Crate Digging and Sampling Ethics… Who Heard of Such A Thing???

December 29, 2006

They let me out of my gig a little early today so I took the opportunity to do a little crate digging on my way home from work. It’s tough when you walk into store and can’t find anything that you want. Imagine walking into a store and not being able to find one old record that deserves to be plucked from the numerous others to receive the designation of chosen one.  It’s downright heartbreaking! I left the store without any new acquisitions, hopped train back home, and on the ride home began to think about the current state of Hip Hop production and sampling ethics.

I was rockin’ Beat Konducta volumes 1 and 2 while simultaneously jockeying for body position with oblivious tourists on the bumpy subway ride when I realized how well Madlib flipped James Browns "Big Payback". If it had been anyone else, the sample would have probably been done similar to Biggie and Total’s "Can’t You See", but Otis Jackson’s version was completely original. This brings me to the current conversation. Is it ok to reuse a sample that is too obvious or has already been used and abused?

Perhaps I’m being a bit of a snob, but my ears automatically shut down and I skip over a track if I recognize the sample too easily. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for producers like The Beatnuts who love to show off their rare record collections and have beat heads scrambling to find out what they sampled. It just seems wrong, especially when you consider the deep pockets that many mainstream artists have, for someone like Nas on "Hip Hop Is Dead" to sample Incredible Bongo Band’s version of Iron Butterfly’s "Inna Gadda Da Vida". It’s just too easy and the challenge completely disappears when the average person can catch the lifted sample or break. I guess Hip Hop really is dead.

Even worse is when I hear something along the line of "Show Em What Ya Got" by Jay Z. You can call it a tribute, throwback or whatever you want, but that does not change the fact that this was already made classic by Public Enemy, Wrecks In Effect, Rass Kass and numerous others. At what point to we call it quits and just let the previous versions stand as classics? I’ve even known people to straight sample someone else’s beat! It’s a complete violation, but it happens. There is nothing creative or elevating about sampling someone else’s complete beat. It’s just an invitation to get attacked and ridiculed.

I personally take deep pride in having others scratch their heads to figure out what records I have sampled. On the other hand I also take great joy in blowing the spot of what records other people have sampled. Maybe I’m just a sample "hater", but maybe too many artists are lackadaisically pursuing their craft.

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