12 Drake songs that sample artists who have played at the Apollo Theater
Drake is known for sampling other artists in his biggest hits. Over the weekend, he took the same stage many of those hitmakers have performed on over the years during his two SiriusXM concerts at the world-famous Apollo Theater in New York.
Following the shows on January 21 and 22, we’re looking back at his songs that sample Apollo performers Marvin Gaye, Lauryn Hill, Mariah Carey, and more. From Champagne Papi’s unforgettable Aaliyah sample on “Unforgettable” to celebrating the R&B group Jodeci on his “Jodeci Freestyle,” check out all 12 tracks below.
Plus, tune in to Drake’s 24/7 SiriusXM channel, Sound 42 (Ch. 42) — a radio experience that reflects his interests in music and culture from all walks of life.
“8 out of 10”
Drake’s 2018 song “8 out of 10” samples “All the Way Round” by Marvin Gaye from 1976. Gaye played the Apollo multiple times in his career, including during Motown’s “Marvin Gaye Month” in 1969 to celebrate the release of his LPs M.P.G and Marvin Gaye and His Girls.
In 2016, “Hotline Bling” — the lead single from Drake’s album Views — reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and won GRAMMY Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance. It samples “Why Can’t We Live Together” by Timmy Thomas, who played the Apollo in 1972 alongside The Miracles, The Brighter Side of Darkness, Sir Joe Quarterman & Free Soul and Bobby Byrd.
“Nice for What”
“Nice for What” was the second single from Drake’s 2018 album, Scorpion. It samples “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill, which samples “Can It All Be So Simple” by Wu-Tang Clan, which samples Gladys Knight & the Pips’ cover of “The Way We Were” by Barbra Streisand — leading to 16 songwriting credits on “Nice for What.” Hill played the Apollo in 1987 at only 13 years old during one of the legendary Amateur Nights.
A recent release from Drake’s 2022 Honestly, Nevermind album, “Jimmy Cooks” (a play on Drake’s Degrassi character, Jimmy Brooks), features 21 Savage and samples “You Were Gone” by Brook Benton. Benton headlined the Apollo in 1960 with his smash hit “It’s Just a Matter of Time.”
“Legend” is the first track on Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late mixtape from 2015. It samples “So Anxious” by Ginuwine, which was originally released in 1999. Ginuwine played the Apollo in 2019 after his song “Pony” had a pop-culture resurgence when it was featured in the Magic Mike movies.
Released in 2013 and featuring J. Cole, “Jodeci Freestyle” pays homage to Jodeci — the R&B quartet of DeVanté Swing, Mr. Dalvin, K-Ci and JoJo — by sampling their track “4 U.” Jodeci took the Apollo stage in 1995 in support of their album The Show, the After Party, the Hotel, a year before they went on hiatus.
“Faithful” features Pimp C and Dvsn and samples the 1999 R&B hit song “Get Gone” by the four-piece Ideal. The group played the Apollo in 2000 at the height of their success, and their performance included a live version of “Get Gone.”
“Shot for Me”
Not only does Drake sample his own song “Headlines” in 2011’s “Shot for Me,” he also samples “Anything” by SWV (Sisters With Voices). Made up of Taj, Coko and Lelee, SWV was one of the most successful R&B groups of the ’90s. The trio played the Apollo Theater multiple times, including headlining their Harlem Healthy Soul Festival in 2013.
2018’s “Emotionless” samples a club remix of “Emotions” by Mariah Carey from 1991, officially giving Carey songwriting credits as well as another top-10 single as a songwriter. “Emotions” was the title track of Carey’s second studio album and her fifth consecutive No. 1 song in the United States. Carey performed “Vision of Love” and “Love Takes Time” at the Apollo in 1990, the year of her debut album.
“4PM in Calabasas”
“4PM in Calabasas” — released in 2016 off Drake’s Care Package compilation — samples “Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down” by Puff Daddy (Sean Combs) featuring Mase from 1996. Both Puff Daddy and Mase, along with The Lox (all from Bad Boy Records), performed “It’s All About The Benjamin’s” and “Mo Money Mo Problems” at the Apollo in 1997.
“U With Me?”
It’s hard to miss Drake’s samples of two separate DMX songs in 2016’s “U With Me?” At the very beginning of the song, you hear a phone ringing, followed by a clip from DMX’s 1999 track “What These Bitches Want.” The hook later samples DMX and Faith Evans’ 1998 track “How’s It Goin’ Down.” DMX, who passed away in 2021, played the Apollo Theater as recently as 2016 and as far back as 1998.
Released in 2010 and featuring Jeezy, “Unforgettable” samples “At Your Best (You Are Love)” by Aaliyah featuring R. Kelly from 1994. Aaliyah singing “Let me know” can be heard repeatedly throughout the song. Drake is a known fan of Aaliyah and even has a tattoo of the late singer on his back. Aaliyah performed “One in a Million” and “If Your Girl Only Knew” live at the Apollo in 1996 when she was only 17.