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November 30, 2006 - Image 12

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2006-11-30

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4B - Thursday, November 30, 2006 {the b-side]

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com


Borrowing from the best: Daily Arts' favorite samples

From page 1B
"What You Know" - T.I.
Sampling "Gone Away"
- Roberta Flack
DJ Toomp isn't exactly in the same
caliber as Kanye West or Just Blaze,
but if "What You Know" doesn't sug-
gest otherwise, nothing will. Trans-
forming the innocuous bass in Roberta
Flack's cover of the Impressions' "Gone
Away" into a monstrous synth riff,
Toomp provides for the perfect single
for T.I.'s King. He inverts Curtis Hay-
field's original message of lost love
into a terrifying leviathan, emanating
an insouciance matched only by T.I's
grandiose swagger.
"Ghostwriter" - RJD2
Sampling "IDidn't Understand"
- Elliott Smith
Even though Elliott Smith's "I
Didn't Understand" contains no musi-
cal instruments outside his ethereal
vocal melodies, the track is still prime
sample material. RJD2's "Ghostwriter"
- best known for its role in Wells Fargo
commercials and "NBA on TNT" spots
- takes Smith's voice and transforms
it into a brass-horn-loaded, faux-vio-
lin-and-drum-kit, multi-instrumental
masterpiece, begging to be played in
vinyl format. RJD2 saves just a touch of
the ominous vocals as backing to propel
a result that's more engaging and more
uplifting than Smith's original. We love
you, Elliott, but RJD2 got you here.
"The Takeover" - Jay-Z
Sampling "Five to One" - The Doors
When Jim Morrison roars "Come
on!" at the song's start, it's obvious this
is a diss track unlike any other. Then-
unknown producer Kanye West doesn't
add much, but he focuses the unbridled
coarseness of The Doors' "Five to One,"
providing perhaps the only beat raw
enough to channel Hov's caustic hustle.
Over the pulsating bass riff, Jay tears
rappers apart. In the original, Morrison
growls, "No one here gets out alive." Jay
delivers on the threat, rapping, "All you
other cats throwin' shots at Jigga / You
only get half a bar - fuck y'all niggas."
Barely acknowledging other rappers'
existence - that's lyrical slaughter.

"The Amen Break"
- The Winstons
About halfway through the b-side
of The Winstons's "Color Him Father"
single, G.C. Coleman is left alone on his
drums for five monumental seconds.
Even though "Color Him Father" won
The Winstons a Grammy for best R&B
song in 1969, no one could have predict-
ed what came of Coleman's five-second
"Amen, Brother."
It wasn't until almost two decades
later, with the popularity of Louis
Flores's Ultimate Breaks and Beats, that
the drum solo became one of the most
sampled beats in hip-hop music.
With the improved technology of the
'80s, along with the rising popularity of
European dance music in the early '90s,
"The Amen Break," as it was coined,
traveled across genres, becoming a
fundamental component of electronic
music. From a brief drum break, which
was initially played in a 1960s funk and
soul group, emerged sub-genre of elec-
tric music called "jungle."
Most people have never even heard of
The Winstons, but almost everyone has
heard some form of Coleman's break.
"The Amen Break" has been sampled by
hundreds of musicians including Aphex
Twin, Nine Inch Nails, N.W.A., Oasis
and even the guys who compile the
music for car commercials.
"The Amen Break" is widely con-
sidered one of the most sampled drum
loops in electronic music, but the Win-
stons never saw a cent of royalties.
Coleman's historical four-bar drum solo
didn't garner him any fame, but it did
affect the music world in a way that no
other five seconds ever has.
Paul'sBoutique -
The Beastie Boys
In 1989, the original white MCs
hooked up with the Dust Brothers to
make musical synergy and scratched
away the benign drum and bass beats
from the dawn of hip hop. Using the
duo's experimental debut for their back-
ing, the finished album was busting with
illegal samples from all the demigods of
music history: the Beatles, Led Zeppe-
lin, James Brown, Bob Marley and Cur-
tis Mayfield. The only thing is, almost
all the samples are incomprehensible.

The 15 tracks boom with more than
90 samples, and each is a clamoring
spiral of audio. The technical maneu-
vers needed to make this sound slush
are incredible. Each cut and clip-splice
accentuate every section. It should be
chaos, but the samples clear the verse.
To finish it off, the Beastie Boys spit
some of their most complex and refer-
ence-crammed rhymes, laid perfectly
over the crashing contrasts. One and
a half minutes of "Shake Your Rump"
tears Afrika Bambaataa's funky bass up,
segueing into parts of Led Zeppelin's
"Good Times Bad Times" and then
breaking the tension with a recorded
bong hit. No artist is safe.
This faux-maelstrom provides the
cover for an album that was and still
is cutting edge. The Dust Brothers
helped beat out all predictable rhythm
archetypes and slapped the music
industry with something completely
new. Because of the mountain of pricey
samples used on the album, it's almost
impossible to recreate another disc on
this level. Paul's Boutique sparked the
modern sampling era in hip-hop music,
but it also opened the eyes of music
execs that saw precious money being
mashed into a masterpiece.
"Funky Drummer"
- James Brown
No list of samples would be complete
without James Brown. The Hardest
Working Man In Show Business is also
the most sampled artist in music his-
tory, and "Funky Drummer" leads the
pack. But don't letBrown's self-ascribed
title fool you, his great strength is not in
his gruntbut in his band.
Listening to "Funky Drummer"is like
listening to any other James Brown song
- the first six minutes are filled with
funky shouting. It's difficult to see why
this has been sampled so damn much,
but when Brown takes a towel break
or something and the funky drummer
in question (Clyde Stubblefield) begins
his funky drumming. Within this small
break you can see the beginnings of hip
hop - this is creation, this is genesis.
"America is Waiting"
- David Byrne and Brian Eno
My Life in the Bush ofGhosts is a hal-
lucinatory trip through the third world
via mass media sound-bites and funk-
laced percussion. "America Is Waiting"
is its leadoff track, and in 1981 this was

some pretty unique, if not downright
revolutionary, musical material. Eno
employs a heavily treated drum-kit -
much like the sound that Tony Visconti
pioneered on David Bowie's Low - as
the hiccupping foundation for the song.
Byrne's guitar raggedly drips through-
out the mix, establishing a clear post-
punk counterpoint to the recording's
unexpected percussion hits, sampled
radio broadcasters and eerie electron-
Endtroducing... - DJ Shadow
DJ Shadow'sEndtroducing... is aland-
markinexperimentalhiphop and music
sampling: It's the first album ever to be
made entirely from samples. The 1996
album was released on the pioneering
Mo'Wax label by Shadow when he was
just 23 years old. DJ Shadow borrows
samples both obscure and obvious, from
acclaimed Finnish bassists to grunge
mega-monsters like Nirvana.
The albumtakeslisteners on ajourney
through time with Shadow's samples
from nearly every decade and genre of
music. Track one, "Best Foot Forward,"
samples the Beastie Boys and Stan-
ley Clarke. "The Numbers Song" alone
uses at least a dozen samples, including
Grandmaster Flash, Metallica and A
Tribe Called Quest. It's nearly impos-
sible to fully dissect the multi-layered
songs that appear on the album, which
is a large part of its allure.
SinceILeft You - The Avalanches
For their seminal debut, The Ava-
lanches used more than 900 samples
from 600 records.
The group combines seeminglyunre-
lated songs and dialogue into a version
of Cliff's Notes for the novice record col-
lector. It borrows bits and pieces from
soul and classic rock with hints of The
Mamas & the Papas and the Isley Broth-
ers. But the moments remain indistin-
guishable from one another when hours
of remixing and layers of bongo beats,
guitar strums and backing vocals were
thrown in. Perhaps the biggest sam-
pling coup for the album occurred when
Madonna let the group use the bass-line
from "Holiday."
- Compiled by Anna Ash, Anthony
Baber, Derek Barber, Brian Chen, Kim-
berly Chou, Caitlin Cowan, Matt Emery,
Abby Frackman, Matt Kivel, Punit Mat-
too and Jake Smith.

It doesn't take a hip-hop connoisseur to know
how fundamental the act of sampling is to the
genre. Within 30 seconds of Public Enemy's "Fight
the Power," you can unravel the layers of old-school
funk subtly fused with new-school punk rock as
easily as a spool of thread.
But these days musicians are much more reluc-
tant to cast a line into the sea of sampling because
of the legal weight it often carries.
Earlier this month, Jay-Z was sued by a third-
party company, Bridgeport Music Inc., for sam-
pling Madonna's "Justify My Love" in his 2003
single "Justify My Thug."
Bridgeport, which isn't affiliated with Madon-
na, allegedly owns the copyrights to her song and
is demanding a fortune in damages and a perma-
nent ban on the distribution of Jay-Z's track.
Had Bridgeport actually been fostering artistic
creativity by protecting Madonna and her copy-
rights, the lawsuit would be justified. Instead,
Bridgeport's company and others are simply troll-
ing for sampling cash because they can.
In a Slate.com article, Tim Wu explained how
sample trolls are bad for everyone in the industry
impediment to musical innovation. By owning the
rights to musicians' songs, the trolls are making
the production of sample-based music risky and
unprofitable because clearing rights alone would
cost a fortune.
Who knows what Public Enemy's musicallegacy
would be like if they had been forced to deal with
the legal restrictions of the present day.
With Bridgeport, a look at the numbers is star-
tling. In 2001 alone, the company launched at least
500 counts of copyright infringements against
more than 800 artists and labels - all from a single
artists' copyrights. The golden ticket came from
legendary funkster George Clinton, whose sounds
are among the most widely sampled in the rap
music. Taking the legal position that any sampling
of a sound recording was a violation of federal law,
Bridgeport and similar companies have single-
handedly changed the face of rap by hindering the
process as elemental to it as, in Wu's words, "beats,
beefs or bragging."
There was a time when sampling wasn't a legal
issue - when people like Mix Master Mike of the
Beastie Boys and Terminator X of-Public Enemy
were revered as gurus of the craft, and when DJ-
ing meant something more than spinning "Main-
stream Rap Song A" with "Mainstream Rap Song
B." Unfortunately, as the sample trolls have prov-
en, capitalism is king - in this case at the expense
of musical creativity.






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