Words by Jesse Serwer and Richard “Treats” Dryden
“Famous” is easily the most talked about track on Kanye West’s newly-released, The Life of Pablo, thanks, for the most part, to its lines about Taylor Swift. The track, which features guest vocals from Swizz Beatz and Rihanna and production from a committee that includes Havoc of Mobb Deep, caught our attention for a different reason, though: It prominently features a sample from Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam,” easily one of the most recognizable dancehall songs worldwide.
“Famous” is hardly the first rap song to jack “Bam Bam.” The track, originally released in 1982 on producer and Techniques Records founder Winston Riley’s Stalag riddim, has permeated hip-hop for over two decades, turning up in samples, song lyrics, and even movies, and a few R&B songs, too. Amazingly, the ethereal song was not a hit for Nancy when it was released. In a unique and unusual twist, it’s celebrated far more now than it was in the era it conjures, Nancy’s ethereal vocals and Riley’s dark, haunting riddim having grown more resonant over time.
Naturally, “Bam Bam” (and Nancy herself) features on Corey Chase and DJ Gravy’s recent LargeUp-presented mixtape, Double Barrel, highlighting reggae samples in hip-hop. But where we only had room to show you one track — Main Source’s “Just Hanging Out” — that borrowed from “Bam Bam,” there’s many, many more.
Here’s a look at 12 of the most notable times hip-hop has sampled, remixed, borrowed and otherwise paid homage to Nancy’s ethereal dancehall classic.
Start the list here, and watch our webisode with Sister Nancy below.