The World’s Most Sampled Song
By Today, BBC Radio 4

DJ Roger Johnson, a figure of immense importance in the world of music, takes us on a journey through the most sampled song in history, Change the Beat by Fab 5 Freddy. Roger, a British DJ, won the inaugural DMC Technics International Mixing Championship in 1985, which marked a pivotal moment in the evolution of turntablism. This groundbreaking event laid the foundation for future competitions like the Battle for World Supremacy, ITF and Red Bull Threestyle, cementing Roger’s legacy as a true pioneer.


Change the Beat, a seminal track in Hip-Hop history was written and recorded by the influential Fab Five Freddy. A trailblazer in the genre, Freddy is best known as the charismatic host of Yo! MTV Raps and is even referenced in Blondie’s hit song Rapture. In change the Beat, Freddy showcases his multilingual skills, rapping in English and French. He also masterfully employs a vocoder with a white noise signal to create a gritty, robotic effect in the song’s chorus. The Side B version concludes with the iconic phrase ‘Ahhhhh, this stuff is really fresh’, spoken through the vocoder by studio engineer Roger Trilling.

The first and last words are two of the most widely used samples for scratching. According to WhoSampled, a user-generated website cataloguing samples, Change the Beat is now one of the three most sampled tracks in history, appearing in over 2600 tracks as of 2022. The earliest was the 1983 Herbie Hancock single Rockit, which featured scratching by  DJ and turntablist Grandmixer DXT.

We recently heard from DJ Dave Pearce’s tweet that DJ Roger Johnson has passed away. He will be missed, but his legacy will not be forgotten for his contribution to the early broadcasts of Hip-Hop in the UK.

Produced by Bernard P Achampong. Originally broadcast in February 2014 on the Today Programme (BBC Radio 4).