The Legacy of Top Billin': History of a Hip Hop Standard

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Brooklyn Brothers

Hip-Hop may be a worldwide institution spanning music, fashion, television, movies, and art but it had simple beginnings in New York City. While each Burrough has it's specific place in hip-hop history, Brooklyn has birthed some of the most memorable MCs of all time.

in the late 1980s, a couple of brothers who went by the names of Milk Dee and Gizmo were just emerging as the duo Audio Two. They had a number of hits and had a career that went into the 1990s, but one song became the stuff of hip-hop legend.

"Top Billin'" was released in 1987 as a b-side to their first official single "Make It Funky" and became an instant classic. It sampled the Honey Drippers' song "Impeach the President." Not even three minutes long, it became one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop history.

Top Billin' is such a stellar record that it helped spawn other hits for the artists who sampled it.

Doin It LL Cool J

LL Cool J was a hip hop icon in his own right by the mid 1990s but after a disappointing album in 1993, he was in search of his next big hit.

Playing on his heartbreaker image he recorded "Doin It" a safe sex anthem that sampled Audio Two's "Top Billin."

While this song did not sample much beyond the Brooklyn chant in the background, it was instantly recognizable the meant you heard it.

Uncle L spun gold into platinum by building on a hip-hop classic to create a classic of his own. He definitely did it well.

"Real Love" Mary J. Blige

Every queen must make her royal entrance. And as the Queen of Hip Hop soul, Mary J. Blige did just that in 1992 by being the first singer to openly incorporate hip-hop into her music by sampling Audio Two's classic.

The beat serves as a basis for Blige's trademark vocals to lament her relationship woes which would become a common theme in her music for the next decade.

You can also hear the infamous Brooklyn chant in the background as well. The song was an instant smash and has paved the way for a massively successful career for Mary J. Blige.

" I Get Money" 50 Cent

Audio Two set the standard for bragging in hip-hop. One line that states their case is "I get money, money I got." This line would serve the basis for the inspiration for 50 Cent's 2007 single, " I Get Money."

50 Cent is no stranger to bragging so this song is no surprise to anyone who has followed his career. It pretty much is a list of everything he can buy now that he has more money than most of us dream about.

On an unofficial remix, Milk Dee is featured and shouts everyone who sampled "Top Billin'" for helping generate generous royalty checks.


"Top Billin'" 1998 Remix MC Lyte and Milk Dee

For those of you who know your hip-hop history, I'm sure this next fact will not surprise you. As I mentioned earlier, Milk Dee and Gizmo are brothers. They have a younger sister who also made a name for herself in the late 1980s. MC Lyte made history as the first female rapper to have a major solo career.

She made her debut in 1988 with Lyte as a Rock. Her song "10% Dis" sampled the drum break from "Top Billin.'" However, in 1998 for her sixth album she remade "Top Billin'" with her brother Milk Dee.

Aside from a couple of changes to the lyrics to the female perspective- the song is the same. You can also tell that Milk Dee and MC Lyte enjoyed sharing this moment as siblings.

Other Noble References

  • Wreckx-N-Effect's remix to their early 90s jam "Rump Shaker" features the drum break of "Top Billin.'"
  • The Notorious B.I.G. samples the song in the intro to his landmark debut Ready to Die as well as referencing it on 112's remix of "Only You."
  • Tupac sampled this song on his track "Only God Can Judge Me."
  • Jay-Z's track "What More Can I Say" from The Black Album takes it's name from Milk's line in "Top Billin."
  • "Chillin" by D.C. rapper Wale and Lady Gaga features lyrics from "Top Billin."
  • Kanye West and Jay-Z use lyrics from "Top Billin'" in their 2011 hit "Otis" which also samples Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness."

In total there are over one hundred songs that have sampled, referenced, or borrowed lyrics from "Top Billin.'"

Hip-Hop Books

Lasting Impact

Simplicity goes a very long way. And that is obvious in how much the song has managed to influence hip-hop until the present day.

Milk Dee is still around, now serving as a producer to many acts. He produced one hit wonder Eamon's "F__ It (I Don't want You Back)."

Gizmo's whereabouts are not as well known but in an interview with Riot Sound, Milk Dee says they are not working together.

But that one song defined an era and shaped hip-hop history.

Milk Dee "Top Billin" 2009

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Comments 25 comments

Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FL

I always appreciate your music hubs and learning something different. I'm thankful for Milk Dee and Gizmo, they supplied us with some awesome, memorable music! Well done Alecia!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Sunshine,

I agree Milk Dee and Gizmo gave us a great tune! Thanks as always :).


Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 3 years ago from New York, New York

I know quite a few of the songs that sampled Top Billin and just never realized that they actually did. Nice job here and totally educated me on this one. Thanks!!!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Janine,

I understand where you're coming from. A lot of people probably recognize the beat but probably don't know where it came from.


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Thanks for teaching me about Top Billin today. Always look forward to your music hubs, so do share more! Merry Xmas, Alecia!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Michelle,

I hope you had a great Christmas as well :)! I'm glad you enjoyed this hub!


alocsin profile image

alocsin 3 years ago from Orange County, CA

I think this is a great introduction to those who don't know hiphop, such as myself. Voting this Up and Useful.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Alocsin,

So glad I could provide a nice introduction for you. Thanks as always!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

I am not a fan of hip hop but can appreciate the muscial artists who create this music style. Good post and very educational.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Teaches12345! I'm glad you found this interesting.


rasta1 profile image

rasta1 3 years ago from Jamaica

There are so many samples, Biggie small did my favourite sample of top billing.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks for coming by Rasta1!


mary615 profile image

mary615 3 years ago from Florida

I'm not a fan of Hip Hop, but I do admire the artists that create it. I'm sure it takes a lot of talent to do that. I do like music, but I like Classical or the 50's.

You did a lot of research apparently for this Hub, and it shows!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Mary! I can't imagine how much it takes to rap- if it takes as much as it does to write, I can definitely appreciate it.


unknown spy profile image

unknown spy 3 years ago from Neverland - where children never grow up.

Grateful for these additional knowledge!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks unknownspy!


midget38 profile image

midget38 3 years ago from Singapore

Hi Alecia, popping in to say I hope these artistes release albums for this year!! Am sharing too!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Michelle!


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi Alecia, love these music hubs, I remember seeing Mary J. Blige on tv over here and thinking how great she was, voted up! and shared, nell


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Nell,

Thanks for the support! I agree Mary J. Blige is an awesome artist- it would be nice to see her live.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Me too! that would be great!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

One day hopefully :).


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 3 years ago

Another great post, Alecia. I learned something here today on music types.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 3 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks teaches12345!


DJ Funktual profile image

DJ Funktual 9 months ago from One Nation Under a Groove

Respect.

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