The Art of Sampling



Author: Briana Plank

Music is an important and integral part of artistic expression throughout the world. It connects people, cultures, stories, and compositions, creating a rich community of music lovers like us. With powerful messaging and experimental twists, artists can capture an audience through so many different outlets. However, what draws me to so many pieces of music is the use of music sampling and the history behind it.

Sampling in music involves taking a section of audio from another source– in this instance, an existing song or audio clip– and reworking it into the creation of a new track. This could be an audio piece from a cartoon or a song. The most sampled track is a drum break from the song “Amen Brother” by The Winstons, which has been used over 6,005 times (with the most sampled artist being James Brown). Sampling helped build the hip-hop industry through people using soul and funk tracks to create a whole new genre. Artists such as Public Enemy, Pete Rock, The Notorious B.I.G., M.F. Doom, and De La Soul were known for their beats and rhythm through sampling. Sampling was used to connect the old to the new and bridge together a new music culture by aligning themselves with the musical roots they were inspired by.

Manipulating existing audio and redirecting it into a new medium was used in the hip-hop genre to focus on the faults in our American systems and the reality of life, adding even more depth to a track. D.J. Kool Herc is known as the creator of sampling through his ‘merry-go-round’ technique, which focused on spinning records on twin turntables to extend the drum breaks– omitting lyrics and giving dancers and rappers time to perform. This method relied on pulling from existing songs that were usually tied to the sounds of funk, jazz, and disco. Music sampling is an experiment where you can have full freedom to bring in your ideas with past compositions. MF Doom is known for his unique and out-of-the-box melodies that were mainly derived from old Fantastic 4 cartoons. Everything we listen to and see adds to our inspiration for art. Music sampling is just as important in art as anything else.

There are a multitude of music hits that are known through their sampled beat. Labi Siffre’s “I Got The” was sampled by Eminem and used in his song “My Name Is”, creating the classic beat we know and love today.

“Funky Drummer” by James Brown has been used in so many tracks, including Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and “Let Me Ride” by Dr. Dre ft. Jewell.

Childish Gambino, Nicki Minaj, Pharrell, the Beastie Boys, The Weekend, The Internet, Cibo Matto, Flo Milli, and Gorillaz are just a small number of people who use sampling to create a whole new track. Pop and electronic music now use sampling too! It is very likely that your favorite artist has used sampled pieces for their music at least a couple of times. While you are listening to one of your favorite songs, take note of the background audio. There may be a little snippet of sampled audio that goes back in time and connects us to a rich music history that spans decades.

Briana Plank | KXSU DJ & Volunteer Arts Reporter

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