Hip-hop and the world of TV and film are synonymous. All three are built on larger-than-life characters acting out some of our wildest dreams and doing things we can only imagine. They can be inspirational, scary, exciting, and sometimes incredibly silly. The worlds collide in various ways but none more prominent than beats. Producers have a long history of sampling themes from movies and TV, either because of nostalgia, the request of the artist, or they’re just too dope not to use. The lists of songs inspired by shows and movies stretches back to the ’80s but some are better than others.
1. Puff Daddy’s “Victory” and Bill Conti’s “Going the Distance” from Rocky
Nothing more needs to be said already, so I won’t. It’s a great flip of Bill Conti’s “Going The Distance” from Rocky , which I’m pretty sure is taught to children at birth now. The song gets extra points for the video itself being a sample of an Arnold Schwarzenegger classic, The Running Man.
2. Busta Rhymes’ “Gimme Some Mo” and Bernard Hermann’s Psycho theme
This is one of the most ingenuous samples in the history of the game. I said it. It takes one of cinema’s most recognizable tunes, the theme from Psycho, and makes it almost unrecognizable. Once you know it’s Bernard Hermann’s most famous theme, it’s hard to forget it.
3. Method Man’s “The Riddler” and Neal Hefti’s Batman theme
This underrated gem from Method Man and RZA saw the Abbott flipping the famed Batman theme from the 1966 series. Leave it to RZA to turn something lighthearted and fun into an ominous twisted soundscape by slowing it way down and putting his drums over it. Plus, if you’re making a song for a Batman soundtrack, makes sense to dig back into the character’s history.
4. Cam’ron’s “357”and Mike Post’s Magnum P.I. theme
Cam has an affinity for television. He has several joints that could easily take up half this list but it’s the original greatness of the Magnum P.I. theme that puts this one in this spot. “357” reinvents ’80s greatness for the ’90s.
5. Kanye West’s “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” and Shirley Bassey’s “Diamonds Are Forever”
The beauty of this one, aside from a dope Kanye performance, is him allowing Shirley Bassey’s original “Diamonds Are Forever” to shine just as bright as he does. Whether it’s for James Bond or Mr. West, there’s no voice like Bassey’s. Not one of the best James Bond movies but the theme more than makes up for it.
6. Mobb Deep’s “It’s Mine” and Giorgio Moroder’s Scarface theme
With the amount of rappers who love Scarface so much they should probably marry it, it’s crazy how the theme wasn’t sampled until this joint from ’99. It’s not the first time Havoc went to the Tony Montana well–or even this specific song– but it’s the most fully realized.
7. Doug E. Fresh’s “The Show”-Doug E. Fresh Shuki Levy’s Inspector Gadget theme
Couldn’t make this list without this being here. The Inspector Gadget sample is probably more famous from this song than the actual show itself.
8. Wu Tang Clan’s “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin Ta F’ Wit”and W. Watts Biggers’ Underdog theme
This is a quick one. So quick that if you blink you might miss it, which is what makes it worth more than a mere mention. The Underdog theme and baseline are sampled and Meth even hits the chant from the beginning of the theme.
9. Dr. Dre’s “Murder Ink”and John Carpenter’s Halloween theme
The Halloween theme is one of the most frightening things to ever be on screen, in ears, or even thought about. Dre takes it and provides a haunting tale fitting for the sample and would hopefully make John Carpenter proud. Then again, as long as Dre paid him, he’s happy.
10. Busta Rhymes’ “Turn It Up/Fire It Up Remix” and Stu Phillips’ Knight Rider theme
Nothing beats the Knight Rider theme. Nothing. Because of that, this is basically a straightforward loop for Busta to do his thing over, while also mimicking the voice of Michael Knight’s trusty car sidekick, KITT.
11. Cam’ron’s “Horse and Carriage (Remix)”and Jack Elliot’s Night Court theme
Pun had the best verse. Let’s get that out the way now. Anyway, welcome to the late ’90s, where your remix didn’t need to have a single thing in common with the original. This remix to Cam’s first big hit takes the incredible Night Court theme and makes it pretty for this ’99 all star track. There’s enough funk, blues, and jazz where it’s perfect for hip-hop.
12. Timbaland’s “Here We Come”and Paul Francis Webber’s Spider-Man theme
This probably forgotten joint takes the Spider-Man theme and makes it just weird enough for Timbo, Missy, and
Q-Tip Magoo to rock over. It’s a song that dares you to listen and not bob your head. Plus they took the famed lyrics and made it their own. It may never replace “Spider-Man, Spider-Man” but at least they gave it a shot.
13. Snoop Dogg’s “That Good”and Ron Wasserman’s X-Men Animated Series theme
They sampled the X-Men Animated Series theme and did it well. ‘Nuff said.
14. Ghostface Killah’s “Good Times” and Dave Grusin’s Good Times theme
Leave it to Ghost to rap over the Good Times theme. He’s the perfect guy to rap over this and probably requested the sample. Which is probably why it never got cleared and therefore wasn’t on Bulletproof Wallets. It’s sped up a bit from its original inception and the beat tells a story while not overpowering he and Raekwon.
15. T.I.’s “Whatever You Like”and Bill Conti’s Redemption theme from Rocky II
TIP took Bill Conti’s theme from Rocky II–a song called “Redemption”–and made it about the benefits of having money to blow. It’s another joint that disguises its sample so well. Who would possibly associate this song with Rocky or anything related to that franchise? Imagine Sly Stallone rapping this song while running up those steps in Philly.