By one metric, Coldplay’s latest album, Mylo Xyloto (released last week), is already a success. After one full week on the charts, it’s nabbed the No. 1 spot with 447,000 units sold. By another measure, though, it will be some time before we know how Mylo stacks up to the rest of the band’s catalog. And that measure is, of course, the manner and rate with which rappers mine Mylo tracks for samples. Historically, the mellifluous hooks and gentle harmonizing of the band has been a rich source for hip-hop. Jay-Z and Kanye took the practice a step further by actually hiring Chris Martin, for “Beach Chair” and “Homecoming,” respectively (As ‘Ye explained on “Big Brother,” he got burned on that one: “I told Jay I did a song with Coldplay / next thing I know he got a song with”). For a purer research field, though, we’re only looking at tracks that sampled pre-exisiting Coldplay jams (made possible thanks to the fine folks at WhoSampled). Herewith, a brief look back at the practice.
Joe Budden, “Halfway House”
Budden, one fourth of Shady Records’ signee Slaughterhouse, can get plenty ornery. Here, over the cushy keyboard line from “Lost”, he goes for a more restrained melancholy vibe. Joe omits most of Martin’s vocals, which is the type of thing you feel comfortable doing when you’re not paying anyway; like most of the tracks on this list, this one’s sample was not legally cleared. There is an official “Lost” remix, by the way, but it features Chris’s pal Jay-Z, of course.
Pac Div, “Underdogs II”
California backpack rappers Pac Div borrow only the outro bit from “Clocks” for “Underdogs,” woozy it up and layer a bunch of stuff over it, and then don’t even really bother rapping on it. You rarely see this level of subtlety when it comes to Coldplay-jacking, and you have to respect it.
Black Cobain, “Busy Now” (feat. Wale)
Finally, some actual Chris Martin vocals. This is the chorus from “X&Y,” but Martin gets tweaked up the register almost to the point of unrecognizability. Drop in some tough drums, and you’ve got a winner. Of course, everything Black Cobain does automatically feels 10 percent better than it actually is because his name is Black Cobain.
Swizz Beats, “Part of the Plan”
Swizz does “X&Y” too, but this shows up on his 2007 album One Man Band, which means he actually paid for the sample. Sensibly, with that amount of cash exchanging hands, Swizz doesn’t dare muddy up Martin’s groove. It’s all a bit too soft: if One Man Band was anthropomorphized into real people, “It’s Me, Bitches,” the album’s awesome single, would definitely beat the crap out of “Part of the Plan.”
Shawty Lo, “Roll the Dice”
Shawty Lo is the man behind monster 2008 jam “Dey Know,” so clearly he’s no dummy. Here, he really pays attention to the lyrics, moving Martin’s “I used to roll the dice” line from “Viva La Vida” front and center, and therefore implying Chris was singing about cee-lo (the non-human version) the whole time.
50 Cent, “God Gave Me Style”
Chris says: “God give me style.” 50 says: “God gave me style.” And it makes all the swag difference in the world.
Swizz Beats, “That Oprah”
Hello again, Swizz Beats! Here, the multi-hyphenate flips “Viva La Vida,” too, and turns it into an aspirational anthem (he’s “trying to get that Oprah”). It’s so good that it makes you wonder if every Coldplay song wouldn’t be improved by having our dude yell “Swizzy!” during the intro.
Frank Ocean, Strawberry Swing
Okay, yes, much like Nicole Simpson, Frank Ocean doesn’t rap. But his faithful take on “Strawberry Swing,” which turns down the schmaltz just a touch, is too much of a banger to ignore. Also, if you take some of the lyrics literally — “Spaceships are lifting off of a dying world / And millions are left behind while the sky burns” — it’s kind of like he’s singing about terraforming Mars.