In music, the act of sampling is taking a portion or sample of a sound recording and reusing it as an instrument in a different song. Sampling is a hugely popular technique that is used in many of todays biggest hits. Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda contains vocals samples from Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”. “One More Time” by Daft Punk has a direct sample of Eddie Johns’s “More Spell on You”. Jay-Z and Kanye West has numerous Otis Redding samples in their song cleverly titled “Otis”. Most electronically produced songs on the radio today have some form of sample embedded in them.
Here you can see how producer Kanye West used Otis Redding’s voice in his song “Try a Little Tenderness”. Piano and Redding’s vocals are sampled aggressively throughout the song as the two rappers share lines discussing wealth, decadence and fame.
The website whosampled.com is a great resource to find what samples are contained in your favorite songs. This website has a massive library of tracks and their samples. Selecting a track will give you a list of all the songs that are sampled within the track, all the songs that sample the selected track, and all covers of the track. Clicking on a sample will bring up side by side YouTube videos and time stamps to the samples in both tracks. Check out their website here
Sampling is deeply integrated into the roots of Hip-Hop music. Even producers and DJs from the late 1970s implemented sampling into their music. With the rise of electronic music and disco, so did sampling. Legendary producers such as DJ Premier, Dr. Dre, and J Dilla all incorporate sampling into their music. J Dilla’s most critically acclaimed album “Donuts” is a 31 track album where the only vocal cuts are the ones from Dilla’s samples.
This unique technique allows for the blending of genres. Hard-rock, classical music, and jazz are all commonly infused into music production because of sampling. For example, Led Zepplin’s “When the Levee Breaks” was sampled by The Beastie Boys, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Mike Oldfield, Rob Dougan, Conduct, Depeche Mode, and Erasure. In the following video, Sandurz breaks down the beat to the self produced Wet Dreamz by J. Cole.
There have been a few legal disputes surrounding music sampling. Sometime the original artist does not believe that a music producer has any right to reuse their music and claim copyright infringement. In 2004, electronic artist DangerMouse released “The Grey Album” , a remix of Jay-Z’s “The Black Album” and the Beatles’ self titled album (sometimes referred to as “The White Album”). DangerMouse was issued cease and desist orders from record label EMI over all of his uncleared Beatles samples. Today most musicians must obtain proper authorization to use samples. This is known as “clearing” or gaining access to a sample and paying the original artist a cut of the royalties.
Sampling has been integral to hip-hop production, and more recently other genres such as EDM, since its inception. It is a popular technique that will not be going away any time soon.