Home Entertainment How sampling influenced hip-hop. – The Washington Post

How sampling influenced hip-hop. – The Washington Post

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How sampling influenced hip-hop. – The Washington Post

Illustration of an Akai MPC3000

Sometimes you hear a new hip-hop song and think, “I know this song — I’ve heard these sounds before.” You’re probably right, because hip-hop music is built on sampling, the process of using existing recorded music to create a sound collage of new music.

Take, for example, this song from “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” the 1990 album by A Tribe Called Quest. Listen to the notes at the very end of this preview:

Sound familiar? Now listen to “Walk on the Wild Side,” from Lou Reed’s second solo album from 1972:

Q-Tip, the A Tribe Called Quest producer, borrowed parts of the song and gave it new life.

Technology fueled sampling in the 1980s, but this way of beat-making originated in the 1970s with the break beats of hip-hop pioneers Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash.

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Did you ever love part of a song so much that you never wanted it to end?

Visual representation

of a sound wave

Did you ever love part of a song so much that you never wanted it to end?

Visual representation

of a sound wave

Did you ever love part of a song so much that you never wanted it to end?

Visual representation

of a sound wave


That’s how DJs in the Bronx felt in 1973 about percussion sequences, which they called “breaks.” So they started repeating those parts in a continuous loop so people could dance to them.

They used one mixer and two turntables each playing a copy of the same record at the same part of the song.

The crossfader allowed the DJ to play sound from one record at a time.

When it’s on the left, you hear sound from the left turntable.

When it’s on the right, you hear sound from the right turntable.

Using the crossfader and spinning the record backwards, a technique called breakbeat, creates a loop of the same sound, over and over.

Technology allowed DJs to expand that technique and create the art of sampling, a fundamental part of hip-hop music and culture.

That’s how DJs in the Bronx felt in 1973 about percussion sequences, which they called “breaks.” So they started repeating those parts in a continuous loop so people could dance to them.

They used one mixer and two turntables each playing a copy of the same record at the same part of the song.

The crossfader allowed the DJ to play sound from one record at a time.

When it’s on the left, you hear sound from the left turntable.

When it’s on the right, you hear sound from the right turntable.

Using the crossfader and spinning the record backwards, a technique called breakbeat, creates a loop of the same sound, over and over.

Technology allowed DJs to expand that technique and create the art of sampling, a fundamental part of hip-hop music and culture.

That’s how DJs in the Bronx felt in 1973 about percussion sequences, which they called “breaks.” So they started repeating those parts in a continuous loop so people could dance to them.

They used one mixer and two turntables each playing a copy of the same record at the same part of the song.

The crossfader allowed the DJ to play sound from one record at a time.

When it’s on the right, you hear

sound from the right turntable.

When it’s on the left, you hear sound from the left turntable.

Using the crossfader and spinning the record backwards, a technique called breakbeat, creates a loop of the same sound, over and over.

Technology allowed DJs to expand that technique and create the art of sampling, a fundamental part of hip-hop music and culture.

That’s how DJs in the Bronx felt in 1973 about percussion sequences, which they called “breaks.” So they started repeating those parts in a continuous loop so people could dance to them.

They used one mixer and two turntables each playing a copy of the same record at the same part of the song.

The crossfader allowed the DJ to play sound from one record at a time.

When it’s on the right, you hear

sound from the right turntable.

When it’s on the left, you hear sound from the left turntable.

Using the crossfader and spinning the record backwards, a technique called breakbeat, creates a loop of the same sound, over and over.

Technology allowed DJs to expand that technique and create the art of sampling, a fundamental part of hip-hop music and culture.

At the birth of hip-hop in 1973, DJs were the stars, and emcees were entertainers who talked over the beat to rev up the crowd. By the time “Rapper’s Delight” became the first rap song to be played on the radio, their roles had evolved and emcees, or rappers, overshadowed DJs.

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But rappers still needed music. In the late 1970s and early ’80s, studio bands did the job. Then producers started using drum machines to make beats that sounded like this:

When DJs and producers had exhausted the limits of turntables, they added echo boxes and synthesizers — anything to produce a new type of sound.

But a technological advance was about to change music production history forever. Electronic samplers, invented in the 1970s, became more affordable in the late 1980s.

Here’s how authentic, old-school sampling works. In the era of streaming, using an MP3 and a laptop is an easier — but far less romantic — way to do it.

First, you have to find a good song to sample.


Record stores and fairs are the best places to go “crate digging” to find original sounds in old vinyl records.

Record stores and fairs are the best places to go “crate digging” to find original sounds in old vinyl records.

Record stores and fairs are the best places to go “crate digging” to find original sounds in old vinyl records.

Keep in mind that using any part of a record protected by copyright laws without the permission of the owner is illegal. So if you don’t want to pay royalties, look for music that is in the public domain or that has a creative commons license that allows you to use and modify it.


Next, record it in the sampler.

Recording transforms analog music into digital music so you can chop it up and manipulate it

These are

the parts of

the song

you want

to sample

This is the

sound wave

of the entire

song

Samples

are just

small

portions

of it

Here we have chopped three percussion sounds to make a drum pattern and a melody that will lead the song.

Next, record it in the sampler.

Recording transforms analog music into digital music so you can chop it up and manipulate it

These are the

parts of the

song you want

to sample

This is the

sound wave

of the entire

song

Samples

are just

small

portions

of it

Here we have chopped three percussion sounds to make a drum pattern and a melody that will lead the song.

Next, record it in the sampler.

Recording transforms analog music into digital music so you can chop it up and manipulate it

These are the

parts of the song

you want to sample

This is the sound wave

of the entire song

Samples are

just small

portions of it

Here we have chopped three percussion sounds to make a drum pattern and a melody that will lead the song.

Next, record it in the sampler.

Recording transforms analog music into digital music so you can chop it up and manipulate it.

These are the

parts of the song

you want to sample

This is the sound wave

of the entire song

Samples are

just small

portions of it

Here we have chopped three percussion sounds to make a drum pattern, and a melody that will lead the song.


Play the sampler like a piano.

You will assign each sound to a pad.

Connected to

the TURNTABLE

Samplers allow you

to modify the pitch,

tone and speed

Once each sound is assigned to a pad, you can play the pads as if they are piano keys.

Play the sampler like a piano.

You will assign each sound to a pad.

Connected to

the TURNTABLE

Samplers allow you

to modify the pitch,

tone and speed

Once each sound is assigned to a pad, you can play the pads as if they are piano keys.

Play the sampler like a piano.

You will assign each sound to a pad.

Connected to

the TURNTABLE

Samplers allow you

to modify the pitch,

tone and speed

Once each sound is assigned to a pad, you can play the pads as if they are piano keys.

Play the sampler like a piano.

You will assign each sound to a pad.

Connected to

the TURNTABLE

Samplers allow you

to modify the pitch,

tone and speed

Once each sound is assigned to a pad, you can play the pads as if they are piano keys.


A sampler allows you to create and repeat patterns of sound, such as these four bars, and play them over and over in a loop.

Each event

triggers a

sound

By repeating different patterns and adding new sounds, you can create the beat for a new song out of parts of old songs.

A sampler allows you to create and repeat patterns of sound, such as these four bars, and play them over and over in a loop.

Each event

triggers a

sound

By repeating different patterns and adding new sounds, you can create the beat for a new song out of parts of old songs.

A sampler allows you to create and repeat patterns of sound, such as these four bars, and play them over and over in a loop.

Each event

triggers a sound

By repeating different patterns and adding new sounds, you can create the beat for a new song out of parts of old songs.

A sampler allows you to create and repeat patterns of sound, such as these four bars, and play them over and over in a loop.

Each event

triggers a sound

By repeating different patterns and adding new sounds, you can create the beat for a new song out of parts of old songs.

The technique and the hip-hop genre evolved in a way that beats were no longer made just to rap over them.

DJ Shadow’s “Endtroducing….”, an instrumental and conceptual album released in 1996, is recognized by Guinness World Records as the first album ever made entirely from sampled sounds. According to WhoSampled.com, a collaborative website that identifies samples in songs, DJ Shadow used more than 100 samples ranging from 1970s funk, soul and disco recordings, such as this one from Giorgio Moroder’s 1972 song “Tears,”

”” which appears in his song, “Organ Donor,”

… to classical tunes and ’90s hip-hop. The result is an amazing travel in time through the history of music.

Hip-hop is not the only genre that uses samples.

Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” uses more than 20 samples, according to WhoSampled, and she even had to remove one that was taken from a Kelis song. The song “Safaera” by Bad Bunny contains a sample from Missy Elliot’s “Get UR Freak On.” Elliot explained some details of her royalties in a 2022 social media back-and-forth with reggaeton artist Joel Muñoz of Jowell & Randy.

So the next time you hear a new song that sounds oddly familiar, see if you can identify elements from past songs that made them memorable to you — and to the artist who sampled them.

Bonnie Berkowitz contributed to this report.

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