First off, let me apologize for last week. I wasn’t at the top of my form. I was burning the candle at both ends trying to work on a screenplay competition; as a result I put more effort into the script and less into the column. I’m sorry.
Now a recent court ruling has decreed that every sample must be paid for. They claim that it’s not stiffing creativity. I happen to disagree. I think that they are essentially demonizing sampling.
In my eyes sampling is little more than an extension of riffing, which is commonly found in jazz. In riffing musicians will play a riff of a familiar tune, yet make it their own. To me that’s basically what DJ’s and producers do with sampling. They take a piece of another composition and alter it to suit their purposes.
And lets face it; sampling has pretty much been a cornerstone of Hip Hop. Of course back then it wasn’t called “sampling” it was just using a break beat from an old record. But isn’t that what’s now underfire?
The Apparent Racial Double Standard
Featuring Guest Writer – Mathan Erhardt of Hodgepodgeatorium fame.
Now if you happened check out that link earlier in the column you can clearly see that it says “rap stars.” Well here’s a newsflash America; Sampling, like crack and gang violence before it, isn’t just for Blacks anymore. Everyone is doing it.
It’s odd because I was just flipping thorough my cd collection and I spied DJ Shadow, Beck, Fatboy Slim, and the Chemical Brothers. None of them are rappers, yet all are have sample heavy albums. And didn’t Moby sample some records too? That’s odd that these geniuses and pioneers don’t seem to be affected by the ruling, while those thieving rappers have to now pay for samples. Geez I wonder if the media darlings the Beastie Boys are still considered rappers, if so that ruling can’t bode well for them.
To me it looks like white artists who sample (Moby, The Dust Brothers, DJ Shadow) are all hailed for their creativity, while Black artists who sample (Puff Daddy, Kanye West and Biz Markie) are often criticized and charged with ruining works and stealing. It seems like an odd double standard considering that the same thing is being done in both cases. But then again should I really be surprised given this countries cocaine sentencing guidelines?
Why does everyone hate Puff? Not because he turned Murder Mase into Ma$e. Not because he likes a specific kind of cheesecake. Not because he sold Shyne down the river. Not even because he shagged J-Lo, because really who didn’t? People hate Puff because he horror of all horrors had the audacity to sample the Police and David Bowie. The man could cure cancer, and everyone would still say, “Yeah, but he absolutely ruined “Every Breath You Take.”
I want to thank Music Mathan for allowing me this space to share my views. Free Hodgepodgeatorium!
That said, I have to confess that there have been plenty of poor samples to taint the art. The Trackmasters and Puffy did kind of cast a bad light on the art of sampling, by using huge loops of songs. Their work during the mid to late 90’s really turned the tide against Hip Hop.
Hip Hop was finally getting played on radio stations, and the songs they were sampling were at the most 20 years old. Sampling obscure songs were cool. Not everyone took offense to Puff’s sample on “Juicy.” But Top 40 hits like Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” really ruffled some feathers.
And honestly I can see both sides of the argument. I can remember “Let’s Dance” and “Every Breath You Take” and it does sound weird to hear some guys rhyming over them. On the other hand I can appreciate that the producers weren’t trying to destroy the original song, but rather create an interesting sonic backdrop for the MC.
(I once knew a girl who was surprised to hear the original “Ain’t No Sunshine” as she was only familiar with DMX’s cover(?). And by “knew” I mean “regularly had sex with and was involved with.”)
But let’s not place all the blame on Puff and Trackmasters, Busta Rhymes had the really bad idea to sample Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” for “This Means War!!” That was the point I officially stopped messing with Busta, which is good because I missed out on him jumping on the “Broadway songs” bandwagon with “Get Out.” Poor Busta.
The oft-mentioned Peter Gunz and Lord Tariq’s “DÃƒÂ©jÃƒÂ vu” beat, produced by KNS is another fine example. It sampled Steely Dan’s “Black Cow.” It was a cool beat, when it hit the mixtape circuit and had Bad Boy rhyming on it. But when it hit the airwaves red flags went up all over.
And as I mentioned last week Young Gunz sampling of “Rich Girl” by Hall & Oates is bad in a really sad way.
If we are going to point out the bad then we must point out the good. D.J. Premier is one of the best producers out today. Anyone who knows Hip Hop can attest to that. But he’s also a creative genius who crafts beats from relatively obscure records. He alter enough to make it his own. When he twisted Screamin’ Jay Hawkins “I Put A Spell on You” for Biggie’s “Kick in the Door” he made a beat that slayed everyone. So now every time I hear the original song on a that commercial for jeans, I think about how Primo made something completely different and unique with it.
The RZA is another example of the genius involved in sampling. Look how he used “Theme To Underdog” for “Wu Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthin’ Ta F’ Wit.” Now maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for tv theme songs, but I think that RZA showed how a theme song can properly be used to make a beat that knocks.
When I first heard “This Can’t Be Life” produced by Kanye West, the song hit me. I couldn’t explain it. That beat just touched something inside of me. I wracked by brain trying to place the sample. It’s a pretty straight up, yet obscure sample of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes “I Miss You.” But Kanye really captured the heart of the original and make a beat that the MC’s made a modern classic.
Of course Prince Paul and the Beatnuts are masters at getting obscure records. Both utilize some of the most odd and unsuspecting sources for their beats, both pull it off marvelously, and both are criminally underrated and under used.
9th Wonder is a rising star. Peep his remixes to Jay-Z’s “Black Album” and Nas’ “God’s Son.” On both he uses samples to create some genuine sounding beats. He crafts the beats around the vocal quality of the MC’s to make remixes that sometimes surpass the originals. My favorite remix of his; “My 1st Song” from the Jay-Z remix album. 9th uses a sample from Willie Hutch’s “Mack’s Stroll/The Getaway (Chase Scene)” to create a somber track that’s almost forlorn. It’s amazing. (Usher Raymond’s “Superstar” also samples the same song.)
Testaments to the Art of Sampling
Freeway’s “You Don’t Know (In The Ghetto)” which samples Minnie Ripperton’s “Inside My Love.”
De La Soul’s “Breakadawn” which samples Smokey Robinson’s “Quiet Storm.”
Souls of Mischief’s “Cab Fare” which samples Bob James’ “Angela” aka the theme from “Taxi.”
Green Lantern’s “Fatty Girl” remix which samples the theme from “Fat Albert.”
Busta Rhymes “Gimme Some More” which samples the theme from “Psycho.”
Ghostface Killah’s “Daytona 500” which samples Bob James’ “Nautilus.”
Ghostface Killah’s “The Watch” which samples Barry White’s “Gonna Love You Just A Little More.” (The same song sampled for Nas’ “No Idea’s Original.”)
Ghostface Killah’s “Good Times” which samples the theme to “Good Times.”
Speaking of Ghost, he’s done something pretty groundbreaking in terms of sampling. Well it’s not so much “sampling” as it is “covering” because he rhymes over songs, vocals and all. I like it. Some don’t.
My basic point is that sampling isn’t criminal or at least shouldn’t be. There are many great songs that have utilized samples. Now perhaps Hip Hop’s negative stigma has tainted the art of sampling, but it’s really shortsighted to believe that it’ll only affect Hip Hop and not some other (white) artists who are critically acclaimed.
Alas we’ve come to the end of our time together. But wait there’s plenty more to read;
I’ve betrayed Aaron’s trust, but he doesn’t let that get in the way of creating an excellent column as always. A new one will be up in less than 24 hours.
Jeff didn’t have a Jukebox last week! I suggest a moment of silence for the loss. But I really hope that everyone has tried to live life normally, otherwise the terrorists have really won.
Gordi gets crazy props for devoting a whole column to Miles Davis. It’s one of the best reads of the week.
Gloomchen causes me to marvel every week. I don’t know how she does it, but every week she slays me.
Tom D goes dolo this week. But that doesn’t mean he’s lacking, rather he’s harder than ever.
Trevor tells us all what to buy. Thanks like I’m not depressed enough about being broke.
Double M is back! He’s survived Mother Nature! Read him.
Jim is thoroughly entertaining.
Ian responds to my response about 50 Cent. He promises Jeff Buckley and he better deliver.
MSD gets down on Illmatic. Personally I think that Nas’ hype was bigger than B.I.G. and 50, but that’s only because I was excited about him”¦in Tucson Az.
No Tayo or Joe, yet.
What’s In Heavy Rotation Right Now?
1. Q Tip – “Kamaal The Abstract”
2. Jay-Z – “S. Carter The Remix”
3. Radiohead – “Ok Computer”
4. Nick’s Mix
5. My Alkaholiks Mix.