Sample- based music is a genre of music that creates a divide amongst music fans. There are certain crossovers that people really seem to enjoy. I am part of the group that thinks it is one of the most brilliant things ever created.
People will go on saying, “Well, why can’t they just play real instruments and stop looping things”? That is very understandable when listening to a song like P Diddy’s (Puff Daddy at the time), “I’ll be Missing You.” There isn’t much effort in that song with its sampling. It just loops Sting’s bass line without a chop or an effect on it just to try and make it sound a little more interesting. Now, when something comes out like The Avalanches, that’s when sampling is at the top of its game. The song “Since I Left You” is one of the best examples of how a sample- based song can sound just like a regular pop tune. There is something really moving to me about using samples. One, you are taking something from the past. The person that might have done the original could be dead or maybe had a few copies out. It could be a look at keeping people’s legacies going. Also, it is really cool and sounds great to sample drum breaks. You won’t find better-produced drums than that in the famous “Amen Break.” This drum break is the most widely used drum break ever. The drums sound utterly amazing on it. If you listen to NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” you can hear the break. It is up there next tot the “Funky Drummer” break used in Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” or the “Apache Break” used in the Sugar Hill Gang song “Apache.”
I take the Amon Tobin approach usually to sampling. That is warping that sample till it is unrecognizable. What he does takes so much time and talent. Also I love what J Dilla and DJ Shadow can do with sampling. They pull something off that non- samplers can’t even do at times. They move you, emotionally. I think that Endtroducing and Donuts are two very moving works of music. I find a lot of soul and emotion is those albums, and I think they are two very beautiful works of art. I always look at sample- based music like collages. I think they are the music equivalent to an artist making collages.
Not everyone gets this kind of music. Some people get tired of the music. People just can’t listen to a break being repeated. Producers, I’ve noticed, have a genuine passion and love for drums. There is something in them that cannot be explained that makes them love the sound of that “Boom Boom Gat Gat Boom Gat.” I know I do. When I was a kid, I remember hearing Big Beat dance music and just thinking, “Damn, this is really cool.” The drums were just so bad I remember. Big Beat was big around say 1996, so I was about 8 or 7. That gives you an idea how the drums were effecting me at a young age.
For some people this music takes time to get under your skin. I bought Endtroducing when I was in the 8th or 9th grade or so (I'm 18 to give you some perspective). I thought some songs on it were good, but I just couldn’t get into it. About three years ago, I was just listening to it, and I started digging some parts of it I hadn’t before. Then the next summer, I was on a plane and I listened to it all the way through, and it just hit me. I remember thinking how this is such an amazing album. Now, it is my favorite album tied with Kid A and Think Tank. That was the spark that threw me into Hip Hop and other sample artists and just electronic music as a whole. I look at Endtroducing much more than a sample- based album that’s really good. I look at it as a great album. Sample- based music, in my mind, is not some lower tier music that is music but not quite. It is on the same level. It takes just as much talent and work. Don’t think it is easy. If anyone says it is easy, they are misinformed. The Avalanches record is made up of about 1,000 samples. That takes some serious time and patience. It is a stressful process at times. Why do you think there are few artists who do and have long gaps between albums? It is a young genre. There is so much to be done. If you don’t like the music, don’t knock right away. Give it time. There is so much to comprehend with it, and you just have to be patient. Believe me, it is worth it.
With all that said, I give my personal favorite sample- based albums and their main producers.
*De La Soul- 3 Feet High And Rising (The Hip Hop Blueprint produced by Prince Paul)
*The Avalanches- Since I Left You (The Pop Sample Based Album, 2nd favorite sample-based album, very beautiful and moving, produced by the Avalanches)
*A Tribe Called Quest- The Low End Theory (The one before and after it are amazing too, but this one brought jazz influences with it produced by The Tribe)
*J Dilla- Donuts (Most recent kickn’ sample- based album, very moving produced by J Dilla)
*Amon Tobin- Supermodified (All his work is amazing, the king of complex sampling, kinda like the Kevin Shields of sampling, produced by Tobin)
*Gang Starr- Step Into the Arena (Rivals 3 Feet High in terms of the best produced Hip Hop album, produced by “Primo” aka DJ Premier aka the king of hip hop production, in my opinion)
*Edan- Beauty and the Beat (More recent, it's like the best rock meets rap album without going near Fred Durst territory, more like Prince Paul meets Syd Barrett, produced by Edan)
*David Byrne and Brian Eno- My Life in The Bush of Ghosts (One of the earliest albums with a samples, produced by Eno (God) and Byrne)
*GZA- Liquid Swords (RZA just does some mad work on this album, very menacing and moody, produced by the RZA)
Finally, you knew it was coming….
*DJ Shadow- Endtroducing (The King of Kings of sample music and just music to me, just about as good as it gets. I can’t describe how much I love this album, produced by Josh Davis aka DJ SHADOW aka A FUCKING GENIUS!)