Hip-hop was the first major musical genre to base itself on the art of sampling, and the technique is still heavily used today by both established and underground artists – often without us realising. Take Kim, the ferociously intense track Eminem penned about his ex-wife: rock gods Led Zeppelin provided the drum sample from their track When the Levee Breaks (which, ironicially, was a rework of a song penned in 1929 by husband and wife duo Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie). This same sample has also been used by renowned artists such as The Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre and Mike Oldfield amongst tens of others – and these are just the ones we are aware of.
Often controversially viewed, the method of sampling began in the 1940s, and early day musicians and artists did not typically obtain permission from, or indeed tell, the owners of the sample. Perhaps the blame then lay with the lack of available resources to contact the appropriate people for authorisation, or the opinion of many that “music is for sharing”. However this issue still exists amongst artists today.
One of the highest profile legal battles in sampling concerned The Notorious B.I.G’s debut album Ready to Die. In March ’06, over eleven years after the original release, a judge instructed album sales to be cease as the title track used an illegally sourced sample of Ohio Players’ Singing in the Morning.
An earlier court case between Rick James and MC Hammer (Can’t Touch This unlawfully sampled James’ Super Freak) was eventually settled between the artists, without the need for a judge’s overruling. 90s rapper Vanilla Ice was sued by both Freddie Mercury and David Bowie for failing to attribute credit to their musicianship in Ice Ice Baby, whereby the original bassline appeared in Mercury and Bowie’s collaborative track, Under Pressure.
Sampling is a godsend for the musical world. The ability to combine hip-hop with rock, jazz with techno or classical with funky-house to create stimulating fusions of sounds is an amazing expansion within the art world – which is improving at a storming rate.
I’ve compiled a list of my favourite samples used in hip-hop below. Do you have a favourite?
Track: Fabolous – We Get High
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Sample: Michael Franks – St Elmo’s Fire
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Also used by: Logic, Thai, Fiend ft. Corner Boy P, C-Sick, Smoke DZA, Tanya Morgan.
Track: Ghostface Killah – Run
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Sample: Les Baxter – Hoogin’ Machine
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Also used by: Showbiz & AG, J Rocc
Track: Joell Ortiz – Letter to Obama
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Sample: Los Angeles Negros – Fueron Tres Anos
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