Should you sample? When you’re feeling creative and you sit down in the lab to bang out a fresh beat, do you even think of sampling? I’m a sampler, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why? I believe that since Hip Hop was founded on sampling, that tradition should be kept alive at any cost. But what is the cost?
We all know the story of how Hip Hop began; in the park where block parties were taking place and DJ’s were mixing back and forth between two records. What was unique was that those DJ’s would find the best part of a record (the break) and use that, which in essenece meant they were remixing the song. Add a microphone and an MC, and you had yourself something truly special, and something that has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.
As the years went on, so did the music, and it gradually morphed into a style of Hip Hop that was not just about breaks anymore, but also contained samples from many sources, as well as live instruments. Now we’re at the point where the music is very musical, and not just breakbeats.
Sampling is what Hip Hop was founded on, and yet it’s frowned upon today by many producers for one reason – money. All those amazing beats that came out in the 1990’s were the result of great producers such as Pete Rock, Premo, Dre, etc. sampling like crazy and putting together masterpieces.
What has happened now though, is that the music industry decided to charge insane amounts of money for sampling a song, so in turn, producers ended up trying to come up with different ways of making Hip Hop beats.
Now we have music that is very heavy on synthesizers and royalty-free loops, that it’s basically a degraded version of what it once was. The reason is that people making beats in their home studio can’t afford to pay for samples, so they have no choice but to either learn how to play the keyboard, or use loops that everyone else is using.
What To Do
So what can you do? I’ve always told people that if you’re making beats in your bedroom and just posting stuff online, sample as much as you want. If you’re a big name artist such as Jay Z, well then the record industry will be listening to your music to make sure that you’re not sampling anything without paying for it.
On the other hand, what happens if you sample something and not pay for it? Will they sue you? You’re just the little guy making beats, will they really pursue that? And even if they do and you can’t pay, will the put you in prison? Wouldn’t that be hilarious!
Inmate: “Hey, what are you in for?”
You: “I sampled a record and didn’t pay”.
You: “What are you in for?”
Inmate: “I killed a guy because he put mustard on my hot dog. I hate mustard!”
Sampling shouldn’t be about the money. Sampling is what Hip Hop is and it should continue to be the main way that Hip Hop music is put together. Live instrumentation is great, but let’s face it – most of us can’t play an instrument even if our lives depended on it. So, what are you going to do about it?