Hip Hop is an art form notorious for its capacity to create something out of nothing. This distinct trait is evident in everything from the beautiful graffiti plastered on the most dank, gritty canvases, to the creation of the music itself. Sampling has been a significant aspect of hip hop extending from its early beginnings in the Bronx. Is it unoriginal or a testament to the genres creativity and ingenuity? The legitimacy of Hip Hop as “real” music has often been challenged by outsiders on the basis of the supposed lack of originality in sampling. My sentiment is that this couldn’t be further from the truth, and that when done properly sampling allows the sound of hip hop to transcend boundaries that other genres may not be able to.
“The dumb are mostly intrigued by the drum.” I’d like to believe that I’m of rather exceptional intelligence, but I at an early age discovered my preference for the beat of the drum. Once I discovered the role of the producer, I instantly became a beat head. Pete Rock, J. Dilla, Just Blaze, Kanye West, this is just a handful of world renown producers notorious for their skillful sampling. Just Blaze’s classic rock sampled organs for Jay- Z’s “Public Service Announcement” still give me a jolt of energy every time they ring out. Pete Rock’s beautiful jazzy sample for the classic anthem “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)” still gives me chills to this day. A Tribe Called Quest’s The Low End Theory gave me my intro to Jazz as a collective. These are just a few examples of some of the sample based masterpieces that have guided me on my musical journey.
Sampling and Hip Hop are inseparable; it’s entrenched into its DNA. A filter here, a 4-bar sample chop here, a sampled trumpet stab there and you could be on your way to a classic. When producing there’s so many tricks to the trade to work outside of the box and craft that sound you really want. This allows another element of creativity that extends beyond genre. There’s a plethora of great songs that have used odd combination of samples simultaneously from genres of music ranging from R &B , to disco, heavy metal, and classical. Each of these eclectic combos can be put together beautifully and still remain within the genre that is hip hop. Fans may stumble upon new music through searching for the original track that may have been sampled in a song. Being a hip hop aficionado and digging in the crates for those awe inspiring classics has caused me to become fans of many artists that I wouldn’t have likely been aware of otherwise, such as jazz craftsmen Ahmad Jamal.
On the opposing end of the spectrum is the need and love for money. This brings to light the classic conflict of artistry vs business, and just how to attain the perfect balance to walk this thin line. Should creativeness be constrained by the power of the almighty dollar or should the legalities be sacrificed to promote creativity and preserve the essence of the genre? This is a concept that is very fleeting. It’s only fair that the originating artist get properly compensated for their work, but some of the biggest disappointments in Hip Hop are the gems that may have been lost artistically, because of technicalities in getting samples cleared for commercial release.
So how do the fans feel? Is sampling essential to hip hop or an overused crutch? Please feel free to comment below.