As BBC reported earlier today, British rock/blues legend Joe Cocker has passed away at age 70 after a battle with lung cancer. Through his 40-years-plus recording career, Cocker's work left an indelible mark on pop culture at large; his cover of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" served as the unofficial theme song for the classic TV sitcom The Wonder Years, and his 1982 single with Jennifer Warnes for the soundtrack to An Officer And A Gentleman, "Up Where We Belong," won that year's Oscar for Best Original Song.
Many will also recognize the slow-rolling horns and barroom piano of "Woman to Woman," from his 1972 self-titled LP, as the unforgettable hook of 2Pac, Dr. Dre, and Roger Troutman's 1995 classic single "California Love." Pac wasn't the only artist to take this song's raw materials and turn something new out of it; indeed, the "Woman to Woman" sample has popped up in cuts from forgotten hip-hop acts as far and wide as Cleveland, Oakland, and Japan. Below, we've rounded up other instances in hip-hop and dance music history where Cocker's tune was re-fashioned into something new.
Eight years before "California Love," the Bronx-based crew (which once counted eccentric spitter Kool Keith and once-questionably-deceased rapper Tim Dog as members) kicked off their 1987 single with Cocker's familiar piano line.
While Ultramagnetic MC's allowed the "Woman to Woman" sample to fade into the track's cluttered background, Brentwood, NY duo EPMD simply let the sample ride two years later, as members Erick Sermon and Parrish Smith along with Islip rapper K-Solo did their thing over the jaunty piano line.
The "Woman to Woman" sample's barely identifiable to the naked ear on the lead track of Greg Nice and Smooth B.'s 1991 LP Ain't A Damn Thing Changed—it's been sped up and mixed with snips from Public Enemy's "Rebel Without a Pause" and Otis Redding and Carla Thomas' "Tramp"—but once your ears adjust (or, you play the original and "Harmonize" back to back), the sample's definitely there.
The "sequel" to the hip-hop outfit's 1989 single "New Jack Swing," this cut from Wreckx-N-Effect's second LP, 1992's Hard or Smooth, leans hard on the "Woman to Woman" sample and (fun fact alert) features a production credit from Pharrell, who also had a hand in the group's perpetually ubiquitous "Rump Shaker."
As a legendary NYC producer and 1/2 of house innovators Masters At Work, Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez certainly has a way with fusing samples—as evidenced on this track, which blends elements of "Woman to Woman," Stetsasonic's "Go Stetsa," and Slave's "Watching You" into slo-mo club magic.
1990s rave duo Kicks Like A Mule counted Richard Russell, he who founded still-vital indie label XL, as one of its members; their 1992 single "DJ Talk" is a brash piece of sampledelia that throws the "Woman to Woman" sample right in its midsection, alongside some MC toasting and abrasive breaks.
Interstellar hip-hop producer Madlib's frequently dipped into his Quasimoto alias to deliver some seriously blunted instrumental hip-hop sounds, and his use of the "Woman to Woman" sample, on this track taken from 2000's The Unseen, is truly abstract, burying the hook in static, sticky-icky drum patterns and Boards of Canada-esque twinkling psychedelia.
Los Angeles outfit Jurassic 5 have always favored the type of dusty, crackling samples that marked the turntablism era of hip-hop—and "The Rhythm," unearthed as part of the 2008 reissue of J5's 1998 debut, features a brief intrusion of the "Woman to Woman" single, accompanied by police sirens, about 50 seconds in.
"We Keep It Rockin'" brings the "Woman to Woman" sample crashing into this decade, and its hook—New York City knows how to party—serves as a full-circle of sorts from the "California Love" heyday of 1995, unintentionally highlighting that "Woman to Woman" has been sampled from so many times that younger generations might associate that piano-and-horn combo more with Pac than Cocker. It's Cocker's to own in the end, though, and as this list's proven, "Woman to Woman" was one of many instances in which his music runs through pop culture's blood.
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