Drake is in a class of his own when it comes to releasing music this year, as the 6 god has once again made his home at the top of the charts. Drizzy dropped off the bouncy “Nice For What” and its coinciding visual featuring a plethora of bold women in entertainment at the top of April. The tune served as the follow-up to his Scary Hours EP and the Murda Beatz-produced single dethroned “God’s Plan” after an 11-week run at No. 1.
The women empowering “Nice For What” heavily samples Lauryn Hill‘s “Ex-Factor,” which appeared on 1998’s genre-shifting The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. That wasn’t the first time the 30-year-old sampled the Grammy-winning rapper. Back in 2014, Drake released his ode to former NFL player Johnny Manziel on “Draft Day,” which contained elements of the Fugees singer “Doo Wop (That Thing).”
Cardi B also received the stamp of approval from Ms. Hill in 2018 for her Invasion of Privacy single “Be Careful,” where she subtly samples elements of “Ex-Factor.” The hostile track currently sits at No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would be shortsighted to just highlight the impact of “Ex-Factor” on Drake’s recent smash with a total of 17 credited writers and a musical lineage that dates back to the ’70s.
“The Way We Were” – Barbra Streisand (1973)
The commercially successful Barbra Streisand single appeared on and powered her fifteenth studio album under the same name as the headlining track. Composer Marvin Hamlisch wrote the final melody of the song, which would explain his appearance as a writing credit on “Nice For What.” Hamlisch and Streisand originally butted heads over the melody’s direction, where he chose to produce in major key rather than Barbra’s preferred minor, in order to slow down the song’s revealing process.
“The Way We Were/Try to Remember” (Cover) – Gladys Knight & The Pips (1974)
Gladys Knight & The Pips took Streisand’s creation further by covering her hit song just a year later. The foursome combined elements of “The Way We Were” with “Try to Remember” for a memorable blend. The acclaimed remake went on to achieve mainstream success, thanks to the Empress of Soul at the forefront. The group’s rendition peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1975.
“Can It Be All So Simple” – Wu-Tang Clan (1994)
Two decades later, the Wu-Tang Clan burst onto the hip-hop scene with an aurora and message that was never-before-seen in the culture. “Can It Be All So Simple” was the fourth single off of the group’s prolific debut album Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers). The crew’s “C.R.E.A.M.” follow-up samples vocals from Gladys Knight’s “The Way We Were” cover on the introduction. “Hey, you know, everybody’s talking about the ‘good old days,’ right? Everybody! The good old days/Well, let’s talk about the good old days,” she quips.
“Ex-Factor” – Lauryn Hill (1998)
Lauryn Hill’s influence on this generation of music cannot be denied. Miseducations’ “Ex-Factor” has been sampled many times throughout hip-hop and R&B’s history. In addition to the previously mentioned Drake and Cardi B, Kehlani, Omarion and Lil B have all incorporated Hill’s classic in some form.
Many believe that “Ex-Factor” takes aim at former Fugees’ compatriot Wyclef Jean, as the pair always maintained a competitive edge throughout their relationship in the midst of chasing greatness. The ’90s hit sampled Wu-Tang’s “Can It Be All So Simple” on the tune’s opening lines. “It could all be so simple/ But you’d rather make it hard,” she sings. “Ex-Factor” eventually made its way onto the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 1999.