Acclaimed music man Stevie Wonder has topped the charts with an array of infectious and classic tracks that have not only won over generations of fans, but weaved into hip-hop hits and album cuts.
As a testament to the legend’s catchy melodies, Wonder has been a go-to sample in both rap and R&B over the past two decades. In honor of the 40th anniversary of his landmark 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life, here are some of the most Wonder-ful samples courtesy of Stevie.
Sampled in: Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise”
Coolio had a massive hit with “Gangsta’s Paradise,” not only making it one of the biggest songs of 1995, but scoring a Grammy for best rap solo performance. The song is such a ubiquitous part of ’90s hip-hop that it may be hard to believe that Coolio lifted the melody and some lyrics straight from Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” from the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life.
“My Cherie Amour”
Sampled in: J Cole’s “Love Me Not”
Like many of his peers, Queens-born rapper J. Cole is an avid fan of Wonder and sampled the 1969 smash “My Cherie Amour” from his album of the same name on the 2010 track “Love Me Not.” Luckily for Cole, the admiration is mutual: During a stop on his Songs in the Key of Life tour in the summer of 2015, Wonder sang a line from Cole’s track “Wet Dreamz.”
Sampled in: Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West”
One of the most notable tracks to sample Stevie was Will Smith’s “Wild Wild West.” While the infectious tune provided the theme song to the adventure comedy film that notoriously tanked in the summer of 1999, the instrumentals are lifted from Wonder’s classic “I Wish.”
Sampled in: Tupac’s “So Many Tears”
Two musical titans combine forces on the late Tupac‘s “So Many Tears,” the second single from his third album, 1995’s Me Against the World. Sampling Wonder’s 1981 release “That Girl,” the song is an aching, personal rumination on his life and career at the time with lyrics like “Now I’m lost and I’m weary, so many tears.” It’s a dramatic stand-out on this list of otherwise upbeat tracks.
Sampled in: 50 Cent and Olivia’s “So Amazing”
In 2005, 50 Cent was spitting out hit after hit after riding the success of his major label debut, 2003’s Get Rich or Die Tryin’. For his second effort The Massacre, Fifty teamed with G-Unit’s First Lady Olivia for “So Amazing,” an album cut that lifts the melody from Wonder’s “Part-Time Lover.” Olivia was also featured on The Massacre‘s lead smash single “Candy Shop.”
“For Once in My Life”
Sampled in: Action Bronson’s “Dreamer”
While it may be the shortest song on this list, Wonder’s buoyant 1968 track “For Once in My Life” turns into a sample for the Queens rapper’s “Dreamer” off the 2013 mixtape Blue Chips.
Sampled in: A Tribe Called Quest’s “Footprints”
The unmistakable horn from Wonder’s “Sir Duke” is on full display throughout this 1990 A Tribe Called Quest track. Featuring bars from ATCQ frontman Q-Tip, the hip-hop collective’s interpretation is just as infectious as Wonder’s 1976 original.
“Knocks Me Off My Feet”
Sampled in: Ja Rule’s “Thug Lovin’” feat. Bobby Brown
A 2002 hit for Ja Rule, his ode to thugs and lovin’, appropriately titled “Thug Lovin” features New Edition staple Bobby Brown, who croons a re-interpreted version of Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” It’s yet another track from Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life to get the sample treatment.