Hip Hop Culture and Rap music was the result of several economic and political policies put into place for controversial reasons with one of them being no music classes in public schools. No instruments and no band. Music was how a lot of people in our community made a living whether it be playing a few gigs at a local night spot or making it “big” and signing that major label contract only to be kept on the chitterling circuit. That era was the Harlem Renaissance. Jazz greats were made during this time; Louie Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and other creatives. All artists were capable of creating their own original works never borrowing ideas from others. Hip Hop on the other hand had to get creative and use what they had which was a lowly record player. From that the culture grew and dee jays began using break beats! A break beat is simply a repeated sample of a drumbeat. We remember the early years when Gangstarr was sampling like crazy and so were a bunch of other artists. James Brown is the most sampled musician of all time! The Godfather of Soul has been sampled twice as much as the second most sampled artist. No one compares to the influence of James Brown on rap music.
We can even go back to the Bad Boy days when people shunned Puffy for the number of samples he used in his music. In those days it was nothing for Diddy to turn a sample into a mega hit and run the charts for months on end. Say what you want about his technique but Diddy made some Hip Hop/Rap classics during his reign. Granted sampling back then was a lot easier than it is today. Asking for permission from the artist and/or their estate and having to pay millions even for a guitar rift can cause some legal woes. If you’re not careful your song could generate so much attention that the sample won’t get cleared. Even if it’s a Drake diss by Meek Mill, you have to get the WWE to clear your sample of The Undertaker’s theme music.
These days if you’re a real dee jay/producer you can put breaks or a special set of drums in the song for others to sample. Like Adrian Younge and DJ Premier have done on their most recent projects. With the enhanced technology many young people are in their rooms, basements, attics, and wherever else they can make beats on their laptop, tablet, or cell phone. These days a sample can go unnoticed by the mainstream and reduce the culpability on the part of the Rapper. I mentioned the hotline bling situation in this past weekend’s blog. Two Rappers sample the same song and the mainstream artist gets the “benefit of the doubt” leaving their fans looking stupid, yes stupid. That’s like taking up for someone who’s accused of stealing only to find out they actually did steal something. Then I get into the car and every “R&B” song has a sample of a classic 90’s R&B song. If I want to hear SWV I’ll pop their music in. If I want to hear Brownstone I’ll pop their music in. Tink sampled Aaliyah’s One in A Million and when I listen to it I can barely focus on her song because I’m singing Aaliyah! This year I’ve heard a lot of 90’s R&B samples in this new age music and it’s not working. Look at French Montana, after sampling Doo Doo Brown for Pop That he hasn’t had a song that was even close to that level of success. Sampling a classic hit might sound good but in the end it isn’t. You have to have a level of creativity and originality if you’re going to sample in this new age of music.