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Song Within a Song… Within a Song: Drake’s “Nice for What,” Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor”

"He took the sample/My **** is classic"

Drake’s Song “Nice for What” has a few examples of sounds and words interpolated into it, but one sample, in particular, is really cool. Early on in the song, you can hear a sped-up snippet of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.”

I keep letting you back in

How can I explain myself

Care for me, care for me

You said you care for me

There for me, there for me

Said you'd be there for me

Cry for me, cry for me

You said you'd die for me

Give to me, give to me

Why won't you live for me?

Drake’s song is about working women who do not have to put up with a bad relationship because they are making life happen for themselves. Lauryn Hill’s song is about a painful breakup and not wanting to leave someone even though they are bad for you. They fit together so well because where Lauryn Hill is talking about how hard it is to separate from someone you have history with, and Drake is responding to Hill’s troubles, saying “Had a man last year, life goes on… You ain't stressin' off no lover in the past tense” (0:39-41, 1:34-35) – he is telling her that she is strong on her own and she will get through her breakup and be okay. The video itself is a montage of women doing various activities on their own, without men, which adds another layer of collage/montage.

Here is where it gets really interesting: Lauryn Hill made a remix of “Nice for What” that includes her sample and rewritten lyrics! Some of Lauryn’s re-worked lyrics include:

See this is Ex-Factor

He took the sample

My sh-- is classic

Here’s an example

Of how we niced it up on a rhythm so many wanna

Spice it up on a rhythm

While Drake’s version is a response to Hill’s lyrics, Hill’s remix is a response to Drake sampling her song in general. She is noting that while “so many” people use her song, hers will always reign supreme because she wrote the original lyrics. She also pokes fun at Drake, saying that with her version, she “niced” up his song because she is a “classic” performer while he is relatively quite new at it. It is fascinating to note that “Ex Factor” also has a sample in it: "Can It Be All So Simple" by Wu-Tang Clan, which itself samples from Gladys Knight & the Pips' cover of "The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand.

So what's with all the sampling? Are artists unoriginal if they use samples and interpolation?

These songs are a great example to show that art is not about copying; art builds upon art. Artists use what they are inspired by, and all art is a response to something else. That is how we as humans form our own ideas and grow.

Krista Swais-Hannesen

Co-Founder and Executive Editor, A Beautiful Life Magazine and Books

York University

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