It’s pretty much impossible to overestimate Michael Jackson’s impact on pop music. The songs, the albums, the outfits, the television performances, the videos—it all adds up, and in Jackson’s case, it adds up to a legacy that will never leave us.
While his influence on pop music is often noted, it’s his contributions to hip-hop that interest us here. Along with James Brown, Michael Jackson is one of the most sampled artists in the history of the form, his popular songs and his rarities constantly serving as the lifeblood for a new generation of aspiring rappers and crate-digging producers. Through work as a solo artist and his work in the Jackson 5, Jackson left behind a sonic treasure chest for future generations looking to find that perfect beat.
In celebration of what would have been Jackson’s 55th birthday, we’ve put together a list of 55 songs that sample the gloved one’s vast catalog. From early innovators of rap like Eric B. and Rakim to newcomers like Earl Sweatshirt, it’s a list that displays the profound impact Jackson had on hip-hop’s early years and the allure he still holds to artists today. All hail the king! - Dan Jackson