On Samples

This post comes because of two conversations and a thousand songs that have me thinking about sampling. The first conversation regarded Beyonce and “(Girls) Who Run the World” and it’s sampling of Major Lazer’s “Pon De Floor”. I really don’t want to debate the merits of “(Girls) Who Run the World” as it’s been done better all over the internet (you can watch it here and read about it here). No, this post is solely about samples. What makes for a good sample? When is it lazy? I’m not sure if I have answers, but follow me and see what we come up with.

For me the answer has always been, if it works, it works. However, I have to acknowledge that there have been, are and will be lazy samplers. The question for me is where do you draw the line. For instance, Puffy (yes I called him Puffy) didn’t really change the essence of The Isley Brothers “Between the Sheets” sample to get “Big Poppa” but it works and the song is a classic. However, when Irv Gotti sampled the sample years later for Ashanti, she had a minor hit but I don’t know anyone who gets excited when they hear it come on the radio. On the other hand, when Dr. Dre samples Bumpy’s Lament on Xxplosive, he takes a few notes from the original as the foundation and constructs a whole song around them.

And then of course, as hip hop has grown and expanded into other genres the sampling has begun to take more risks not only in how it samples, but also who. So you have producers like Swizz Beatz, whose first hit was a Casio keyboard loop, sampling Daft Punk and Justice. And I mean you have to give the man credit, who hears this and comes up with this. Or Kanye West perfectly sampling Bon Iver’s “Woods” on “Lost in the World”. Of course, you have the producer who shall not be named on this blog due to his crimes against humanity in the form of a “band” named after a dish that is often prepared with smoked meats. But that’s like including Carlos Mencia in a serious discussion about comedy. He just steals shit.

So yeah, all of that rambling is to say that yeah, “(Girls) Who are sick of typing this title” is a lazy ass sample. But as far as I’m concerned, the laziness is even more egregious because Diplo and Switch lazily sampled their damn selves which means that they’ve lost the ability to look at what they did before and do something new.

The other part of this is the Drake song from yesterday. Make no mistake, the Jai Paul sample is what makes the song. “BTSTU” is one of those songs that burrows into your head and refuses to leave and “Dreams Money Can Buy” definitely benefits from that. Not to mention, the Drake does well with these kind of eerie beats and hard hitting drums. But then we get back to the “Big Poppa” conundrum: yeah it’s not the most ambitious sample, but the shit works. Well even.

So I guess the answer is, I’ll take a lazy sample but the shit better damn work.

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