Allen Toussaint died Monday night at the age of 77, but it will take awhile to fully appreciate his legacy.
The multi-talented songwriter, producer and musician, who helped define a sound in New Orleans in the 1960s and 1970s through his work with Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and, most notably, The Meters, worked with hundreds of artists in various capacities over his 60-year career. He’s recorded albums with Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton, had his songs covered by the Rolling Stones and Glen Campbell, played keys on albums with Paul McCartney and Paul Simon, arranged horns for The Band and, most recently, has seen his work revived as hip-hop has dug into his career.
Toussaint’s productions formed the DNA of The Meters’ tight, Nola funk sound, which caught the ear of a slew of legendary hip-hop producers; everyone from DJ Premier, the RZA and Q-Tip to the Bomb Squad, Timbaland and Salaam Remi to Organized Noize, will.i.am and J Dilla have used pieces of Toussaint’s work through the years. And his 1975 production for LaBelle, “Lady Marmalade” — a No. 1 hit on the Hot 100 when it was initially released — was famously re-created in 2001 by Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim, Mya and Pink for the soundtrack to Moulin Rouge!, which also landed atop the chart.
To celebrate Allen Toussaint’s continuing legacy, Billboard takes a look back at 10 of the New Orleans native’s songs and productions that have been sampled in hip-hop.
“Get Out Of My Life, Woman,” Lee Dorsey (1966): Written and produced by Toussaint, Dorsey’s version — with its six-second drum intro — provided the backbone to plenty of hip-hop staples, including Biz Markie‘s “Just a Friend,” Cypress Hill‘s “Hits From the Bong” and Nas‘ Illmatic cut “Memory Lane (Sittin’ In Da Park),” which was helmed by DJ Premier. The cut was lifted by the likes of the RZA, Salaam Remi and Statik Selektah over the years as well, while Toussaint’s own recording and Solomon Burke‘s 1968 cover have also been sampled by Q-Tip, Gorillaz, Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin.
“Handclapping Song,” The Meters (1970): Produced by Toussaint, this Meters cut with its head-nodding, repetitive hook (and, yes, hand claps) formed the basis of A Tribe Called Quest‘s “Clap Your Hands” off their iconic 1993 album Midnight Marauders. But Q-Tip wasn’t the only one who wanted a piece of the track: Erick Sermon (Redman‘s “Da Funk”), Hurby Luv Bug (Salt-N-Pepa‘s “Beauty And The Beat”) and RZA (Wu-Tang Clan’s “Clap”) all lifted pieces of the production for their own uses.
“Cissy Strut,” The Meters (1969): Dr. Dre and DJ Yella flipped the bass line of one of The Meters’ most iconic instrumentals to help craft the Frankenstein’s monster that is the beat to N.W.A‘s “Niggaz 4 Life.” Uncle Luke picked up the sassy guitar line for 2 Live Crew‘s 1988 cut “P-A-N” as well, while Q-Tip again paid tribute by referencing the melody in Tribe’s “Da Booty.”
“Go Back Home,” Allen Toussaint (1965): DJ Premier’s masterfully crafted beat for Jay Z’s “D’Evils” off Jay’s 1996 debut album Reasonable Doubt, lifts from a number of songs, most clearly Snoop Dogg‘s voice on “Murder Was the Case.” But the song’s piano line, which runs underneath the entire track, picks up Toussaint’s plaintive keys from this 1965 solo cut. Harry Fraud also used Toussaint’s somber “Where is the love?” hook for French Montana‘s 2012 mixtape cut “State of Mind.”
“Just Kissed My Baby,” The Meters (1974): The slick wah-wah pedal of this track, produced by Toussaint, was a favorite of Public Enemy‘s production crew The Bomb Squad, who used it as the basis of their 1987 song “Timebomb.” Later, Timbaland would chop it up finely to fill out the beat on Fabolous‘ 2001 album cut “Right Now & Later On” from Fab’s debut LP Ghetto Fabolous.
“Worldwide,” Allen Toussaint (1975): Unsurprisingly, with their gritty funk/soul background, Organized Noize used a combination of two Toussaint-related songs for OutKast‘s “We Luv Deez Hoez” from the ATLiens’ 2000 LP Stankonia. Chocolate Milk‘s “Ain’t Nothin’ But a Thing,” produced by Toussaint, lent some pieces, but it’s Toussaint’s “Worldwide” off his 1975 LP Southern Nights, that gets chopped up and moved around to craft the beat’s deliberate, groovy structure.
“Right Place Wrong Time,” Dr. John (1973): Dr. John linked up with Toussaint and The Meters to provide the creative force for his 1973 LP In the Right Place, with the song “Right Place Wrong Time,” and its stuttering organ found its way into Ice Cube‘s “Dead Homiez” from Cube’s 1990 EP Kill At Will. Dr. Dre used the track for Jewell‘s contribution to the Deep Cover soundtrack, “Love or Lust,” a project most famous these days for introducing the world to Snoop Doggy Dogg.
“Here Comes the Meter Man,” The Meters (1969): The Meters’ commitment to both tight arrangements and dedicated drum breaks gave hip-hop producers plenty to sample, and Marley Marl did just that with the title track from Big Daddy Kane‘s 1988 album Long Live The Kane (which also uses parts of The Meters’ “Hey! Last Minute,” also produced by Toussaint). Producer Rich Harrison lifted its tones for Toni Braxton‘s 2005 single “Take This Ring.”
“Oh, Calcutta!,” The Meters (1970): Producer Rich Harrison has an impressive track record and helmed much of Amerie‘s early career, including her hit 2005 single “1 Touch,” based off The Meters’ “Oh, Calcutta!” Okay, it may not be expressly hip-hop, but it did earn the singer a Grammy nomination in 2006 for best female R&B vocal performance.
“Hercules,” Aaron Neville (1973): This solo cut from Aaron Neville, produced by Toussaint, is a showcase for the breadth of styles and artists that find inspiration in Toussaint’s productions — everyone from UGK (2007’s “Chrome Plated Woman”) to Biz Markie (1989’s “A Thing Named Kim”) to Action Bronson (2012’s Party Supplies-produced “Steve Wynn”) has used parts of this song in one way or the other over the years.