Five Super Fly Hip-Hop Samples

| Matthew Tchepikova-Treon |

A band of men are playing a song in a well-lit room. The photo is in black and white. At the bottom of the image is text that reads "Warner Bros presents the Sig Shore production "SUPER FLY" starring RON O'NEAL

Superfly plays at the Trylon Cinema from Friday, July 14th, through Sunday, July 16th. Visit for tickets and more information.

Blaxploitation cinema and hip-hop developed in tandem throughout the 1970s. From Harlem to the Bronx, music technicians like Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and others developed vinyl scratching and sampling techniques using available physical materials found on R&B, soul, and funk LPs. At the same time, films like Super Fly, Shaft, Foxy Brown, Across 110th Street, and many more were filling movie theaters while their soundtracks were flying out of local record stores. In fact, the beat-heavy grooves that enabled blaxploitation film editors to loop musical fragments likewise lent themselves to the emergent breakbeat techniques refined by these early DJs. Meanwhile, rappers also began remixing the storylines, personalities, and styles from Black action films in addition to sampling their sounds.

Half a century on, Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly (1972)—the highest selling album of his eminent career—remains, for many, the most iconic of all blaxploitation film scores. Jay Ditzer’s piece for Perisphere, I’ll Let You Trip for Awhile: Curtis Mayfield’s Super Fly, lays out precisely how Mayfield’s songs pushed this outright fascinating, flawed, fabulous movie to next-level artistic heights. In similar fashion, the film’s luminous afterlife can be credited, in no small part, to its resounding influence on five decades of rap music. Super Fly continues to exist as the soundtrack par excellence for mapping the musical avenues that connect blaxploitation cinema and hip-hop. Below are five super-fly examples charting a few choice routes. Let me confess up top that my math is supremely misleading, though, because there are far more switchbacks and side streets. But such is the loopy nature of hip-hop sampling.

1. Song: “Funny Vibe (Funky Vibe Mix)”
Artist: Living Colour (feat. Daddy-O)
Year: 1989
Sample: “Superfly”

The song “Funny Vibe” was the fifth single off Living Colour’s genre-defiant debut album, Vivid, and by far their most polymorphic, spawning three official versions. In its original form, “Funny Vibe” is all busy guitars, splashy drums, and heavy slap bass, featuring Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Flavor Flav on vocals. Imagine if George Clinton had started a funk-grunge band in late-eighties Seattle.

The next year, Living Colour released a 12-inch cut of “Funny Vibe” remixed by producer Prince Paul, with additional verses by rapper Daddy-O, both of whom were in Brooklyn’s early hip-hop band The Stetsasonic 3 MC’s. Predecessors to next-generation groups like The Roots, with their homegrown blend of drum machines, samples, live instrumentation, and “jazz rap” stylings, Stetsasonic often layered their songs with sharp-tongued commentary on discriminatory policing in NYC, making Paul and Daddy-O’s guest spots a perfect pairing with Public Enemy.

For his remix, Paul kept the original vocals (plus Daddy-O’s) but completely reworked the song’s rhythm tracks by sampling the main groove from Kool and the Gang’s “Soul Vibrations” (released the same month as Super Fly). He also lifted a hook from the 1979 blockbuster “Love Rap,” itself a mashup of Spoonie Gee’s “Spoonin’ Rap” and “The New Rap Language” by The Treacherous Three, some of Harlem’s earliest hip-hop recording artists. (“Love Rap” also provides the foundation for Moby’s hit song “Bodyrock” twenty years later.) The result is a musical spore print showing funk and rap music’s shared DNA on a molecular level.

On the “Funny Vibe” B-side, Living Colour (and Ramones) producer Ed Stasium completed the song’s phylogenetic sequencing by adding Mayfield’s “Superfly” bassline to the parenthetically dubbed “funky vibe” re-remix. Taken all together, it’s evolutionary genetics as an art form.

A few notable “Superfly” side streets:

  • Geto Boys, “Do It Like a G.O.” (1990), remixed with a heavy hand from producer Rick Rubin
  • Beastie Boys, “Egg Man” (1988), from Paul’s Boutique, a classic LP of sampling lore status produced by the Dust Brothers; among several others, “Egg Man” also includes strings from Bernard Herrmann’s score for Psycho!
  • Notably, the Dust Brothers, along with Quincy Jones, also produced the track “Know How” (1989) by Young MC (of “Bust A Move” fame) using Isaac Hayes’s stone-cold classic “Theme From Shaft” (1971)

2. Song: “I’m The Only Woman”
Artist: Mary J. Blige
Year: 1994
Sample: “Give Me Your Love”

A perennial presence in the nineties confluence of R&B/hip-hop/soul, Mary J. Blige stepped into the mainstream with her second album, My Life (1994), with five hit singles, including the undeniable “Mary Jane (All Night Long).” Like contemporary albums by fellow singers Lauryn Hill, Mya, and Faith Evans, My Life was built on samples, stylings, and musical citations from sixties and seventies Black popular music, while still sounding completely new on nineties radio waves. And her song, “I’m The Only Woman,” not only samples Mayfield’s porno-chic classic “Give Me Your Love”—with its softly fingered bassline, slowed single-stroke-roll on the hi-hat, and wah-wah guitar pulse—but even reimagines its erotic imperative. Blige confidently sings about love as a form of exchange, of giving and receiving (and not necessarily in the economic sense of exchange, though producers Puff Daddy and Chucky Thompson did round out the song with a subtle sample lifted from “For the Love of Money” [1973] by The O’Jays).

On her song “Beautiful,” recorded for the hit film How Stella Got Her Groove Back with famed Midwest production duo Jimmy Jam (from Minneapolis) and Terry Lewis, Blige again sampled elements of “Give Me Your Love,” sparingly. What makes “I’m The Only Woman” so interesting is just how much of Mayfield’s track the song samples. With a slightly more insistent kick drum added to the mix, Blige’s song essentially uses the original track’s full rhythm section, Johnny Pate’s string arrangement, and much of the guitar work, while also directly referencing many of its most recognizable dynamic changes. Yet Blige’s voice sits in the mix with complete ease, calling the shots, making the song sound more retrofitted than merely retro.

“Give Me Your Love” is quite possibly the most sampled song from the Super Fly soundtrack:

  • The honey-toned “Nickel Bags” (1993) by Digable Planets, mixed with Edwin Starr’s theme for Hell Up In Harlem
  • Snoop Dogg’s “Bathtub” skit from Doggystyle (1993)
  • Legendary producer Pete Rock’s “Pimp Strut” (2005)
  • “Trouble Man” (1999) by Wu-Tang’s Inspectah Deck, beautifully layered by Pete Rock with Isaac Hayes’s “Joy” (1973), a song that sounds suspiciously like Mayfield’s own
  • “Open Mic” (feat. Thyme, 1996), from Eminem’s pre-Dr. Dre debut, Infinite, where the rapper sounds refreshingly more like B-Rabbit of 8 Mile, Eminem’s fictional alter ego, than Slim Shady, his real-life nom de plume introduced the following year
  • Alicia Keys, “The Life” (2001), intercut with “My Life” by Mary J. Blige

The more recent “Access Denied” (2021) by Lucky Daye, featuring Ari Lennox, which similarly utilizes the full vibe of Mayfield’s original

3. Song: “Walking on Thin Ice”
Artist: Black Dynasty
Year: 1991
Sample: “Freddie’s Dead”

To this day, the early underground rap group, Black Dynasty, remain mobb-music legends on account of their Bay Area hit “Deep East Oakland” (1995), a G-funk classic shot through with buzzy synths, loopy guitar lines, and deep bass hits. Before fully enveloping themselves in the emergent West Coast style, however, the group specialized in East Coast crate digging. Black Dynasty released their first cassette EP, Eight Ball in the Corner Pocket, in 1991, and a full-length follow-up, Asphalt Jungle, in ’93. The song, “Walking on Thin Ice,” appeared on both records.

Built around the guitar hook from, “Freddie’s Dead,” Mayfield’s threnody for Fat Freddie that embodies many of the fundamental contradictions explored in Super Fly’s most introspective moments, “Walking on Thin Ice” similarly contains political lyrics championing house parties, sexist hooks advocating safe sex, and boastful rhymes about sometimes being broke. It’s also a unique multilingual track rapped in both English and Arabic, underscoring the influence of Black Nationalism and the Nation of Islam on nineties rap music, along with the Black Power movement, which was at its social and aesthetic peak just as blaxploitation cinema began materializing on thousands of movie screens and millions of home speakers.

Produced by group member Kariem Abdullah, “Walking on Thin Ice” includes two other important samples. First, “Papa Don’t Take No Mess” (1974) from James Brown’s album Hell, a 14-minute song originally recorded for the blaxploitation film Hell Up In Harlem, before director Larry Cohen rejected Brown’s score because it contained too much material. Second, “The Grunt” (1970) by Brown’s band The J.B.’s, featuring Robert McCollough’s blazing tenor saxophone, which anticipated the buzzy synth lines that would become a sonic signature of Moog-playing West Coast rap producers (most notably Dr. Dre) two decades onward, including Kariem Abdullah of Black Dynasty.

More from “Freddie’s Dead”:

Master P, “Shoot ’em Up” (1992) and again on the elegiac banger, “Kenny’s Dead” (1998), from the South Park musical universe: “A lot of hopeless nights chasin’ nickels and dimes / Kenny rode the bus to school, but at night, he did crimes / We gotta ride tonight / My little homie Kenny died tonight / Unh!”

4. Song: “Intro”
Artist: Notorious B.I.G.
Year: 1994
Sample: “Superfly”

Nowhere is hip-hop’s cultural necromancy better sonically dramatized than the “Intro” track on Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 debut album, Ready to Die. In the album’s opening seconds, we hear the chorus from “Superfly” fade in along with the sounds of a woman in labor and a male voice repeatedly telling her to “push.” Born into New York City’s world of drug dealing in 1972, the same year as Super Fly, Biggie’s self-identification as dealer-cum-musician invokes Mayfield’s own in “Pusherman” (wherein he sings, “Give me money for style / And I’ll let you trip for a while”), simply reversed. What’s more, by also citing “Rapper’s Delight” (1979), the legendary “Top Billin” by Audio Two, and Snoop Dogg’s “The Shiznit,” Biggie’s introduction functions like a short story about the origins of both rap music and its newest star, making his tragicomic wordplay all the more harrowing.

5. Song: “I’m Your Pusher”
Artist: Ice-T
Year: 1988
Sample: “Pusherman”

Decades before joining the Special Victims Unit in NYPD’s 16th precinct, rapper Ice-T appeared on TV screens in the music video for his hit single, “I’m Your Pusher,” a bass-heavy critique of drug abuse that turns Mayfield’s “Pusherman” inside out. In fact, the song doesn’t actually sample “Pusherman,” but instead contains an interpolation (i.e. a replayed sample), with Mayfield himself reprising his original falsetto rendering of Super Fly’s titular pimp, pusher, and protagonist. But rather than cocaine, in Ice-T’s re-upped version, we see the rapper on the run from LAPD for selling “dope beats and lyrics.” It’s admittedly a ridiculous conceit, but nonetheless marks a significant pop culture crossover.

Two years after Ice-T’s reimagining of “Pusherman” helped his album, Power, go platinum in the U.S., Super Fly film producer Sig Shore directed The Return of Super Fly, with a soundtrack that includes the Mayfield/Ice-T collaborative effort “Superfly 1990.” In 1991, Ice-T then stared in Mario Van Peebles’ hip-hop take on the crack epidemic, New Jack City, a prime example of what Kodwo Eshun calls “rapsploitation” films. This influence reached its logical conclusion in the 2018 remake of Super Fly, directed by music video producer Director X.

The remake even features Mayfield’s “Pusherman” during a call-up of the original’s “cocaine montage,” yet all we see this time around is blaxploitation’s more political impulses polished into a long-form commercial (for Lexus and Atlanta real estate). The movie also spawned a two-volume soundtrack album credited to rapper and producer Future and a slew of featured artists that provided four promotional singles. But I agree with critic Peter Travers, who wrote, “Future supplies a score that has its exciting moments when not being upstaged by sampling the unforgettable Curtis Mayfield sound from the original.” Nonetheless, hip-hop proves paramount to understanding the cultural legacies of Super Fly and the sound of blaxploitation cinema.

This image is a page from the SUPER FLY press book, courtesy of warner bros. The headline of the image is MAYFIELD is outstanding promotion PLUS.

Image courtesy of the Super Fly press book, from Warner Bros.


1. Coming off the hit movie/soundtrack Black Caesar (1973), Brown apparently ignored any score cues, deciding that more music (including his chart-topping “The Payback”) could only help the production. Before editing began on the sequel, Cohen re-commissioned a new set of songs and musical cues from Motown’s Edwin Starr.

Edited by Olga Tchepikova-Treon

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