The art of sampling has kept old sounds fresh for years.
Okay, alright, yes I know I write about the age divide in music a lot. It’s on my mind pretty often as I try to figure it out and seek ways that it can be eliminated. I’m sorry if that is getting annoying to you, and I am looking to make an effort in 2019 to ensuring my topics are as diverse as possible. New year, new me.
That being said, it’s still 2018 so I’m gonna get this story off.
So, you ever been listening to a song you really liked with some smooth vocals or a dope beat in the background? Of course, you all have listened to Ty Dolla $ign before I’m sure. I mean specific songs, where just as your euphoria for finding a new jam reaches its peak, some older person comes in and stops it saying something like “oh you don’t know nothing about this, that’s from____” before naming a song from before your time that is sampled. It might not be as annoying as I painted it just now for most people, but being enlightened about music is always a cool opportunity too.
The thing is, looking back and listening to music from before your time to find a sample’s origin isn’t as much of an experience for you. You weren’t alive for when the song dropped and no YouTube search can convey context and impact on fans or an artists’ career as much as being able to witness it firsthand. Not to worry though, as 23 years on this Earth has afforded me an amazing opportunity. I’ve been able to witness some of the songs I enjoy and would consider “old” for my time be sampled in newer music I enjoy.
For me, this is huge. It hasn’t happened yet but I look forward to the opportunity I’m listening to “Young Niggas” by Nipsey Hussle and can excitedly tell them how he sampled “West District” by PARTYNEXTDOOR. I don’t know if it ever will happen, but I’m gonna get that out faster than Kanye West deleted his Tweets from Saturday morning. So, here I am today. Putting on my cape for my generation and reclaiming our samples even if older folk were alive too and have a good chance of also recognizing them if they are in tune. Not that anyone is trying to take the samples from us anyways, but I don’t know if we have given enough attention to some elite flips of recent times. So here are some of my selections.
Coldplay – Viva La Vida (Sampled in: Drake – Congratulations)
I know not everybody went to middle school in Hoboken, New Jersey and listened to popular radio station Z100 (New York!) on their trips back and forth, but for those of us who did we heard this deeply emotional track about a king losing his kingdom by Coldplay. Somehow, some way, perhaps due to the angelic sounds created by that string section, I found a way to connect it to myself and my love life. 2008 was a year for me, folks.
Anyways, it was a bop. So it was especially exciting to hear it sampled into a head-knocking beat by Drake, who really started to buzz around this time. “Congratulations, “obviously a celebratory song, gave us the iconic (read: horrendous) line “I flow high, don’t try and cut my waters wings” as well as “Mr. Shopping Bag Drizzy” repeatedly using the colloquial “pause” as a punchline. Aside from those elementary school lunchroom freestyle bars, it was a solid rap cut for those fans who were okay with listening to their music on YouTube or Soundcloud, as it never hit major streaming platforms. Slightly gone, but never forgotten. Pause.
Beyonce – Me Myself & I (Sampled in: Meek Mill – 24/7 ft. Ella Mai)
I love women and we are empowering them 2kforever. However, there was a time where the movement wasn’t as powerful and vocal as it is now. Yet, some of our talented songstresses used their crafts to inspire and encourage their fellow ladies to stand strong. Who better than the Queen, Beyoncé? Gearing up to dive fully into her solo career, she unleashed this third single on the world which is now certified gold and peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Bey belts and uses her magnetic vocals to loop you into her hurt caused by the scheming, lying trashbag in the song. Too aggressive?
We all know Meek Mill was riding a crazy high going into the release of Championships, but he really might have felt like he won a trophy getting this specific sample cleared. I mean, he’d already secured samples from the likes of Notorious B.I.G, Phil Collins, Mobb Deep, and Lonnie Liston Smith among others. But Beyoncé? While she’s still alive?!? I’m gonna type another sentence just so I can use more punctuation like the last two sentences?!?!? Well, anyways, it happened and boy did Meek and Ella Mai kill it. They include Bey’s vocals, and Ella even quotes the queen in asking for the ladies to help her sing it out. “It” is a hood love song at its best, with a solid performance by young Ella and the backing of Ms. Carter’s voice which never hurts.
Bryson Tiller – Exchange (Not exactly sampled in: J. Cole – Deja Vu)
Before you drag me, I know. I know J. Cole didn’t sample this song from Bryson Tiller, because Cole had the song done first and Pen just used the same sample. They both sampled KP and Envyi on “Swing My Way” anyways. However, Tiller’s song came out first. If Dreamville President Ibrahim Hamad never came forward and said something, we’d all think Cole deemed Bryson’s music worthy of sampling. So we’re gonna go with that.
Pen Griffey took 2015 over with his debut album TRAPSOUL and “Exchange” was one of his biggest songs, combining vulnerable lyrics similar to that of Take Care Drake with sounds reminiscent of DS2 Future. The story of past love and the desire to try again cut deep as Bryson emerged as a sort of innovator, appealing to fans for seemingly blending the hardness of trap music with the gentleness of R&B.
Cole didn’t venture too far from that. The KOD rapper assumes the role of his deceased friend as he speaks to a woman about her past lovers and why she ought to take a shot with him. The similarity in Cole and Tiller’s content is eerie, but I won’t go too far with this one. The Dreamville lead puts his flavor on this one, with the simple yet elaborate metaphors we know and love. The selling point here, as always with Cole, is the narrative being relatable. We all have that one girl we wish could see the light. This track, a standout from the 4 Your Eyez Only having reached #7 on the Billboard Hot 100, painted the picture. Thankfully, no drama occurred between the artists either.
PARTYNEXTDOOR – West District (Sampled in: Nipsey Hussle – Young Niggas ft. Puff Daddy)
PARTYNEXTDOOR feels like he’s in a lot of people’s group of top artists, but he just hasn’t broken that glass ceiling commercially. He’s got a lot of cult classics or cult hits, as there’s a group of people who will go to bat and big him up in ways his numbers never could. Thus, one could argue “West District” as one of those cult hits. Drake already destroyed this beat with “Days In The East” but OVO 40 decided to let PND cook too. PND over some 808s, synths, and hi-hats is of course undefeated. His woozy, hypnotic vocals accompanied by bis background murmurs make this cut a chaotically organized symphony of emotion.
You can’t imagine my excitement when I got around to Nipsey Hussle‘s album Victory Lap and immediately recognized a familiar beat four tracks in. “Young Niggas” incorporates old Puff Daddy ad libs from the 90s and Party’s voice to bring to life a recap of Nip’s grind up to this point. Perseverance, improvement, and loyalty all carried him to where he is and the success he’s achieved. Definitely a different vibe from “West District” but the beat still works to get you to a place you can truly hear the words that are said and feel the emotion from them.
Drake – Doing It Wrong (Sampled in: Drake – Jorja Interlude)
With this one I’m not as impressed with the flip as I am with the construction and sequencing in relation to the following song on More Life, being “Get It Together.” The song with the sample is called “Jorja Interlude” and the following one features Jorja Smith, mind blown 6 God. Genius. But then you go and perfectly place Stevie Wonder‘s tantalizing harmonica solo from the end of “Doing It Wrong” at the end of “Jorja Interlude” so the beginning of “Get It Together” is more natural? And as if that’s not bad enough, you’re technically sampling yourself?! Genius or narcissistic?
Either way, it works. “Doing It Wrong” and “Jorja Interlude” couldn’t be any more different in terms of content, with the former being a song of heartbreak where he’s telling a lover as much as he sympathizes he can’t stick around otherwise they’ll fall into a toxic cycle. The latter feels like he was just really angry one day and stepped into the booth to get it off his chest. It came out pretty solid and yielded one of his better lyrical performances from his “playlist.” Yes, we know other artists have sampled themselves before but I’d love to have been in the room when the lightbulb went off in either he or 40’s heads to pull that.
Here’s five song and samples that I really wanted to show love to. It may mean more down the road as time passes, but for me, the familiarity and seamlessness already help pay dividends. I feel old now at the ripe age of 23, but I look forward to getting older so that the catalog of music in my memory grows and those most precious moments of recognizing flips increase in frequency. Oldheads, Y’all have had your time to tell us what we don’t know anything ’bout. My time is coming. For now, adieu until the next time my cape is required.