A Sampling Of Hip Hop's Changing Times


Thumbnail image for erykah_crate_diggin.jpgSampling has long been a debated aspect of Hip Hop, since many of the genre's detractors use sampling to discredit the music. To make the point that Hip Hop producers are creatively bankrupt and unoriginal they would point out the most obvious example, Puffy in the '90s. This was usually because to outsiders, Puffy (as he was then called) was one of the most accessible and to that end, The Problem. But long before any of that, many classic and heralded Hip Hop songs employed the use of samples, some of them being so obscure that the casual listener couldn't readily identify them. Sometimes not.

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It served as a means of discovery for some of us. If a younger listener heard the Isley's "Between The Sheets" as a foundation enough times (Biggie, Da Brat, Lil' Viscious, A Tribe Called Quest), curiosity could win out and lead him to the source, thereby exposing him to music for which he'd otherwise have no utility. But deriding the practice of sampling without acknowledging the range of styles and tricks producers use to texture their tracks with them is just as lazy as using sampling as a crutch. Now, many artists and beatmakers (mostly in the mainstream) have been forced to cut back on the practice, mainly because of the skyrocketing fees associated with clearance coupled with a crippling economy.
 
Enter Daniel Werman's HuffPo article about the demise of sampling in mainstream Hip Hop, which is right on time. It posits that the current economic climate has forced modern producers to be a little more creative (a plus), but also that the results have been a little more predictable and generic (a minus).

Unfortunately, with this practice no longer being a solid option, the sonic landscape of commercial hip hop has lent itself to a much more accessible and predictable sound. Vocals have gone the way of the vocoder (T-Pain, don't have to say much else). The same airy and predictable synthesizer and clichéd drum sounds have become the industry standard, and the music has just sort of...I dunno....fallen flat? 

But it can still be argued that if we want a richer variety of sounds represented in Hip Hop, live instrumentation could be the way to go. It's nothing new, as The Roots have been doing it for eons (they are, after all, a band) and many other producers have used live instruments and even full bands to flesh out a track. There is certainly a place in Hip Hop for auto-tune and GarageBand, but that sort of "originality" soon enough gives way to crippling sameness. To that end, the key preserving the genre's integrity across the board is to bring more experimentation and musicianship into the equation. In other words, it would behoove some of these guys to be rebellious and learn how to read sheet music.

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Genre Bending: How Hip Hop Became Kind of Hip Pop [HP]

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