Fine, I'll say it: I love Kanye West.
I really do. With the exception of that 808s and Heartbreak nonsense (without autotune, the world would be a better place), he's hardly made any music that I don't really like, if not love.
One of my favorite trends that Kanye has subscribed to is the recycling and sampling of old-school beats and songs as the basis for some of his songs. I love when he does this not only because he has a history of doing a really, really good job with it and his samples come off great, but also because it reminds me of how good those originals are. It's his own way of paying respects toward those who influenced him musically, even if the genre is totally different (which it usually is). Let's check out some examples of how Kanye West brings us back in time with music.
"School Spirit" ["Spirit in the Dark" - Aretha Franklin]
This is the example that inspired this post. The Aretha track is so...cool. And that's not usually the kind of word that I'd associate with Aretha. She's powerful, she's deep, she's soulful, of course, but "cool" isn't usually the path I go down. This song is an exception.
If you're not dancing by the second half of the original when she starts really turning it up, something is wrong. So you should see somebody.
"Otis" ["Try A Little Tenderness" - Otis Redding]
The sampling in the Kanye track is so key to this track (and it actually comes from the collab album he did with Jay Z, who definitely deserves some credit). That Otis half-yell-thing (any better ideas on what to call it?) drives the whole track. This one's cool because it totally changes the way the sampled track feels. Otis's song is pretty slow for the majority (it picks up at the end, though), and Kanye spins it 180 degrees into something really different.
Sounds so soulful, don't you agree?
"Champion" ["Kid Charlemagne" - Steely Dan]
If you know me, you know I love Steely Dan. Kanye uses this one to boost his own ego, as if he needed to: he uses Steely Dan's lyric, "Did you realize / you were a champion in their eyes?" and immediately replies "Yes I did!"
"Blood on the Leaves" ["Strange Fruit" - Nina Simone]
This isn't a Nina Simone song and was actually most famously performed by Billie Holliday, but Kanye uses the Simone version. It's a song with that deals with race in a big, big way (it was used in the '30s as to lead anti-lynching protests), and there's no secret that Kanye included it to further intensify "Yeezus". The Kanye song is nearly as dark as the original, tackling the issue in a totally different genre.
"Addiction" ["My Funny Valentine" - Etta James]
Another one that takes us way back, "My Funny Valentine" was written in 1937. It's been covered hundreds of times, and my favorite version is the Chet Baker one, but it's hard to go wrong with Etta James. I really like the energy of the Kanye song, helped along by James.