Just as with the rest of the world, the music world goes in cycles. Artists creating hit songs today are often building off of their predecessors’ creations. Sometimes I hear a song and think to myself ‘Damn. What an incredible song. Sounds timeless.’ More often than not, it’s because they’re borrowing from a song that was created before their time. Ah, the art of sampling.
So often today, artists use samples that we come to know and love, and I think the origin of the sample often goes unnoticed. The idea of samples has always interested me, particularly in cases when producers dig up samples that I’ve never heard before and turn them into something suddenly so popular. I imagine producers going into old record collections, dusting off cases open cases of records, placing the vinyl on the record player, and hearing a snippet of a song that suddenly inspires them to create something with that bit of a song. I’d be interested to know what they listen for, and whether they’re often looking for something to begin with or they tend to find something while in the act of searching, but I assume each artist goes about it differently. If you’re reading this and you’ve been sample searching, leave a comment with your method of discovery. Either way, I thought I’d introduce (or re-introduce) you guys to some of the songs that have been sampled in popular music today, just so we can take a second to appreciate the origins of those clips.
1. Perhaps the textbook case today. AVICII samples Etta James in his hit song “Levels.” (Disclaimer: Pretty Lights had sampled it before in his song “Finally Moving,” but the song didn’t take off as rapidly as “Levels.”)
MP3: “Levels” – Avicii
2. Kanye West, in his popular song “Champion” off of Graduation, borrowed from Steely Dan‘s song “Kid Charlemagne.”
3. In some examples, artists take a sample and flip it into something that sounds altogether different. In this example, though, Kanye West and Jay-Z stick pretty close to the original in their sampling Otis Redding in their song “Otis.”
4. An artist who’s taking off these days is A$AP Rocky. You may or may not know that he used a sample of The S.O.S. Band‘s “No One’s Gonna Love You” in his song “Peso.”
MP3: “Peso” – A$AP Rocky
5. Love the instrumentals in Drake and Rihanna‘s “Take Care?” Me too. Again, not an original. It’s sampled from Gil Scott-Heron‘s “I’ll Take Care Of U,” but is actually the Jamie xx remix.
Sampled (Jamie xx Remix):
MP3: “Take Care” (ft. Rihanna) – Drake
6. Bet you think that LMFAO knocked it out of the park with their “Party Rock Anthem,” hm? It’s cool, they did. But they had the help of Steve Winwood and his original song “Valerie.” (Sample appears at the 1:02 mark.)
7. Even Common chooses to use samples in some of his songs. In one of his latest efforts, “Blue Sky,” he picked a piece of Electric Light Orchestra‘s “Mr. Blue Sky” to craft his sound.
MP3: “Blue Sky” – Common
8. Eminem dug into the 1975 records to pull out Labi Siffre‘s “I Got The” for his popular song “My Name Is.” Incredible original song, and great use of the sample by Marshall Mathers. (Sample can be heard at the 2:10 mark.)
9. One of my favorite songs recently is Gotye‘s “Somebody That I Used To Know (ft. Kimbra).” I was fooled originally, thinking this was 100% Gotye’s creation. Turns out, they sampled a Latin song from 1967 by a man named Luiz Bonfa called “Seville.” Incredible find, Gotye and Kimbra!
10. This one is a bit of a more modern sample (2010), so it may to come as obvious to many, but it’s a great one nonetheless. Young rapper Mac Miller borrowed from popular indie-rock artist Sufjan Stevens in his jam “Donald Trump.”