STILL MILKING 'TOP BILLIN' '

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It isn't surprising that 50 Cent's new song "I Get Money" is a hit: The catchy sample that drives it has powered more than a few hits over the past two decades.

The words in its chorus were rapped 20 years ago in the classic hip-hop song "Top Billin' " by MC Milk Dee as half of Audio Two.

"I feel really good that my song has had so much impact," says Milk Dee from his home in Staten Island, N.Y.

The verses of "Top Billin' " and its signature drumbeat (taken in turn from an old soul record called "Impeach the President" by the Honeydrippers) have been digitally sampled by artists including Dr. Dre, R. Kelly, Jay-Z and the Notorious B.I.G.

The Luniz used three of Milk's words ("Got it good") for the chorus of the million-selling 1995 rap classic, "I Got Five on It." And in 1993, Mary J. Blige's breakthrough No. 1 R&B hit, "Real Love," was propelled by the staccato beat of "Top Billin'."

The original "Top Billin' " -- recorded before rap was widely played on radio and MTV -- never achieved the success of the hits that sampled it. Although Milk Dee's career as a rapper hasn't matched his calling as a producer -- he scored an international hit with Eamon's "I Don't Want You Back" in 2004 -- Milk (born Kirk Robinson) has made a cottage industry out of royalties from artists sampling lines from his most famous song.

And after hearing 50 Cent's tribute to "Top Billin'," Milk Dee created his own remix of "I Get Money," shot a video and posted it on YouTube. "I keep getting checks from the artists that sample me," he raps. "The list goes on and on/If you want a hit, then use my song."

"I had been thinking about doing a new verse over 'Top Billin' ' for a long time," Milk Dee says. "I thought this was a perfect opportunity let people know how I feel."

-- Dan Charnas


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