The 10 Best Michael Jackson Samples in Rap

Michael Jackson thrilled fans with his music videos. He revolutionized pop music with his dance moves. And he captivated everyone with his eccentric lifestyle. MJ had the unique ability to marry rock, pop, R&B and hip-hop music without losing his identity. Over the years, hip-hop has often paid tribute to the King of Pop through the art of sampling.

Here are 10 rap songs that sampled Michael Jackson.

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2Pac - "Letter 2 My Unborn"

Michael Jackson dancing

Jason Mazur

Sample: Michael Jackson - "Liberian Girl"

"Letter to My Unborn" appears on 2Pac's 2001 album Until the End of Time. It samples Michael Jackson's 1989 smash "Liberian Girl," off of Bad. Another 2Pac song, "The Thug in Me," and MC Lyte's "Keep on Keeping On" also flips "Liberian Girl." At the beginning of the original version of "Thug in Me," Pac tells his producer: "I like that beat that MC Lyte got. Johnny J, flip that sh*t."

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Q-Tip - "Move/Renaissance Rap"

Q Tip smiles in front of a black backdrop with his name on it

Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Sample: Jackson 5 - "Dancing Machine"

Q-Tip samples Jackson 5 on "Fight/Love" and "Move/Renaissance Rap," both taken from his excellent 2008 album, The Renaissance. The latter, produced by J Dilla, borrows elements of J5's "Dancing Machine." The Rik Cordero-directed music clip also alludes to Jackson's "You Rock My World" video.

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Trae - "Swang"

Michael Jackson dancing on stage

Getty Images

Sample: Michael Jackson - "With A Child's Heart"

The original version of Trae's "Swang" samples MJ's "Lady in My Life". However, Trae's label was unable to clear the rights for the sample. As a result, Trae was forced to re-record the song over a similar-sounding beat. Still, the first version remains one of the best hip-hop songs to ever sample MJ.

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J Dilla - "Time (The Donut of the Heart)"

A cover of J Dilla's The Shining

Sample: Jackson 5 - "All I Do Is Think of You"

"All I Do Is Think of You" is a favorite among Jackson 5 fans. The ballad, which appears on J5's Moving Violation, is also one of the group's most sampled tunes. A slightly faster (albeit equally melancholic) version of the song forms the backbone of J Dilla's "Time - Donut of the Heart," off his 2006's Donuts. The Roots later used the same track for the album closer, "Can't Stop This," on 2007's Game Theory.

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Puff Daddy - "It's All About the Benjamins"

Puff Daddy record cover

Bad Boy Records

Sample: Jackson 5 - "It's Great to Be Here"

"It's All About the Benjamins," which stars Lil Kim, The LOX and The Notorious B.I.G., is probably Diddy's biggest hit ever. It climbed all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and the video bagged a "Viewer's Choice" award at the 1998 MTV Video Music Awards. The song's DNA is composed of Love Unlimited's "I Did It For Love" and Jackson 5's "It's Great to Be Here."

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Naughty By Nature - "O.P.P."

Naughty by Nature record cover

Tommy Boy

Sample: Jackson 5 - "ABC"

Naughty By Nature struck gold with their 1991 hit single "O.P.P.," which samples the Jackson 5 hit "ABC." The irrepresibly catchy "O.P.P." helped propel Naughty By Nature's self-titled debut to platinum status. It remains one of the biggest crossover hits hip-hop has ever witnessed.

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Big Pun - "You Ain't A Killer"

Cover of Big Pun's Capital Punishment


Sample: Michael Jackson - "With a Child's Heart"

"You Ain't A Killer" is a highlight from Big Pun's 1996 LP, Capital Punishment. The piano loops harvested from the first six seconds of "With a Child's Heart" ends up serving as the backdrop for Pun's 4-minute showcase. The cinematic beat compliments Pun's gritty flow and the effect is as timeless as the MJ's legacy.

Bonus: Khrysis also flipped "With a Child's Heart" for Little Brother's brilliant "Watch Me," from The Minstrel Show.

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De La Soul - "Breakadawn"

De La Soul band portrait
Getty Images

Sample: Michael Jackson - "I Can't Help It"

When you hear "Breakadawn," the 1993 single from De La Soul's Buhloone Mindstate, the first thing that jumps out at you is the riveting sample. Prince Paul incorporates a mix of live instrumentation and elements from Jackson's "I Can't Help It," taken from Off the Wall.

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Nas - "It Ain't Hard to Tell"

Nas singing on state

Andy Sheppard/Getty Images

Sample: Michael Jackson - "Human Nature"

What do Michael Jackson's "Human Nature" and Nas' "It Ain't Hard to Tell" have in common? For starters, they're both stone cold classics. Nas' Illmatic is widely considered the best hip-hop album of all time. This Large Professor special from that album was deemed a crossover joint in 1993. 

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Ghostface Killah - "All That I Got Is You" (Ft. Mary J Blige)

Ghostface Killah performing at 2018 RBC Bluesfest
Mark Horton / Getty Images

Sample: Michael Jackson - "Maybe Tomorrow"

This 1996 masterwork offered an early indication of Ghostface's fondness for soul samples. It cribs Jackson 5's "Maybe Tomorrow," with young Michael on lead vocals. Ghost tapped songstress Mary J. Blige and an eloquent Popa Wu to add even more soul power to an already sturdy RZA beat. Ghostface wrote the song as a tribute to his mother.