The art of sampling has defined hip hop, and producers have expertly turned brief vignettes of songs into new masterpieces with the cut and thrust of a swordsman. Once one track brings a new sample to light, often, trends start, and soon enough, these short snippets are immersed in hip-hop culture.
It’s a method that has helped breathe new life into songs from yesteryear, even if and, in turn, those songs enjoy an Indian summer after being refigured by another artist.
English engineer Harry Chamberlin developed the first sampler back in the 1940s, and the significance of the invention has grown with each decade. Chamberlain’s secret was it contained a keyboard that could trigger a series of tape decks with the capacity to hold eight seconds of recorded sound, sowing the seed for the future of music.
Further development came in 1969 when English engineer Peter Zinovieff masterminded the first digital sampler, the EMS Musys, and, nowadays, anybody can sample with the technology at hand.
Some of the most recognisable sounds associated with the genre initially had a very different start to life, and here we are looking at the origin stories behind five of the most distinguished samples.
5 of the most popular samples in hip hop:
The Winstons – Amen Brother
‘Amen Brother’ by The Winstons is the most sampled track of all time. However, it’s only a six-second drum break from the original, which has become part of the hip hop vernacular and repurposed a staggering 5,377 different songs.
Everyone from NWA to Salt N Pepa have used it and has even been incorporated by British indie band Oasis which shows how it transcended the genre into the wider cultural sphere.
Beside / Fab 5 Freddy – ‘Change The Beat’
The second most song in sampling history is Beside / Fab 5 Freddy with ‘Change The Beat’. It was initially recorded for the Celluloid label in 1982, and since then, the track has enjoyed thousands of lives thanks to sampling.
In total, the track has been sampled over 2,500 times, and the part of the song you’ll be familiar with is from the end of the Side B version, where the phrase “Ahhhhh, this stuff is really fresh” is spoken.
James Brown – ‘Funky Drummer’
James Brown is a funk legend, and altogether, he is the most sampled artist of all time. No song of his has been used more frequently than ‘Funky Drummer’ with names including Kanye West and Dre among the 1,500 artists that have used it in their work.
Clyde Stubblefield’s drumbeat has been isolated by producers who realised it provides the perfect beat to spit over. Additionally, artists in the pop sphere have also adopted the section, such as Ed Sheeran and Britney Spears.
Public Enemy – ‘Bring The Noise’
Public Enemy knows what makes for a spectacular sample. After all, their track, ‘Bring The Noise’, includes an eye-watering nine, including two efforts from James Brown.
In a fitting turn of events, their sample-heavy song has become one of the most repurposed tracks in hip hop. Famous rappers who have used ‘Bring The Noise’ include Ludacris and Eminem. Most notably, Kanye West included a sample on ‘Everything I Am’ on Graduation.
Lyn Collins – ‘Think About It’
Lyn Collins’ track ‘Think About It’ is the fifth most used sample in history and was released through James Brown’s People Records in 1972. Brown also added his special touch to the song by producing and writing the funk number.
Kanye West has used the sample on multiple occasions, and other ‘Think About It’ offenders include Run The Jewels, J Dilla, Nicki Minaj, and Janet Jackson. This song is almost certainly a prominent fixture in your record collection, and you didn’t even realise it.