Two months in to 2016 and another music legend has passed. Maurice White, a founding member of the legendary supergroup Earth, Wind & Fire, died in his sleep Wednesday night (Feb. 3). He was 74 years old.
White was one of the vocalists and songwriters for the group and remained actively touring until 1994, due to Parkinson’s disease, which he was diagnosed with in the late 1980s.
First formed in 1969 by White, Earth Wind & Fire serves as a time marker in great American music. The family-run band transcends all genres of R&B, funk, soul, pop, disco and jazz and are widely considered as one of the best live bands in the world. Earth, Wind & Fire's list of accolades is endless: inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, The Songwriters Hall of Fame and selling over 100 million records worldwide. Maurice White served as one of the group's lead singers with Philip Bailey for many years and has seven Grammys to his name.
Earth, Wind & Fire's music is so timeless, traces of it can be heard from the music on the radio to your favorite rap albums. Even if you're too young to identify a single song off any of EWF's whopping 21 studio albums, the audible odes to the band are rooted all throughout hip-hop. Producers like J Dilla, Timbaland and Swizz Beatz have used Earth, Wind & Fire samples frequently and A Tribe Called Quest's Q-Tip is such a big fan of White and the band that he credits them for being "the blueprint for Tribe."
As the music world mourns the loss of a true innovator, XXL digs through the digital crates to see the impact Earth, Wind & Fire have had on the hip-hop world. Here are 10 Hip-Hop Songs Sampling Earth, Wind & Fire.
"Nigga What, Nigga Who?"Jay Z
Jigga man borrowed from EW&F for a track off his 1999 album Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life. His quick-tongued call-and-response song, "Nigga What, Nigga Who" gets its electric guitar twangs from EW&F's "Sunshine."
"Friendly Skies"Missy Elliott Featuring Ginuwine
A standout record off Missy's debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, "Friendly Skies" featuring Ginuwine incorporates the same slow, soulful xylophone and drums in EW&F's "New World Symphony."
True to the rapper's form, Nas' "Live Now" is a gritty rap ballad from his seventh studio album, Street's Disciple. Although it features a bass-heavy beat, the electric piano on the track is a sample from EW&F's "Fantasy."
"Still Not a Player"Big Pun Featuring Joe
The infectious feeling of this Big Pun classic has as much to do with the melody as it does with the words. The hit single off Capital Punishment borrows its underlying vocals, piano and percussions from Earth, Wind & Fire's "Brazilian Rhyme."
"Jamboree"Naughty by Nature Featuring Zhane
Any fan can tell as soon as they press play that Earth, Wind & Fire is all over Naughty by Nature's 1999 party track "Jamboree." The horns, guitar and cymbals are straight from the group's track "On Your Face." The only major audible change is that Naughty eases up on the trumpet for their update.
'Pac's social consciousness is on full display in his 1997 posthumous track "Hold On, Be Strong," which features the angelic keystrokes from EW&F's "I'll Write a Song for You."
LL Cool J's "Murdergram," off his most notable album Mama Said Knock You Out, seems like a hard-hitting agitation track but it ironically borrows its guitar chords from EW&F's upbeat party-starter "Moment of Truth," and just mixes them for a speedier version.
"Mr. Muhammed"A Tribe Called Quest
With Q-Tip being a longtime Earth, Wind & Fire fan, it makes perfect sense that the soulful funk of their songs would carry over into A Tribe Called Quest's work. "Mr. Muhammed" samples airy vocals and guitar chords from the funk group's "Brazilian Rhyme."
"Shawty"Plies Featuring T-Pain
The untrained ear may not have caught it, but Plies 2007 smash hit wouldn't have had that same romantic groove if it weren't for EW&F's "Fantasy." The electronic piano sample is most prominent during T-Pain's Auto-Tune chorus.
Joey's J Dilla-produced track speeds up the piano and bass of Earth, Wind & Fire's "Clover" but still manages to keep the laid-back vibe. "Two Lips" was a special release in 2013 in collaboration with the J Dilla Foundation and Akomplice Clothing.