Dive Into Hip Hop's Love Affair With Kishore Kumar's Iconic Melodies

Peek into the world of hip-hop that's influenced by Kishore Kumar.
Peek into the world of hip-hop that's influenced by Kishore Kumar. L: Spotify R: Madlib

Kishore Kumar is a name that needs no introduction in the world of Indian music. The legendary singer, actor, and composer has left an eternal mark on the industry with his unparalleled talent and creativity. But what many may not know is that his music has also found a place in the global hip hop scene. For decades, Kishore Kumar's tracks have been sampled and remixed by hip hop producers to create fresh and innovative sounds, fusing traditional Indian melodies with modern beats. This cross-cultural exchange has not only led to some of the most iconic tracks in hip hop history but has also helped to recontextualise these classic Bollywood tracks. Here’s some tracks by or featuring Kishore Kumar that have cemented themselves amongst hip hop's finest projects.

Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself) by Fantasia ft. Missy Elliott and Jazmine Sullivan

Samples ‘Dil Aaj Shayar Hai’ by Kishore Kumar

It's 2006, and American R&B singer Fantasia drops her hit track ‘Selfish (I Want U 2 Myself)’, featuring rap legend Missy Elliott and vocalist Jazmine Sullivan. But what many may not have realised at the time is that this song was way ahead of its time, with a unique sound that blended classic Bollywood with modern R&B. In fact, if you listen closely at 0:09, you can hear the unmistakable vocals of Kishore Kumar from his 1971 track ‘Dil Aaj Shayar Hai’ which have been sped up and pitched to create the perfect backdrop for this sassy, sultry number. 

Madlib’s ‘More Rice’ and (Variations)

When it comes to flipping Bollywood samples, few can compare to the legendary producer Madlib. His project ‘The Beat Konducta Vol. 3-4: In India’ is a love letter to the rich and cinematic sounds of India and layers them with eclectic hip-hop beats. Two standout tracks ‘More Rice’ and ‘(Variations)’ both sample Kishore Kumar’s vocals. At 0:07 on More Rice, we hear Kishore Kumar’s iconic hook from the song ‘De De Pyaar De’ which is soon followed up by a drum-driven beat switch. 

The track (Variations) has a bouncy beat which is sampled off ‘Shayad Meri Shaadi’, a 1982 track by Lata Mangeshkar featuring Kishore Kumar. (Variations) uses both the production and Lata Mangeshkar’s vocals on its own electrifying bass-heavy beat. 

Shenanigans by Timbaland & Magoo samples ‘Gham Hai Kisi Ke Pyaar Mein’ by Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar

Timbaland is no stranger to taking diverse and culturally rich sounds and blending them together in his music, crafting a unique and groovy sound. One instance of this is his collaboration with rapper Magoo on the track ‘Shenanigans’ which features a sample from the timeless Hindi song ‘Gham Hai Kisi Ke Pyar Mein’ by the legendary Kishore Kumar and Lata Mangeshkar.

With ‘Shenanigans’ Timbaland uses the opening notes sung in Kishore Kumar's melodious voice and loops them throughout the entire track, creating a hypnotic and complementary effect for the 808s. The combination of the Kishore Kumar’s voice with the driving hip-hop beat of the song creates a truly mesmerising sound that grabs your attention from the very beginning

'Funtastic' by Memory Man and Open Eagle Mike samples 'Jaanu Meri Jaan'

The iconic track ‘Jaanu Meri Jaan’ by legendary Indian composer R.D. Burman featuring the voices of Kishore Kumar, Md. Rafi, and Asha Bhosle, has been a staple in Indian music since its release in the 1970s.  But ‘Jaanu Meri Jaan’ found new life on the track ‘Funtastic’ by Memory Man and Open Mike Eagle. The duo takes the memorable guitar riffs of the original song and slows them down, pitching them lower and layering it with their own bouncy and raw hip-hop production to create a soundscape that feels contemporary and nostalgic at the same time. 

'Do Not Fire!' by Madvillain samples two Kishore Kumar tracks

Last but never the least, is the 2004 track ‘Do Not Fire!’ by the legendary hip-hop duo Madvillain, comprising the aforementioned producer Madlib and the late great rapper MF DOOM. This 52 second track is the pinnacle of their collaboration, showcasing their unparalleled creativity and musical prowess.

The song features samples from two classic Bollywood songs by the legendary singer Kishore Kumar: ‘Koi Mane Ya Na Mane’ featuring Asha Bhosle, and ‘Mithi Mithi Ankhiyon Se Dil Bhar De’ by the same duo. Madlib once again demonstrates his expert ability to weave these samples together seamlessly to create an unforgettable instrumental that has become a cult classic. You can hear Mithi Mithi Ankhiyon Se Dil Bhar De’s melody come in strong at 0:12, followed up at 0:34 by Koi Mane Ya Na Mane’s opening notes with more scratchy and vinyled sounds.