Sampling is an art-form that will connect generations forever
Words by Brinsley Chidavaenzi
Your favourite music is based from a memory. Someone’s memory. The art of sampling is the calling of the past into the present. Sampling can be inter-generational, sampling can be contextual and give to recontextualisation, sampling can be reliving, sampling can be scathing. The tail-end of the 20th century and the 21st century has been enhancing by the technique of sampling and the possibilities that sampling creates. An opportunity to go somewhere and bring that back with us. The music your parents listened to and what you’re currently listening to can easily be joined together into something they’re both familiar with by a sample.
Samples have ALWAYS been there since Hip-Hop inception – only just in recent years it’s become more costly to sample existing records by artists. Due to the owners of the mastering having high stakes in the ownership and percentage of royalty cut that the new record makes. For example, Drake’s ‘Best I Ever Had’ sampling Fallin’ In Love by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds taking a LARGE sum of Best I Ever Had straight to the Hamilton’s as the former uses it as the backbone and driving force of the track.Something new and counter-intiuative occurred for producers. To keep sampling but just to seek a different source and to make your new records sound like the old records you loved in the past or to Frankenstein them into something futuristic sound and otherworldly. This could be achieved by using analog synthesizers (of the 1960’s and 70’s) and analog recording gear and equipment and ultimately their disclipine that went into that era’s recording.
Now most people don’t have access to those type of resources which can cost thousands to acquire (looking at you rare analog synths). Investing in a sample pack for a fee significantly smaller than the equipment costs gives producers the freedom to experiment in different sounds they wouldn’t have previously, or to help these sounds be the genesis of unique production that stands out from it’s contemporaries. Sample libraries can cut the cost of hiring musicians and a band and studio time into forms which are readily available to work from and create. Think of them as a potential suggestion of sound with the ability to be directed into almost any outcome you would like.
It’s easy to see how the monetisation of recorded sounds can lead to a form of artistic restriction due to the “barrier” being lower because beats can be made easily with these resources and due to the production process getting ‘formulaic’ due to certain sounds outselling other types. The Kingsway Music Library is an excellent example of this and multi-instrumentalists such as Frank Dukes and more are proof of how being versed in these recording techniques can have an impact of how a distinctive yet non singular sound can permeate through a genre.
However a counter point to that is what matters most is how the sound moves people, there’s a prioritisation in the element of mastering sound (creation, manipulation, arrangement) but in the eyes of public consumption, the final product is all that matters and stands the test of time (especially when the concept of formula comes into it) – but the true creativity of the art form of sampling will be revealed in it’s manipulation of sound. Sample libraries and the ‘sound’ of them have definitely changed the sound of hip hop within the past few years into something which echoes it’s younger years without being restricted by it’s limitations and can sound timeless, of the time and like yesterday with little charge. It’s definitely an approach that can be used beyond Hip-Hop music also – you can hear this effect in Pop music with melodies being manipulated to sound they’re from a previous era.
Beyond creating samples, whole songs can be created tailor made for an artist with this approach in mind also and parts can be used interchangeably in different tracks with splicing and chopping methods so the art of sampling is highly resourceful. Memory’s important to us because things are impermanent and rapidly moving in form and function. Sounds move in and out of popular style so memories can help pin point what was near and dear to our hearts and also what could be dear to us again. Music sample libraries could be our reminder of that evolution.