With the release of Radiohead’s newest album “A Moon Shaped Pool”, we’re going to take a look at the interesting crossover between hip hop artists and the melancholy mega group from England. The moody, insanely deep cuts that Radiohead puts out makes for the perfect backdrop to some of the more cerebral lyricists to flex their creative muscles over the tracks. Fan mashups have been created with different hip hop artists and Radiohead over time, perhaps most famously with Jaydiohead, from New York producer Max Tannone, formerly DJ Minty Fresh Beats. The project was considered to be an internet sensation in 2008 and was praised by both Jay Z and Thomas Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead.
The use of Radiohead doesn’t stop with just independent producer made projects though, many artists have successfully sampled pieces of the band’s extensive catalog over the years:
The Roots – ‘Atonement’ (‘You and Whose Army’)
Although, getting around Radiohead’s lawyers has proven to be a difficult task, Jay Z’s relationship with the band has proven fruitful for other hip hop acts in seeking clearances for using Radiohead’s music as samples. According to Questlove in an interview with Spin, The Roots had sampled Radiohead’s “You and Whose Army?” for “Atonement,” but when it came to clearing it, the group ran into a brick wall: Radiohead’s lawyers wouldn’t clear the sample. Questlove had to ask Jay-Z, Def Jam president at the time, to intervene.
Questlove: I was like, “Can you get me on the phone with those guys in five minutes?” He was like, “Yeah.” I said, “Do you know those guys?” He said, “No.” I was confused. So I asked, “Well, how are you going to get through to those guys?” He said, “Watch.” Sure enough, in five minutes I was jogging on the treadmill talking to the Radiohead guys. Lawyers can’t make it work, but Jay-Z can.
Thankfully for us it all got sorted out and we were treated to the great Black Thought over a beautiful Radiohead sample, “Uh-huh, feelin the steam from the cauldron/ With tension runnin deep as the ocean/ Many are called, but so few are chosen/ As I go through the motions, of medication uppin my dosage/ Bangin Earth, Wind & Fire “Devotion” as I admire the focus”
Joe Budden – “Never Again” (“Street Spirit (Fade Out)”)
The often controversial rapper has had his share of run ins with the law but his lyrical talent and overall desire to push the limits is never questioned. The dark and deep subject matters that Budden is willing to get into makes his using of a Radiohead sample the perfect fit, especially with haunting bars about his struggle with addiction like this, “Forgive me father, I swore I’d never lie again / But couldnt fight temptation, I had to try again/ Swore I was done with vicodin ’til I changed my mind’s mind /And convinced him it was harmless, just vitamins.”
Lloyd Banks – ‘Cold Corner 2 (Eyes Wide)’ (‘Climbing Up The Walls’)
Vinny Cha$e – “Take The Money” (“Idioteque”)
“Got the mind of a stock broker with the appearance of a pot smoker,” boasts Harlem rapper Cha$e on this 2012 cut, from his ‘Survival of the Swag’ mixtape. Adding deep trap rumbles to the ‘Kid A’ favourite’s icy synth swells and agitated beats, it’s pretty ace, turning Thom’s “take the money and run” refrain into a tale of aspiration and riches.
Lupe Fiasco’s “The National Anthem” (“The National Anthem”)
This Chicago rapper has delved into a series of topics over the years, ranging from the dangers and allures of fame to examinations about Chicago’s failing school systems to America’s political structure as a whole. Agree with him or not he certainly has a way with words and the bleakness of Radiohead’s “The National Anthem” serves as a perfect backdrop for his track of the same name. “Ass is a daughter without a dad/ Back is like/ Afghanistan, Iraq/ Health care hair, drive-by thighs/ Education lips, HIV eyes/ Environment feet.”