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Taking a small dive into the history of sampling and its importance in today's Hip-Hop.

Written By: Jewels Alexandria
(5 Minute Read)

Music never truly gets old. Especially the classics. And the proof is in the sampling. No one understands this better than our music producers, composers and engineers. Some of the greatest producers of all time have taken old songs and made them brand new. J. Dilla, Timberland, Pharell and Kanye West, to name a few, have mastered the beauty of music sampling. Today, most music listeners are obilivous to the fact that most songs we hear today are sampled. There is nothing wrong with it, just gives music lovers like me a chance to do some research. Possibly learn something new. Let’s take a brief look into the history and how sampling started.

What is sampling? Sampling is taking a bits and pieces of another song and looping, reversing or speeding up it up to make it sound new. Believe it or not, sampling started in the early 20th century in New Orleans. "Jazz musicians often 'sampled’ little bits of melodies, hooks, licks or progressions from their peers’ compositions in their live performances (T|Blog).” The term “sampling” originated from a synthesizer called Fairlight Computer Music Instrument, which had the “ability to record and play back short sounds.” Then there is the Musique Concrete (1940), led by French composer Pierre Schaeffer. Which was more of the study of sound. Schaeffer would take all sounds and cut, stretch, reverse and so on to see in which ways it could be changed. Check out this YouTube clip of Schaeffer playing around with sound. With the invention of tape recorder, people were able to manipulate sound in more ways than one.

Skipping ahead a few decades we have the birth of Hip Hop in the late 1970’s. Grandmaster Flash would use vinyl manipulation rather than isolated sounds. Making it possible to have, “complete control of the record." Check out the Netflix original series, Hip Hop Evolution, to watch Grandmaster Flash show this discovery. The 70’s also gave birth to the first studio digital samplers. The Computer Music Melodian (1976) by Harry Mendle and the CMI (1979) by Peter Fogel and Kim Ryrie. The CMI was a polyphonic machine that has a digital synthesizer and digital audio workstation all built in one. These machines were purchased by some of the biggest stars at the time. Stevie Wonder being one of them.

The 1980’s brought on the beat machine or portable digital samplers. And with that, the face of Hip Hop was forever changed and boosted Hip Hop Worldwide. What a time to be alive! This machine made it possible for producers and musicians to record full songs straight from their homes. One iconic producer who changed the meaning of sampling is the late-great J. Dilla. Dilla used the Akai MPC 3000 to find his voice.

Sampling is a huge staple to music in general, especially Hip-Hop. Without it, I am not sure where Hip-Hop would be. No Midnight Marauders, Donuts, Illmatic or College Dropout. We probably would still be stuck with R&B music only, no shade. The Juke Joint has put together a few popular and not so popular songs that have been sampled over the years and will be featured every Sunday for the new Sampled Sundays on Instagram. All beautifully done and sampled with the upmost respect to the original artist.  Tune in every Sunday to see and engage in the fun.

January 8, 2023

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