The world has come to stand and acknowledge the 50 year mark of the assassination of a man who is defined as being the most influential civil rights leader in American history, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On April 4, 1968, as he stood on the balcony of Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Dr. King was fatally struck with a bullet by James Earl Ray, an unlawful racist. The striking assassination of Dr. King follows a sturdy 14 year reign serving as a dominant figure in the civil rights movement fighting for the security of legal rights for African Americans. It was a fight drilled with nonviolence and civil disobedience, being burgeoned by the vile acts of racial segregation, disenfranchisement, and exploitation of all hanging from the centerfold of racism.
The powerfully symphonic voice of Dr. King in his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech delivered at the 1963 March on Washington, sets the tone for emotional empowerment. Currently, it stands as the most sampled Dr. King audio recording in hip-hop history. In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and his sound legacy, here are 9 hip-hop songs that have sampled the legendary leader’s voice.
1. Sadat X “Return of the Bang Bang” (2010)
Reigning from the silver-tongued posse who is bound to their divine blackness is Sadat X of Brand Nubian on the solo tip with “Return of the Bang Bang.” The unorthodox emcee takes to the mic to drop insight about his daily journey as a seasoned vet coming back in the game. In his signature abstract style, Sadat makes use of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” passage to serve rightful diction in his tunnel of bars. “Return of the Bang Bang” is featured on Sadat’s 2010 sequel gem Wild Cowboys II.
2. Heavy D & the Boyz “A Better Land” (1989)
One of the golden era’s finest, the late Heavy D is pouring his soul out in rhyme in “A Better Land” with his boyz about improving the meager conditions of impoverished communities. The telling track starts with a sample of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech that ends with one of his most acquainted quotes, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men, are created equal.”
3. Edo G feat. Masta Ace “Wishing” (2004)
Donald Trump is not the first President of the United States to be highly scorned by the majority of his country. Back in 2004, George W. Bush was in office turning America’s dream into a nightmare with his jest like measures. Edo G and Masta Ace took to the mic to release their wishes while demanding intrinsic change in the American way. After Masta Ace crops the title of a dreamer, Dr. King’s infamous line about his dream for freedom and justice in Mississippi hoards the track.
4. Cyhi Da Prynce “Ring Bellz” (2010)
Cyhi Da Prynce is honoring his cultural edge through the barrels of black history in “Ring Bellz” a song from his 2010 mixtape Royal Flush. While mixing his braggadocios persona with black excellence, the G.O.O.D. music wordplayer takes it from Fredrick Douglass to Stokely Carmichael, with the profound words from Dr. King’s beloved speech leading the track.
5. Common feat. will.i.am “A Dream” (2006)
Chicago’s renowned poet in rhyme Common teamed up with will.i.am of The Black Eyed Peas for a true hip-hop measure that reflects on the progression and condition of blacks in a known racist America, the way Dr. King stood sturdy for titled “A Dream.” Owning the same desire for nation zenith, just as King, it was sensible for the abstract collab to start with King’s pacifying “We gonna work it out” saying.
6. Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five “The King” (1988)
With Melle Mel being heralded as one of hip-hop’s earliest conscious rappers, the lingering legacy of Dr. King has certainly played a role during hip-hop’s infancy. The hip-hop pioneer rocks the mic with delight honoring the deeds of Dr. King by recognizing the Civil rights icon’s brightest accomplishments while calling for the bells of freedom. “He brought hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak.”
7. Wu-Tang Clan “Never Let Go” (2014)
Known for their supremely motivational rap hymns, the Wu-Tang Clan hit the masses with a dream driven tune in signature fashion. Docking off of their sixth studio album A Better Tomorrow is “Never Let Go” an ode to survival during challenging times. Before Masta Killa leads and after U-God anchors the track, a courteous potent chunk of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is heard where the beloved leader makes one of his most bracing points, “For many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.”
8. Boogie Down Productions “Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love)” (1990)
Emphasis is something KRS-One has mastered as a lyricist. Amid the prime of Boogie Down Productions‘ fourth studio album Edutainment comes its top single “Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love),” a song that serves as a warning about the detrimental lust that comes with chasing after material things. To throw emphasis on “movin’ on,” the voice of Dr. King chanting the phrase from his final speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top.”
9. Immortal Technique feat. Chuck D, Brother Ali, and Killer Mike “Civil War” (2011)
Budding off of the musically factious Immortal Technique‘s 2011 compilation album The Martyr is “Civil War” featuring Chuck D, Brother Ali, and Killer Mike, an unapologetic effort to audibly express “trying to survive cultural assassination,” the great PE lead makes it clear in the chorus. The track samples a selection of King’s final speech, where the iconic leader encourages the destruction of fear in exchange for glory.
Dr. King’s call for sound justice fused into a faithful dream for African Americans has thrived its way into hip-hop culture out of the purpose of nature. The infancy of hip-hop culture is a result of movements that brewed during Dr. King’s time. Movements that were centered in the fight for justice and art of freedom such as the Black Panther Party and Black Arts Movement, who all commonly owned a desire to climb the path of racial justice. The youth of hip-hop’s beginnings dreamed of topnotch mobility out of the hood, reversing the culture of police brutality, and several cases of discrimination ceased. Now, since the culture has grown into a universal phenomenon, Dr. King’s dreamy element of justice is emblematic in hip-hop whenever he is sampled on a track.