Sampling – Why?

Friday 14th June 2013 | Alex


Have you heard of Rockism? It doesn’t commit itself to hating anything but Rock, but it does use Rock as a norm. They’d probably hate sampling.

They’ll listen to an exhausted, tattered Captain Beefheart vinyl, they know it well enough to gloss over the snags and glitches but they won’t – they’re into it being fuzzy, but now they’ve ended up with a hip hop record, haven’t they? The Rockist recoils at manufactured music – you know ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’? That’s not inspiring it’s disgusting, and Cyndi Laupner’s an imp in lipstick, but they can stay well away from sampling. ‘Manufactured’ is a doomed word because it can describe opposites – ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ is an artificial marketing ploy or whatever, but sampling manufactures an authentic record.

I’d not argue hip hop’s above Rock of course, but misconceptions about sampling are rife. It’s not copying because that word just doesn’t make sense. I was at a gig on Wednesday and James Skelly covered Ray Charles’ ‘I Don’t Need No Doctor’, did anyone chuck their Carlsberg, throw their treble-clef-tattoed hands in the air and announce: “Copied! They copied that!” It would’ve been a laugh if they did - it’s intended as a cover, and sampling unabashedly reworks piecemals. Not that intention makes anything and everything okay and maybe instances of sampling aren’t far enough from the original, but as a process you’re out of luck. You’ll never pick out a cog in a Terminator X, 14-sample-song – any ‘original’ is teeny and is brazenly admitted to. (Now look at me, you’ve got me talking like it’s a bad thing.)

Public Enemy’s ‘Fight The Power’ – 

It’s not just messy, but that is a big chunk of it. That Herman Kelly-shaped gust is a tribute, a respectful messing up. All that funk is in there as homage to some earlier, highly influential African-American musician. And it gets weirder – DJ Shadow’s ‘Endtroducing…’ is nothing but sampling and I’m sure I heard Pekka Pohjola’s noodley jazz in there somewhere. A 14-sample-song is anarchic and Public Enemy are as radical and lawless as it gets, aren’t they? Sampling’s misfit prongs are rugged by their nature, stick that beneath that pass-the-mic pack-rap and you’ve got multipronged animalism, or an absorbing untameability, whatever sounds cleverer.  

Should I be able to write 'organised chaos' without the inverted commas? Pekka Pohjola is beaten into submission though, and it’s even better if you can do it like The Wu-Tang Clan, they throw free-standing things in from a solar-system of birthplaces but that they are thrown in shows organisation and precision, doesn’t it? And the things they’re sampling are the same – the martial arts, sword fights and stuff, they’re messy, violent and improvisational, but sharp and strict. 


When are you going to open your minds? Am I the only middle-class, white, all-of-a-sudden Buddhist here? EPMD did sample ‘Papa Was Too’ a fucking annoying amount of times but it’s worth doing just for the stamp-collecting. Whether you think it sounds good or not sifting through box-upon-box of Argentinian Post-Salsa and coming away with anything deserves repute. I’ve written an article contesting Rockism or something like that, that’s not Rockist, is it?



Written by Alex Dean -