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Dissecting the Prodigy: 25 Samples Behind 'The Fat of the Land'

XL Recordings released a deluxe version of Prodigy‘s 1997 album The Fat of the Land this week, 15 years after it helped break the U.K.-based big beat outfit to the mainstream. Hooked around a brash and sample-heavy fusion of post-rave breakbeats and ballsy guitar riffs stitched together by Liam Howlett,plus manic raps and rants from Keith Flint and Maxim Reality, the album became a defining part of the ’90s music scene. This mentality of clashing sounds together to create an even more raucous outcome is also something that’s remained detectable in the work of today’s wave of electronic dance magicians; smartly connecting the dots, the reissue of The Fat of the Land contains a coda of bonus remixes courtesy of Major Lazer, Zeds Dead, Baauer and the Glitch Mob. In celebration of the record’s sassy approach to sampling, here are the top 25 musical flips that underpin the Prodigy’s most iconic recording.


“Smack My Bitch Up”

Ultramagnetic MCs, “Give The Drummer Some”

The most attention-grabbing sample on The Fat of the Land appears on the opening track and involves a vocal grab of Bronx rap bastion Kool Keith‘s verse from the Ultramagnetic MCs’ swaggering “Give the Drummer Some.” Taken from Keith’s introductory verse, it decrees, “Change my pitch up/ Smack my bitch up.” Used in isolation on the Prodigy’s song, it gave the group a controversial profile boost as they ruffled the feathers of the National Organization of Women and caused the Beastie Boys to request that they refrained from performing it at the 1998 Reading Festival.

Kool & The Gang, “Funky Man”

Kick-starting “Smack My Bitch Up” into life is a perky guitar stab nabbed from a live recording of funkateers Kool & the Gang‘s 1971 track “Funky Man.” The song’s sampled heritage also includes being tapped into by E.P.M.D. for “Underground” and Public Enemy for the anti-drug warning “Night of the Living Baseheads.”

Randy Watson, “In Memory Of”

Once the Kool & The Gang-based opening ten seconds of “Smack My Bitch Up” finish, the song’s main rhythm kicks in. The low-end assault of dusky drums and guttural bassline come courtesy of Brooklyn-born jazz pianist Randy Weston’s “In Memory Of” from his 1973 Tanjah release on the Verse label. For ease of sample grab, the drums and bass are found right at the start of “In Memory Of.”

Afrique, “House Of Rising Funk”

After around a minute of “Smack My Bitch Up” it sounds like someone’s yelling “Wow!” The effect is sometimes credited as being from cut-and-paste champions Coldcut’s “Beats and Pieces,” but that song itself samples from Afrique’s “House of Rising Funk.” Housed on the Soul Makossa album, it’s a track that’s proved fertile for sample hounds across the board and especially with the Prodigy’s U.K. chums:Neneh Cherry rapped over it for “Here I Come,” Chad Jackson added it to his party track “There the Drummer (Get Wicked),” Ice-T-endorsed rapper Hijack tapped it up for “The Syndicate Outta Jail,” and even twee electro-popsters Saint Etienne used it on “Filthy.”

Mixmaster Gee & The Turntable Orchestra, “Like This”

Around the same point in the song someone proclaims, “Like this!” The vocals are sourced from producer, DJ and rapper Greg Royal‘s 1985 hip-hop track of the same title, cut under his Mixmaster Gee moniker. Royal would later go on to help Dr. Dre engineer The Chronic.

The Prodigy, “Crazy Man”

Self-referential shenanigans! After about 20 seconds of the song’s intro (for video purposes it’s the part where the protagonist is wiping his bum with toilet paper), a weird guttural refrain comes in. It’s nabbed from the Prodigy’s previous recording, 1991′s rave-styled “Crazy Man.”

Rage Against The Machine, “Bulls on Parade”

Halfway through “Smack My Bitch Up” (and again accompanied by a toilet scene in the video), the song weaves in some wah-wah guitar action sampled from Zack de la Rocha’s rap-rock unit.


Thin Lizzy, “Johnny The Fox Meets Jimmy The Weed”

Classic drums alert! The fills that announce the arrival of “Breathe” are taken from a Thin Lizzy song that’s serviced itself well to rappers, with De La Soul using them for “Keepin’ the Faith” and Tricky Tee coining the old school tribute “Johnny the Fox.”

The Spencer Davis Group, “I’m a Man”

The dramatic riff that accompanies Keith Flint’s rant about “breathe the pressure” comes from 1960s’ Brummie beat boys the Spencer Davis Group. Skip to just before the 30 second mark to pick it out.

Wu-Tang Clan, “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’”

A sample of a sample, here the kung-fu sword-fighting footage that helps set-up the Wu’s “Da Mystery Of Chessboxin’” is harnessed to add some action and drama to the uptempo “Breathe.”

“Diesel Power”

Fuzzy Haskins, “The Fuz and Da Boog”

As part of the process that saw a sample of Kool Keith’s vocals used on “Smack My Bitch Up,” the Prodigy teased a fresh new rap out of Keith for “Diesel Power.” Keith’s in fine form rattling on about his “techniques, strategies, abilities” over a beat based around a drum pattern from Funkadelic man Fuzzy Haskins’ mid-’70s “The Fuz and Da Boog.” (More Brit power: Fatboy Slim also tapped into the groove for “Next to Nothing” and “Everybody Needs A 303.”)

Wu-Tang Clan, “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothin’ to Fuck Wit”

Remember the eerie, double-clicking sound that’s almost like a couple of bones being knocked together at the beginning of RZA‘s production for this Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) stand-out? It reappears on the second snare hit during “Diesel Power,” adding crunch to an already bangin’ beat.

“Funky Shit”

Rhythm Heritage, “Theme From S.W.A.T.”

Here Liam Howlett’s again suggesting strong b-boy roots as he digs into the well-wrought and supremely funky stash of Rhythm Heritage’s “Theme From S.W.A.T.” He uses a brief horn attack from the opening section as a bridge-like effect on “Funky Shit” – although it’s the later groove that’s known as one of hip-hop’s most beloved breaks.

Beastie Boys, “Root Down”

“Oh my god, that’s the funky shit!” The cry that starts the song “Funky Shit” is from the Beasties, whose Ad Rock is behind the holler. Despite the later Reading Festival tiff, rumors suggest the Beasties were fine to sign-off on the sample in return for receiving three thousand of the Queen’s best British pounds.

The B-Boys, “Two, Three Break”

Following up the Beastie Boys vocal is the repeated word “Break!” which hails from the old-school DJ demonstration “Two, Three, Break” as cut by the B-Boys. (Chuck Chillout’s on the turntables.) Completing the sample circle, the Beasties also sampled the song on their own “The New Style.”

Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind, “The Shining Theme”

The song’s closing atmospherics are bedded against swathes of sound from the title song to the Stanley Kubrick movie The Shining.

“Serial Thrilla”

Skunk Anansie, “Selling Jesus”

A straight-up open sample grab, “Serial Thrilla” relies on guitar work from angry Brit rockers Skunk Anansie’s “Selling Jesus.” The band’s lead singer, Skin, gets a writer’s credit on the album.


The Winstons, “Amen, Brother”

The Washington, D.C.-based funk unit the Winstons’ “Amen, Brother” contains one of the most utilized loops in sampledom; it ran underneath a slew of golden era rap tracks including N.W.A.‘s “Straight Outta Compton” and formed the basis for a wave of drum-n-bass productions as the ’90s kicked on. The Prodigy resisted the urge to tap into the raw power of the break and instead layered it into the mix.

John Barry, “Hip’s Tip”

Culled from the soundtrack to the James Bond movie The Man With the Golden Gun, the repeating riff from “Mindfields” appears on John Barry’s “Hip’s Tip” just before the one-minute point. It’s imbued with the sort of mystical charm that you imagine RZA would have happily looped up during the Wu-Tang Clan’s ’90s heyday.


The Breeders, “S.O.S.”

The amped and wailing riff that jolts “Firestarter” into life and recurs throughout the song was first played by Kim Deal’s band the Breeders. Zip through the thumping “S.O.S.” to the one-minute mark to hear the sample reveal itself.

Ten City, “Devotion (Voice Of Paradise Mix)”

As the ’80s came to an end, Chicago house outfit Ten City dropped their club classic “Devotion.” A European pressing of the track came complete with a remix titled “Voice of Paradise Mix.” It stripped out the four-to-the-floor beat of the original in favor of a rough breakbeat. The remix was crafted by Robert Gordon, who’d go on to form the WARP label. In tandem with the Breeders riff above, it forms an unlikely pairing that powers one of the Prodigy’s signature songs.

Art of Noise, “Close (To The Edit)”

Here that holler of “Hey!” before Keith Flint breaks out into his “twisted firestarter” spiel? It’s sourced from ’80s Brit synth-pop merchants the Art of Noise. (Art of Noise themselves reputedly sampled the refrain from a J. Geils Band song, “Freeze Frame.”)


The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”

The airy “Climbatize” opens with an extended bought of atmospheric synth work. Then things being to take a slightly distorted turn, thanks to a snippet sourced from the Who‘s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”

Egyptian Empire, “The Horn Track”

The midpoint of “Climbatize” is heralded by a lengthy and somewhat Middle-Eastern-sounding horn sample. It hails from Tim Taylor’s early-’90s drum-n-bass outing.

Jedi Knights, “Air Drums From Outer Bongolia”

The most litigious sample on The Fat of the Land, the bongo-based drums that underpin “Climbatize” were taken from a track by the duo the Jedi Knights. The sample wasn’t cleared so they attempted to sue the Prodigy — although as the Jedi Knights themselves had sampled the drums from an Incredible Bongo Bandrecording, lore has it that XL Recordings picked up the rights to the original and threatened to sue them back. All this hullaballoo also brought the lawsuit to the attention of George Lucas, who exercised his litigious side by suing the Jedi Knights over their name. Karma!

The Fat of the Land Remix EP is out today, as part of The Fat of the Land deluxe edition, all via XL Recordings.

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