By Sophia Kinne
A new song you don’t know. You don’t recognize the name or the lyrics. But then, wait, a familiar tune, bass line, hook.
You think to yourself, “Haven’t I heard this before?”
The answer is yes, you probably have. Sampling is a prominent part of music-making, and can be seen across wide spectra in the music world.
If you’re wondering what a sample is…
“A sample is a digital portion of an existing recording or recorded sound/noise.” This could mean just one specific instrument’s part of a track, an entire section of a song, with the full instrumentation and voices, and anything in between.
But you don’t have to look far to find sampling. For example, if you can recall just last week’s blog, the song Compared to What has been sampled- Roberta Flack’s version in three songs (Save That Shit, Lord Finesse; Ganz Normal, Die Fantastische Vier; and Land of Nod [Lack of Afro Remix], The New Mastersounds), and the original recording by Les McCann and Eddie Harris in one (Break It Up, Cypress Hill).
Wanna check if a song was sampled or if it uses samples? Check out whosampled.com
Just listen to this week’s song, Eye Know, and you’ll immediately notice the prominence of sampling throughout the album with this track. For me, it was the whistling from Otis Redding’s Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay, but further research resulted in an understanding of the chorus, with the Steely Dan’s line from Peg, “I (Eye) Know” providing the song’s title. If you’re more musically aware than I am, you might also notice The Mad Lads’ Make This Young Lady of Mine, and if you’re a musical genius, you might pick up on the drum beats of Sly and the Family Stone and Lee Dorsey as well. All of these borrowed sound bites come from music that is not of De La Soul’s genre, but they come together to create the hip-hop experience the group is known to have partially pioneered.
De La Soul got into a lot of trouble for sampling in their debut album. They were sued by a group called The Turtles, whose song, You Showed Me was sampled in Transmitting Live from Mars on the album, and this marked the end of uncleared samples being used in all kinds of music. In fact, because of the amount of uncleared samples in De La Soul’s early work, a lot of their music is unavailable for downloading. Check Spotify. It’s not there. On February 14, 2014, their music was available for download on one day only.
Whether songs are used as samples, or being sampled, there is no doubt that this is a widespread concept. What is astounding to me, is the musical ground a sample can cover. Inspiration is drawn from all music types to create music in genres completely different from the original. If something sounds cool, it should be used. No genre wars here. I think it’s highly unfortunate that sampling results in legal issues. It makes sense, given that artists are literally using the work of other artists and calling it their own. That said, sampling results in completely new, fresh, inventive, and certainly creative tracks. It is amazing to see how musicians can excite, surprise, and inspire listeners by building upon the same elements that excited, surprised, and inspired listeners once before.
 “Sampling – History and Definition (part 1).” IMusician Digital. N.p., 30 Sept. 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
 Irvin, Jim. The Mojo Collection: The Ultimate Music Companion. Edinburgh: Canongate, 2007. Print.
 Lawler, Richard. “De La Soul Can’t Sell Their Old Music Online Yet, so They’re Giving It Away for One Day Only.” Engadget. N.p., 14 July 2016. Web. 24 Jan. 2017.
Edited by Memory Apata