This Saturday, the great Michael McDonald plays the Minnesota Zoo. An artist whose music is as emotive as it is inspirational, his smooth funk has even become the centerpiece of some hip-hop classics. Given that the classics never go out of style, we’ve combed through McDonald's work with both the Doobie Brothers and his solo career to assemble the top five moments his distinctive voice ended up on rap tracks.
Off of his instrumental Special Herbs collections, MF Doom’s “Mandrake” lifted the catchy core of “What a Fool Believes” from McDonald’s years with the Doobie Brothers. Notable here is Doom’s completely unnecessary but absolutely welcome inclusion of McDonald saying “he came from” sprinkled throughout the song.4) Philly J featuring Tony Tiger - “Girl Next Door”
There’s not a whole lot known about Philly J, Tony Tiger, or their 1996 single “Girl Next Door." Except, of course, that it lifted its keys from the Doobie Brothers’ “Rio” off of McDonalds’ first album with the group, Takin’ It To the Streets. The chilled funk of the track combined with its powerful emotive imagery make it legitimately Michael McDonald-esque. We never heard from Philly J again, but in terms of obscure mid-'90s singles, it’s a worthy gem worth digging up.3) Late Night with Conan O’Brien - “Camp Michael McDonald”
One of our favorite bits from the old Late Night with Conan O’Brien was was when Conan would use NBC’s powerful satellite to pick up channels most cable providers did not carry. One such channel was Camp Michael McDonald, which projected footage from a summer camp run by Michael McDonald. McDonald, portrayed perfectly by Delocated's Jon Glaser, helps melodically guide his campers as only he can, giving guidance to the tunes of “Takin’ It to the Streets” and “What a Fool Believes.”2) Meek Mill featuring Drake and Jerimih - “Amen”
It was a surprising transition for Meek Mill to go from the rapidfire, high-energy “House Party” rapper to the yacht-riding, relaxed Maybach Music Group member. But part of the smoothness of that transformation came from the welcome keys of Doobie Brothers’ “Minute By Minute” throughout the Dreams and Nightmares single “Amen.” Meek’s not so much tranquilized here as reigned in, as the energy of the sample allows for enough of a platform to play with his flow in more conventional means.1) Warren G and Nate Dogg - “Regulate”
Of course, this had to be number one. The immortal “Regulate” off the Above the Rim soundtrack, and later the namesake of Warren G’s Regulate...G Funk Era album, owes its smooth G Funk to Michael McDonald’s “I Keep Forgetting.” While it was later sampled by many hip-hop artists — including Jadakiss and Papoose — Nate Dogg and the G Child will always regulate our number one spot. Mount up.