Don't get me wrong, I love a good cover version; you'll find them strewn all over the place if you go thru my back issues. Mashups too - loads of 'em. However, IMHO, I think the most sincere form of musical flattery is the good old fashioned sample. A knowing nod or a tip of the hat to a tune - or tunes - that tell the listener where you're coming from.
My current sample of choice comes courtesy of a blinding tune James Brown released on his 1973 album Black Caesar. I first came across it when it appeared on the score to Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. A great British caper movie and soundtrack to boot. But before the sample, have a listen to the source material:
James Brown - The Boss (1973)
The horns really do make it don't they? The JB's (for it is they) were Brown's backing band for much of the 70s and 80s. Their alumni is quite something; players like Bobby Byrd and Bootsy Collins have at sometime in their lives been a part of James Brown's Revue.
So, this sample that's been floating my boat; well, it's not the Ice T lift that formed the backbone of his 1990 single You Played Yourself. Likewise, neither is it Nas' Get Down from 2002 - ploughing a similar furrow, as it does, to Ice T (albeit with more effin' & jeffin').
No, the one that does it for me is Pete Rock's instrumental 'The Boss' which not only borrowed James Brown's riffs, but also deploys some clever (& sampled) jazz piano loops played (backwards!) throughout. See what you think.
Pete Rock - The Boss (2002)