John Carpenter's 'Halloween' Theme was a Staple for Rap Replays and Samples
How Ivan 'Doc' Rodriguez, Ice-T, DJ Paul, Juicy J, Mannie Fresh, and countless others took the iconic composer and director's score from coast to coast.
John Carpenter needed objective input after completing his 1978 classic Halloween. Despite his best efforts behind the camera, a tepid and unenthusiastic first screening with a young 20th Century Fox executive left him rattled. With nothing to lose, he decided to focus his energy on the film’s music to bring it back from the dead.
Inspired by famed movie scores like composer Bernard Herrmann’s Psycho, Carpenter hunkered down at Sound Arts Studios in central Los Angeles with a cast of collaborators to get the job done. Along with synth programmer Dan Wyman—who Carpenter later credited as a co-producer—stereo remix engineer Alan Howarth, and recording engineer Peter Bergren, he completed the score in mere two weeks.
In the end, both the movie and the accompanying music proved a massive success. Halloween grossed $70,000,000 worldwide on a budget just shy of $350,000.
Though “Rapper’s Delight” dropped just a year after the release of Captener’s iconic flick, the famed “Halloween Theme - Main Title” opening took a little while to work its way into rap music. Esteemed engineer, producer, and Power Play Studios mainstay Ivan 'Doc' Rodriguez helped put Carpenter’s score on the map for rap producers when he employed an inventive replay on Jaybok the City Ace’s 1987 12” selection “Hip Hop Phenomenal.”
Whether intentional or not, his decision to replay Carpenter instead of sample him proved to be a trend-setting moment, as the Halloween theme became a frequently tapped resource for both interpolation and sampling in the coming years.
Once Carpenter’s masterwork found its footing in the rapidly evolving world of rap records, it couldn’t be stopped. Two years after Rodriguez produced his crafty cut in New York, Miami bass pioneer M.C. A.D.E. sampled the scary Halloween sounds on “How Much Can You Take” from his debut record with the same name. A.D.E’s tripped out, computerized vocals are the perfect compliment to this uptempo old school gem.
Two years after Carpenter’s music went to Miami, Rhyme Syndicate cohorts Bilal Bashir and Ice-T interpolated his score to build a potent instrumental for the gripping O.G. Original Gangster prison narrative “The Tower.” Bashir and T’s Michael Myers-inspired beat provides the perfect backdrop for the song’s insightful and sobering lyrics, making it one of the standout tracks from the Los Angeles legend’s fourth LP.
Though many interpolations and samplings of “Halloween Theme - Main Title” rework the opening section, Houston production pioneer Egypt E—who first made his name as half of the Rap-A-Lot act The Terrorists—deserves credit for exploring different parts of the track. He blended various samples from the second half of the song with parts of Kraftwerk’s classic “Home Computer,” producing a unique and deftly executed instrumental. The end result is Ganksta N-I-P’s profoundly dark and violent “Horror Movie Rap” from his ‘92 debut The South Park Psycho.
With Egypt E leading the way, producers continued to innovate and expand the possibilities of what an artist could create with the Halloween theme as the foundation.
As Three 6 Mafia founding member DJ Paul crafted Gangsta Blac’s 1994 burner “Victim of This Shit,” he displayed some next level creativity and inventiveness by replaying Carpenter’s work over of beautifully slowed sample of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Woman Is a Wonder.”
As if that weren’t enough, he also worked in a chopped and screwed style sample of his own Vol.15 "For Them N***** W/ Anna" selection “Killaz Off South Parkway,” which sampled late collaborator Lord Infamous’ Solo Tape cut “South Memphis.”
Man, those Memphis guys were on some next level shit.
Replays of “Halloween Theme - Main Title” were a tool that became commonplace on both solo DJ Paul solo productions and songs he co-produced with fellow Three 6 Mafia member Juicy J. “Smoke A Junt” from Paul’s Vol.15 "For Them N***** W/ Anna" also features a somber, spaced out Carpenter replay that perfectly compliments the song’s otherworldly production.
When Paul reunited with Gangsta Blac for his 1996 album Can It Be?, Halloween theme replays could also be heard on Juicy J co-produced cuts “Crank Dis Bitch Up” and “V-Dog & Da Gangsta.” The duo also continued to straight sample the song on numbers like Kingpin Skinny Pimp’s “Lookin' for Da Chewin'" from his ‘96 release King of Da Playaz Ball.
Paul and J weren’t the only artists in Memphis utilizing John Carpenter’s magic. Just as other sample staples like The Showboys’ “Drag Rap” moved throughout the city before working its way to New Orleans, the same sample trajectory seems to happen with the Halloween theme.
Gangsta Pat, another Memphis pioneer, mixed pieces of “Halloween Theme - Main Title” with his own live played elements to create the head-nodding, brawl-inducing title track from his seminal 1995 album Deadly Verses. His machine gun fire flow sounds amazing over the self-produced track.
The same year Gangsta Pat put together his low-tempo banger, super-producer Mannie Fresh demonstrated his ability to take any sample source and turn it into a bounce anthem on U.N.L.V.’s “N**** I'm Bout It” from their ‘95 LP Mac Melph Calio.
The following year Fresh, who was also highly skilled in the art of deft keyboard reworks of famous songs, replayed Carpenter on U.N.L.V.’s “Drag 'Em ‘N’ Tha River” from their early Cash Money release Uptown 4 Life.
Fellow legendary New Orleans label No Limit—a one time rival to Cash Money—also looked to John Carpenter’s spooky sounds as they composed the enduring anthem “Hoody Hoo” during the label’s heyday. Then Utah Starzz WNBA point guard Chantel Tremitiere and No Limit’s Beats By The Pound production team member KLC The Drum Major placed the sample throughout to perfectly compliment the call and response style chorus.
Taking things back to their place of origin, Dr. Dre bought the soundtrack back to the west coast that same year and employed the horror movie classic for his triumphant return The Chronic 2001. Much like Ivan 'Doc' Rodriguez, DJ Paul, Juicy J, Mannie Fresh, and many others, he chose to have the sample replayed—with musician Camara Kambon flexing his skills on the keys for the Hittman and Ms. Roq-assisted “Murder Ink.”
Interpolations and sampling of Carpenter’s famous number from his classic score slowed a bit in the 2000s, likely due to increasingly expensive and restrictive sampling laws. But you can still hear it sprinkled into many cuts from the past two decades.
On Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, and 808 Mafia member TM88’s 2016 record TGOD Mafia: Rude Awakening, TM88 dug into the archives on “Luxury Flow” for a well-crafted nod to Carpenter’s score as it approached its 40th birthday.
In a fitting bookmark to this story, his remiganing of the visionary composer and director’s music is a replay—just as it was when Ivan 'Doc' Rodriguez introduced “Halloween Theme - Main Title” to rap music nearly 30 years prior.
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