elements from the James Bond film Diamonds are Forever as sung by Shirley Bassey, the sample unearthed by Kanye West for Late Registration itself was notably used five years earlier by Dead Prez’s “Psychology” from their album Let’s Get Free.
Jedi Mind Tricks – “Sacrafice”
Leave it to Jedi Mind Tricks super-producer Stoupe to re-appropriate a Dreamworks Animation film, Antz, and apply it to a politically charged record like Violent by Design. Without knowing where it came from, the speech registers like an obscure Gene Hackman Vietnam War movie.
Xzibit – “At the Speed of Life”
Taxi Driver and Robert Deniro’s masterful performance of antihero extraordinaire Travis Bickle is no stranger to getting the hip-hop treatment given the nature of the film’s thematic premise (decay) and the number of stellar monologues. Used to great effect on Xzibit’s “At the Speed of Life,” it wasn’t the first sample from Scorsese’s vigilante opus and certainly wouldn’t be the last.
Nas – “The Genesis”
Even the most jaded hip-hop purists are willing to admit that Nas’ debut album, Illmatic, is one of the best records of all-time. Featuring production from DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, and Q-Tip, it was the self-produced “The Genesis” where Nas decided to draw from Wild Style as a precursor to “N.Y. State of Mind.”
Ghostface – “Assassination Day”
Whereas the music or instrumental usually drives the subject matter for a verse by an emcee, Wu-Tang and its various members often turn to the vocal samples flipped by the RZA as a means to get down to business. Sampling The Usual Suspects and Gabriel Byrne’s reaction when the caper has gone wrong, it’s a haunting prelude before the devious RZA horns kick in.
Raekwon – “Wu-Gambinos”
Coming on the heels of debut albums from Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… solidified the notion that each member of Wu-Tang could stand on their own two feet as solo artists. Sampling 1989’s Hong Kong action film, The Killer from John Woo, the song marked the first time the crew turned to their aliases like Tony Stark, Johnny Blaze, and Lou Diamond.
Busta Rhymes – “Gimme Some More”
Produced by DJ Scratch whose production credits span from Method Man and Redman to The Roots, he chose to utilize the haunting violin/strings that accompany the theme to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Black Star – “Respiration”
“All you see is, crime in the city.” Pulled from the 1983 documentary, Style Wars, Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common converge on the Hi-Tek produced song that paints a gloom portrait of urban decay associated with New York City and Chicago.
Ghostface – “Apollo Kids”
Utilizing Solomon Burke’s “Cool Breeze” from a film with the same name, Ghostface’s signature voice mixes perfectly with the horn stabs from the blaxploitation film the chronicles a bank robbery.
Non Phixion – “Gangsta Rap”
A Bronx Tale focuses on the struggles of adolescence in the shadows of two men who exercise their powers in different ways: through fear, and through determination. For “Gangsta Rap” Non Phixion chose to utilize the exchange between C and Lorenzo to paint their own street narrative.
Jay Z – “What More Can I Say”
Jay Z’s The Black Album was supposed to be his swan song to the music business, but as we all know, retirement for a musician/mogul isn’t usually “farewell” and more like “see you later.” But at the time, it was the body of work he was leaving his fans with. It was fitting then that he used Russell Crowe’s “Are you not entertained?” speech from Gladiator as a critique on the relationship between showman and his fans.
Diamond D – “MC Iz my Ambition”
“I’m a black man, and I don’t know how to sing, and I don’t know how to dance, and I don’t know how to preach to no congregation. I’m too small to be a football hero, and too ugly to be elected mayor. But I watch TV and see all these folks and the nice homes they live in and all them fancy cars they drive, I just get so full of ambition. Now you tell me what I’m supposed to do with all this ambition” Pulled from Foxy Brown, Diamond D uses the impassioned monologue to stake his claim for the smoothest master of ceremony.
Common – “The Bitch in Yoo”
Famously reused by Ghostface on “260” from Ironman, Common abandons his normally laid back subject matter for an aggressive statement against Ice Cube and Westside Connection. Using The Education of Sonny Carson as a lead in to the Pete Rock-laced beat, it proved to be a response to what Ice Cube deemed a “diss” on Common’s “I Used to Love H.E.R.”
Shyheim featuring Big L – “Furious Anger”
When you think of classic movie monologues, it’s hard not to have Samuel L. Jackson’s Pulp Fiction speech at the very top of that illustrious list. Poetry in its own right, “Furious Anger” in a hip-hop context is a pairing of Wu affiliate Shyheim and legend Big L.
Cam’ron – “Rush Rush (Get the Yayo)
Debbie Harry’s “Rush Rush” from the Scarface soundtrack became synonymous with the decade of overindulgence and Al Pacino’s portrayal of a power hungry Cuban exile. Cam’ron used the bubbly chorus to create a bouncy homage the a flick that has immense ties to the hip-hop world.
Ghostface – “Wildflower”
The Wu are certainly no strangers to showcasing their cinematic influences on wax. Forgoing their usual martial arts homages in favor of blaxploitation horror film, JD’s Revenge, Ghostface delivers an aggressive take on romance.
Immortal Technique “Peruvian Cocaine”
When artists decide to use Scarface, it’s easy to get enamored with the quotables from Tony Montana.. In the case of “Peruvian Cocaine,” Immortal Technique employs the TV report from the film that ultimately pits the titular character versus Alex Sosa.
Cypress Hill – “A to the K”
Cypress Hill looked to Wildstyle for the inspiration to paint the portrait of burgeoning stick up kid which was actually removed when their album Black Sunday was censored despite having songs like “Hits from the Bong” and “I Wanna Get High.”
Gravediggaz – “1-800 Suicide” –
The Gravediggaz – individually Prince Paul, Frukwan, Too Poetic and RZA – were no strangers to macabre subject matter and are credited with pioneering the horrorcore movement. Surprisingly, they turned to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off for “1-800 Suicide” and Ferris’, ” Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” as a way to explore how insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things.
Compton’s Most Wanted – “Def Wish II”
While Compton’s Most Wanted’s “Def Wish II,” starts out with a sample from Scarface, it’s actually Henry Hills voice over narration from Goodfellas that sets the tone for MC Eiht. Hill’s rationale and explanation of the wiseguy mentality where if you stepped out of line, you got whacked, certainly paints a life of crime in black and white strokes.
Ice Cube – “Turn Off the Radio”
Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing explores the escalating racial tensions in New York City during a punishing heat wave that threatens an already unsettled calm. Known for a series of “rants” by the varying racial groups, it serves as a way to bring the audience into feuds that are at a literal boiling point. Whereas Ice Cube is known for his more family-centric films these days, his solo days following N.W.A. were filled with criticisms about how African American’s were viewed.
Mos Def – “Mathematics”
If you consider yourself a hip-hop historian and are scratching your head as to cinemas contributions to Mos Def’s “Mathematics,” it starts with DJ Premier. The bouncy production – with signature scratch-laden chorus – features a small, albeit fun slice of dialogue from Ghostbusters. “What are talking about here?” is spoken by the late Harold Ramis’ portrayal of Egon.
MF Doom – “Beef Rapp”
As The New Yorker noted in their 2009 profile of MF Doom, “Other m.c.s are obsessed with machismo; Dumile is obsessed with Star Trek and Logan’s Run.” Thus, it should come as little surprise that he utilized the latter for “Beef Rapp” which featured additional movie contributions from Bela Lugosi’s Bowery at Midnight as well as Wildstyle.