Feeling double-déjà-vu?

Not only has the latest Love Island series brought back the ‘All Stars’ from previous shows, but the series' opening song ‘Alibi’ also sounds very familiar.

Performed by Ella Henderson and Rudimental, the song recently topped the UK’s Trending Chart and is currently rising through the Top 40.

The music in ‘Alibi’ can be traced back to Coolio’s hip hop classic ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, which itself is based on Stevie Wonder’s song ‘Pastime Paradise’.

We used Musiio Tag to explore this sample’s evolution.

Stevie Wonder - ‘Pastime Paradise’

Our story starts with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise', a track from his 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life.

One of the first songs to make innovative use of the Yamaha GX-1 synthesizeer to sound like a full string section, this soul tune also includes a gospel choir from West Angeles Church of God and a Hare Krishna chanting group, culminating in a multicultural finale.

Its lyrics inspire a soulful mood through social commentary, reflecting on the disparity between nostalgic dreams and the harsh reality of the present.

Coolio feat. L.V. - ‘Gangsta's Paradise’

‘Pastime Paradise’ was covered by various artists over the years, but one artist’s interpolation drove them to global hip-hop stardom.

Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ won a Grammy for Best Rap Solo Performance. Released in 1995, Coolio only received permission to sample Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’ when he removed profanity from the lyrics.

Reflecting on an urban lifestyle surrounded by crime, poverty, and violence, this heartfelt track is considered one of the most iconic hip-hop songs of all time.

“Weird Al” Yankovic - ‘Amish Paradise’

The incredible legacy of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ has spawned many covers, interpolations, and even parodies. One such parody, ‘Amish Paradise’ by "Weird Al" Yankovic, peaked at no.53 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The satirical lyrics and tempo increase by 2 BPM create a bold mood, tuning the social commentary in ‘Gangsta's Paradise’ on its head by presenting the simple life of an Amish man.

Yankovic didn’t receive permission directly from Coolio, who denounced the release and initially ignored Yankovic’s attempts to apologise. Coolio even referenced the pair’s conflict as “uppercuts and fight kicks” on his 1997 track ‘Throwdown 2000’. Later, the two finally made amends.

Blue - ‘Curtain Falls’

‘Curtain Falls’, by British pop group Blue, combined the soulful mood of ‘Pastime Paradise’ and heartfelt mood of ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ for a new twist on the sample in 2004. 

Deviating from the theme of social commentary in other versions of the song, the lyrics to this UK no.4 hit concern heartbreak and longing for reconciliation at the end of a relationship.

Honourable mention: Sickick’s TikTok mashup

‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ recently returned to public consciousness through an unauthorised remix of Lana Del Rey's 'Jealous Girl' and Coolio's 'Gangsta's Paradise' by Sickick on TikTok in 2022. 

It took the lyrical element "Baby I'm a gangster too" from Del Rey's track and peppered it with gratuitous machine gun sfx, a synth bass, and heavily quantised drum pattern to make a compelling clip.

Perhaps it's this TikTok trend which inspired Ella Henderson and Rudimental to make their own adaptation.

Ella Henderson feat. Rudimental - ‘Alibi’

The latest adaptation of ‘Pastime Paradise’ takes a leaf out of Blue’s book.

Ella Henderson’s restless and dancy pop track is also about the end of a relationship. But rather than regret, the lyrics express a desire for revenge.

While Henderson isn’t the first woman to adapt ‘Pastime Paradise’ (notable examples include Erykah Badu’s ‘Drama’ and Patti Smith’s cover), her track 'Alibi' is shaping up to be one of the more commercially successful versions of the song by a female artist.

With some drum and bass influences from the featured band Rudimental, it’s also 7 BPM faster than the original, which feels like 174 BPM because of the double-time drums.

Artists living in a pastime paradise

Last summer, one in four current UK Top 40 hits used samples.

This included Issey Cross’ UK no.19 hit ‘Bittersweet Goodbye’, which sampled The Verve’s ‘Bitter Sweet Symphony’.

Ella Henderson was also part of this trend. Her song ‘React’ with Switch Disco samples Robert Miles’ 1995 hit single ‘Children’ and went on to peak at no.2 on the UK Singles Chart.

Pastime hits are clearly providing a sampling paradise for artists looking for chart traction. And with good reason.

With more music than ever before being released, injecting instant familiarity is a great way for artists to catch listeners’ ears in a crowded market. It’s seemingly well worth the royalty splits to gain wider recognition.

What’s the next classic song that will find new life through sampling? Another 90s banger? We can’t wait to find out.

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