Mantronix’s ‘King of the Beats’ is one of the most sampled songs in music history. These are the songs that sampled it the best.
Mantronix released their signature track ‘King of the Beats’ on Capitol Records in 1988. The song is a mashup of samples and scratchwork from tracks including ‘Same Old Thing’ by The Meters, ‘Pump Up That Bass’ by Original Concept, and of course ‘Amen, Brother’ by The Winstons. The result of this mix, masterminded by producer Kurtis Mantronik, went on to become one of the most sampled tracks in history, rivalling ‘Amen, Brother’ itself.
Producers sample ‘King of the Beats’ for obvious reasons. It is full of invention and packed with ideas that Mantronix lets go of tantalisingly early. The song has been sampled 218 times according to WhoSampled, but the actual figure including underground tracks and bootlegs is likely to be higher. Sampling ‘King of the Beats’ elevates any song, but here are the top 5 tracks that make use of Mantronix’s fine work.
1. J Dilla – Lightworks [Stones Throw, 2006]
J Dilla is widely hailed as the greatest hip hop producer of all time. His magnum opus, Donuts, takes Mantronix’s quickchange sample mashup approach to the extreme. Donuts is an album-length collage of samples and sounds, with every track finishing before the listener gets too comfortable. ‘King of the Beats’ runs through its DNA. The screeching sirens from Mantronix’s opening are a recurring motif of the work, appearing on several tracks from Donuts.
Splitting Donuts into separate tracks misses the point, but the best individual track that uses ‘King of the Beats’ is undoubtedly ‘Lightworks’. ‘Lightworks’ pays tribute to sonic innovators from every era by blending Raymond Scott’s decades-ahead-of-its-time ‘Lightworks’ with Mantronix and vocal interjections from Skillz. The result is a Donuts highlight, and a track that helped Dilla claim the ‘King of the Beats’ nickname as his own.
2. Snap! – The Power [Arista, 1990]
Snap!’s biggest hit is based around a drums/percussion sample from ‘King of the Beats’. The Snap! production duo took a beat that lasts for just one minute on Mantronix’s track, and built it up into an all time classic dance tune. ‘The Power’ topped the charts around the world thanks to Snap!’s catchy hooks and arresting synths, but the song’s trademark groove comes courtesy of Mantronix.
(Snap! now sit alongside Mantronix on the MN2S booking agency live roster.)
3. Funkmaster Flex & Big Kap feat. Nas – Millennium Thug [Def Jam, 1999]
Funkmaster Flex samples a section from the very end of ‘King of the Beats’ for this track. He adds some sub bass and a few synth string lines but the rest is pure Mantronix. And it works. Aggressive lyrics with harsh delivery from Nas add more power to the already punchy beat. This section of Mantronix’s track is perfect for a rapper to flow over, and who better to rap on ‘King of the Beats’ than Nas-trodamus himself, the King of the Rhymes?
4. The Chemical Brothers – Song to the Siren [Diamond, 1992]
A song about sirens would never be complete without the most iconic siren sample in music. The Chemical Brothers use Mantronix’s siren sound and the song title to create some cheeky audio/visual wordplay, but the ‘King of the Beats’ influence on this track goes further than just the sample. Like ‘King of the Beats’ itself, ‘Song to the Siren’ is a mashup collage of samples, this time mostly of tracks from the 1980s, and of course the recurring female vocal sample, which we can assume is the other ‘siren’ of the song’s title.
5. Shades of Rhythm – Sweet Sensation [S.O.R. 1989]
On ‘Sweet Sensation’, Shades of Rhythm sample the same drums/percussion section used by Snap! and countless others, but this time there’s a twist: the beat is sped up to a pulse-raising 120bpm. Shades of Rhythm threw on a piano riff and a few diva vocal clips and they had the makings of a house classic on their hands. Proof here that ‘King of the Beats’ is hugely versatile track that can be chopped up and reused in all kinds of genres.