The Art of Sampling
Written by Amanda Randall on November 27, 2023
Sometimes you’ll listen to a new song on the radio and feel a sense of nostalgia, almost as if you’ve heard the song before. Turns out, the new song probably sampled a R&B hit from the 2000s.
Sampling involves taking a snippet from an older song from genres such as funk, disco, soul, etc., and creating a new sound with these elements. It’s an artistic skill that has been used across genres such as hip-hop, R&B, and pop for decades. Although sampling is not bound to one genre, the birth of hip-hop in 1973 guided the art of sampling. As technology continued to grow, DJs and producers began to add echo boxes and synthesizers to their turntables. Thus, a new standard of music was born and gave birth to music production as we know it today.
Today I will highlight some creative uses of sampling in some of my favorite songs.
“Dreamflower” by Tarika Blue
A simple, chill, and smooth beat that features a beautiful guitar melody with a jazzy undertone. If this song sounds familiar to you, it’s the sample used in “Didn’t Cha Know” by Erykah Badu.
“Didn’t Cha Know” by Erykah Badu
I love the simplicity of sampling on this track. The producer, J. Dilla, kept the melody from the original track and added a groovy beat that complements the song. Erykah Badu’s voice flows so well on this track and adds another sense of personality without taking away from the original sample.
“Silver Soul” by Beach House
Another classic example of sampling is Silver Soul by Beach House. If you’re not already a fan of Beach House, you may recognize the wavy sound from another viral song.
“Money Trees” by Kendrick Lamar
This is because the producer, DJ Dahi, reversed this snippet to make Money Trees by Kendrick Lamar. DJ Dahi stated in an interview that he, “tried little things, chop-wise, but I liked the sound and I didn’t want to break it up, so I tried reversing it”.
“Dream” by Al Green
This song is lovely on its own. The build-up of intensity throughout the track and the angelic tone Al Green displays on this track is stunning and an easy listen. However, this may sound familiar from a popular song released a couple of years ago.
“Are We Still Friends?” by Tyler, the Creator
I love the use of this sample as Tyler, the Creator adds a new meaning to this song. The original song highlights the hope and longing that a relationship will last forever. However, Tyler, the Creator uses this sample to tell a story of how he wishes he could still be friends with a past romantic partner. Tyler, the Creator still builds the intensity of the instrumental in his production and tells a different story from the original sample.
“No Love” by Lyves
This song highlights the doubts and fears that come with the commitment to a relationship. Lyves’ voice compliments the peaceful tune beautifully. If you feel as if you’ve heard this track recently, it’s because this song is sampled on “When Sparks Fly” by Vince Staples.
“When Sparks Fly” by Vince Staples
This song is off Vince Staples most recent album RAMONA PARK BROKE MY HEART and follows a boy’s relationship with his gun. This song is interesting as it is a double entendre, the lyrics can be referred to both a gun and a woman.
“Heather” by Billy Cobham
The instrumental of this jazzy beat is such a beautiful, easy listen. However, if you recognize the instrumental you probably heard it on this classic hip hop song from the 90s.
“93 ‘Til Infinity” by Souls of Mischief
This well-known hip-hop song was produced by A-List, and the lyrical masterpiece combined with the smooth beat and jazz samples made for the perfect hip-hop track. The famous song tells the story of the daily lives of the group members, and how different life was back in 1993.
“I Choose You” by Willie Hutch
The vocals on this track are outstanding for their time, with the use of layering vocals to create a choir-like effect. The song follows a man who is proclaiming his true love for a girl. You may have heard this track from the popular 2000s song “Int’l Player’s Anthem” by the American hip-hop duo UGK.
“Int’l Players Anthem” by UGK ft. Outkast
This iconic hip-hop track was produced by Juicy J and DJ Paul and includes one of my favorite verses by Andre 3000. It is a collaboration of two of the most memorable hip-hop duos of all time; UGK and Outkast. The song follows a man who is giving up his youthful ways to marry a girl. It is a classic example of sampling and the upbeat instrumental combined with the original sample makes for one of the greatest hip-hop songs of its time.
If you enjoyed hearing some of the sampling today, I have linked a playlist with more examples below. If you want to look further into the art of sampling, check out work done by J. Dilla, The Alchemist, DJ Premier, DJ Dahi, Madlib, and many more.