About rap songs and sampling other music

This is not the pit but I feel it is necessary to let you all know that I just HATE the Rap of um music. One of the most annoying things about it, (to me any way), is that the artists are often using samples of other peoples music. While it’s certainly creative, I think it bespeaks a certain lack of imagination and further advances my theory that these artists are not even musicians, (if they were they would create these licks themselves instead of ripping off real musicians). Now about this sampling, when rap star Slak Masta C rips of a guitar lick from Edward Van Helen, and uses it in his work, does he have to pay royalties for the use of that sample – what is the opinion of the artists who’s music gets used in this manner? I think it actually helped Arrow Smith make a come back didn’t it. What are the ins and outs of this? If its free, couldn’t I just take my CD collection and mix up a bunch of new songs from the components of other peoples works and sell them? I have always wondered this.

Thank you for your thoughts and information on the matter.

Sorry, that should be “the rap form of music”.

IANAL, but I’m aware that there is a certain ‘ammount’ of music that is fair game. I believe it’s 8 bars. This may only be anecdotal, however. 8 Bars looped over and over can be quite a lot.

The problem is that the general public’s impression of sampling begins and ends with the Puff Daddy song sample of that Police song. Puff Daddy is not a real musician. Go listen to an album like “Paul’s Boutique” by the Beastie Boys which relies heavily on sampling, but it’s still a very original creative work. Real sampling involves more than putting your vocals over someone else’s music. It’s just as creative a process as any other form of music. I mean, how many “new” guitar riffs do you think there are? Everyone is ripping someone off. Some people do it creatively, some do not.

** HowieReynolds**, I agree its creative (and even said so above), I just want to know if its * legal *
and if so, how far could I take it - and how do the people who’s music gets sampled feel about it. Also I don’t think separating music track for track is all that complicated if you have the right equipment. Certainly far easier to learn then it is to learn a new instrument and play it on a professional level. Each of the truly legendary guitar players not only has his own guitar music (though much of it may have been picked by watching others) each one has his own * sound *, and that is what the rapper is capitalizing on. Jimmy page, Jimmy Hendrix and Jimmy Buffet could all play the Star Spangled Banner, and each version would sound distinctly different.

BTW, Jimmy Buffet was thrown in there for name consistency only.

Music seems to degenerate into distillation of the the things that appear to define the genre.

So you might start off with Blues which emerges as R&B, and someone picks up on the rhythm and guitar and takes that a little further and makes for a heavier beat, and overdriven guitar, this gets further refined to distorted guitar and solos by the musicians in the band and so it goes, until virtually all feeling has be evaporated away and it is left with a charicature of the genre it once started out.In the end we get ‘Napalm death’ which quite frankly is just bollocks.

Along the way, someone will experiment with say a reggae rythm on a rock environment and create something differant, and perhaps an entrie new genre, and it’s this collision at the edges of differant genres I find the most interesting.

When rap and rock met for example in ‘Walk this way’ the result was something differant and refreshing.

Unfortunately the development time for any genre seems to be much shorter, and with less time for musical exploration some genres seem to have reached a limit that alienates all but the dedicated.

Rap is simply like scrapbook music, sticking bits and pieces of other material together, collecting whatever seems to be the hooks and links of other music and sticking it together. Almost like trying to make strawberry jam out of all strawberries and no jam.

You would not usually call a child with a scrapbook an original artist, and to me this is exactly the same with rap music, something maybe to look at but not especially great.

Pasting and cutting, stretching and pitch changing may involve some technical skill, but it is not music created by musicians, I wonder if many rappers understand the concept of key changes, major and minor keys and mood changes.

Rappers are as much an artificial talentless bunch of egotists as the boy/girl bands are just singing and dancing troops.

Give me Richard Thompson, Johnny Cash, Led Zepp, Sandy Denny, give me someone who has lived a life like Ibrahim Ferrer, of Stefan Grapelli or Django Reinhard, these are musicians and bands with something to say, I have not come across any rap artist that looks like they can even share the same sentence, one or two rappers might become interesting if they get the time.

How hard are you looking?

Dumb rap and hip-hop has become popular. Therefore, if you listen to popular music, you’re going to run into dumb hip-hop and rap.

But that’s not to say that no one’s out there doing intelligent work that’s worth listening to. Just that you have to work to find it.

OK, I’m game, put 'em up, name them.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of anyone who’s doing intelligent work right now, although I’ve heard good things about Del the Funky Homo Sapien.

I do know a couple classic albums, though–NWA’s “Straight Outta Compton” and Public Enemy’s “It Takes A Nation Of Millions…” Once you listen to either of those, it’s kinda tough to dismiss rap as a fluffy genre.

Yah, Del isn’t bad. He’s not a particular favorite of mine, but I know a lot of folks who like him. There are actually a lot of folks out there doing really interesting things with the hip-hop genre. One example that springs readily to mind is Aesop Rock, who took a very popular track off of his last album (“Daylight”, from Labor Days) and essentially re-wrote the whole song from a different perspective, coming away with a song titled “Nightlight”. I highly reccomend obtaining a copy of both tracks (although “Nightlight” can be difficult to find), especially if you’ve already heard “Daylight”. Damn. Just… damn. Quite frankly, those two tracks did more to change my opinions about hip-hop than nearly any other song I’ve ever heard, save perhaps “The Boys In the Hood” by our dear departed friend Sle- err, Easy E.

There are a number of other artists doing cool things with hiphop these days. A partial list of reccomendations:

-Dose One
-Clouddead (these guys rawk.)
-Chino XL
-Cannibal Ox
-Mr. Lif
-Buck 65 (if you’re secretly an emo kid at heart)
-Sage Francis

And, of course, no list would be complete without a mention of Kool Keith. Gotta love that Dr. Octagon, I tell ya.

“Keep it real- represent what…? My nuts.” -K.K.

I figure it’s just a symptom of my own aging, but nothing in pop culture seems original anymore. It seems as though all the songs, TV shows, and movies (especially movies!) are just re-makes. Popular books I’m not so sure of, since I’m not usually reading the bestsellers anyway. And I swear, I’m not that freakin’ old!

People, people, people–this isn’t about the merits of sampling, it’s about the legality of sampling.

Related to that, here’s what Cecil has to say about cover songs–they can be done without permission, but royalties are always paid to the original artist.

Sorry all for the response delay, I actually had some work to do – you know how it is. I first wanted to comment that I know by prefacing my question with loaded opinions that I was asking for discussion on the subject and not just a straight shot answer. Soooooo…

** casdave ** wrote…

This whole response (not just the quoted portion) is so very well put (to me anyway) that I really have nothing more to add except –BRAVO—you have managed to articulate my feelings on the matter far better then I ever could.

** ElwoodCuse ** wrote…

I’m well aquatinted with that article as I have the book it came from and have read it zillions of times. Good article but it deals with entire songs, re made by other artists (in their style) – not really taking a peace of someone else’s * sound * and forcing it to fit into your collage.

Again from ** casdave **

I think this is the real basis of my gripe/question.
Let’s suppose I did a * rockin’ * version of Mary had a little lamb. POW, it zooms straight up to the top of the charts and stays there, It is not my song, but it is my * sound*. My sound is then used in a rap song without my permission, weather I like the rap song or not, what right did these lazy, non musicians have to associate themselves with * my sound ? If their song gets big, do I get my slice of the pie? What If I happen to love lambs and they don’t, and their song says so, do I have a right to censor, or suit for damages in order to disassociate myself and my sound from this drivel, that they cocked up from sounds that they * stole from me? Again, if they had such fantastically creative minds, why don’t they just go on and create their own sounds? (sheesh)

I can see this turning into a debate as to weather rap is actually music, my opinion (it is not music) is not so much the matter as is, what is the moral and fiscal responsibility of the thieves err… artists who incorporate other musicians sounds into their works. Really that is all.

This certainly isn’t true under Australian law, and I think copyright law is fairly consistent worldwide. As far as I know, copyright is a “quality not quantity” type deal; You can loop two seconds of a Sting track and if it’s recognisably part of the Sting track, you’ve gotta pay royalties. I’d imagine it would be the same in the U.S. (although Australia doesn’t have fair use laws, I think these only apply to copying for personal uses).

You missed the rant in the OP about how it isn’t imaginative and the artists doing it aren’t really musicians? You can’t say an artform is shithouse and expect people not to respond.

This is like saying that photography isn’t an artform. A photographer isn’t creating a picture, only capturing pre-existing elements and putting them in context. Just like an artist does when sampling.

Yet when Stoppard grabbed characters and speeches from Shakespeare and recontextualised them, he wrote one of the greatest plays of the 20th century.

Sampling is actually the reverse of what you imagine. It is nearly all creative skill with little technical skill needed. Sampling is incredibly easy. I’ve done it. I could give you links to free programs and with a short tutorial to set you up, you could have a loop of any song you wanted in about ten minutes. There is almost no technical skill to sampling (at its most basic - introducing other DJ tricks or production elements complicates matters).

The real challenge with sampling is how you use it. To create a good composition takes a lot of skill, and that’s musical skill, not technical skill. Having an understanding of things like “key changes, major and minor keys and mood changes.”

These are some albums that, though vastly different, display the creative possibilites of sampling:

De La Soul - Three Feet High and Rising
The Beastie Boys - Paul’s Boutique
DJ Shadow - …Endtroducing
The Avalanches - Since I Left You

The last one is particularly notable, because it uses over 900 samples on the 70 minute record, yet creates a unified work with a consistent sound. I highly recommend all four of those albums, and I don’t think anyone can validly criticise the merits of sampling unless they have heard at least one of them.

(Also, as far as sampling goes, there are things like Go Home Productions that are a lot more brazen, but interesting nonetheless. I certainly consider it creative, though others may not. Check out the 15 minutes Beatles mix.)

You might like The Roots - pretty intelligent, and somewhat unusual in that they’re a rap “band” - making hip-hop music with the full guitar-bass-drums combo. I’d stay away from gangsta rap until you are more familiar with hip hop in general; it seems to me that gangsta is too extreme for people who don’t appreciate hip hop (a lot of gangsta is unimaginative, braindead posturing, but there is some good stuff out there).

I’ll repeat my recommendation of De La Soul - get their early albums. And Public Enemy are great. As far as contemporary stuff goes, ColonelMoose mentioned the main underground artists. Since you’re British you may know The Streets, who I think is very clever musically and lyrically, and Dizzee Rascal is even better, though you may find him a little too thuggish. For old school party vibes try Jurassic Five, and I think that no matter how much you hate hip hop, you can always get something out of Outkast. I’d get Stankonia if I were you, but only because I haven’t heard their latest album yet. I’ve heard good things about Danger Mouse and Gemini, and I’m also liking MF Doom.

Need any more?

While it seems that permission isn’t always required, obviously, artists have different opinions on songs that sample their work. For instance, on De La’s debut album, they sampled a Turtles song to create Transmitting Live From Mars. The Turtles sued De La and won (and got a big pay out, having done nothing more than sit on their collective asses for 30 years). On the same album, however, De La sampled Steely Dan’s Peg to create Eye Know. Apparently, De La told Steely Dan that they were using the sample, and Steely Dan felt honoured. So reactions vary.

It certainly is easy. I don’t know about you, though, but I don’t listen to music to appreciate an artist’s technical ability. If all I cared about was how well someone could move their fingers, I’d watch a video of someone typing. Music is about what you do with the sounds at your disposal, whether they are sounds you find or sounds you make.

Each hip hop artist (or producer) has their own sound, too. It’s easy to spot a Neptunes or a Timbaland song, for instance, and others, such as Dr Dre, the Bomb Squad, etc. all have their own distinct styles.

Who cares who plays the instruments? The artist, no matter what form of music you are talking about, is the person who knows what to do with the sounds.


What is artistically unforgiveable is unoriginal sampling. When a hip-hop artist uses a sample that has already been sampled before. Or even worse, samples the sample.

PS. When Puff Daddy goes to a funeral, he doesnt buy flowers. He pinches them off a nearby grave and writes over the names.

Great opinions one and all, I still haven’t changed my mind though, I still think it lacks a certain amount of imagination with regard to creating the exact sound you want, you have to rip off somebody else to make your artistic point. Neat. I have sampled the sounds of a wooden spoon on a tin trash can lid, as well as the sound of my hand batting the bottom of an empty 5 gallon water bottle, ran those bad boys through my Casio and came up with some RIPPING versions of Bonzo’s Montrox (sp?) and Todd Rundgren’s Bang on this drum all day! Fried them to these little silver disks and gave ‘em away as Christmas gifts – NO they were not MY songs but they were made with MY sounds, that I thought up, I sampled, and I arranged, to fit my ideal of those works and If I had a hit on my hands ::snort:: I would pay royalties (next up, Happy Birthday to You, made with the sweet, sweet sounds of my garage door opener and a passing ambulance) – I could have saved oodles of time and artistic stress had I simply ripped of tracks from other CD’s that I had laying around, but then that wouldn’t be very ORIGINAL would it. Ahem. (the above is BS by the way, I have never done this, but I have thought of it, just never did it - YET - it was just to make my point. If any one produces it, I get 25% :slight_smile: )

Back to my OP, I will re phrase my question and dispense with any further opinion (if that is possible for me) NEW OP:

Yo DAWwwwwGS, I just created the killer song, its called Truckin’ on a Stairway to Hell. Its kind of a Grateful Dead –Zeppelin-Heavy metal thing. See, I mixed up short samples of all the best songs from the Dead, Zep, and Motley Crew (?)and came up with my OWN song! It rocks! BTW, do I have to PAY somebody?


Just opinions?

Have we found a question for which there is no answer?

I dont think so.

Janx wrote

This misses the point. Sampling is more than just taking a cool sound to posh up a your own music. What you choose to sample adds information to the song. The sample making you think of the original can add to the impact of your track and or revert/emhasize the meaning of the lyrics.

"The (white) Beastie Boys drew a quite nice inter-textual comparison between the glamorisation of violence in Country and Hip-Hop through their sampling of ‘that Johnny Cash song lyric’, recontextualising it to Hip-Hop: “I shot a man in Brooklyn // [Johnny Cash’s voice…] just to watch him die”. "(from here)
Regarding the mix up of entire songs:
try searching for “bastard pop”. Those guys would mix the Ghostbusters theme with Michael jackson, Destinys Child with Bob Marley, The Strokes with Missy Elliot…
While this might not seem terribly creative to some the results mostly make you laugh (which is always a good thing) and some songs really got much better when cut up and mixed like that.

Is that legal?
I don’t know.
Kylie minogue did a version of “Can’t get you out off my head” to the beat of New Orders “Blue Monday” at some TV show (or some like that - might have been a radio show - i don’t know). There’s an Album by “Too many DJs” (?) consisting of “bastard pop”, so i guess there seem to be ways to release it legally. Then again People get sued for theiy samples all the time. Shut up and Dance made a track using Cohens "Walking in Memphis and got sued. “Marc Cohn didn’t like what Shut Up and Dance did to the melody of ‘Walking in Memphis’, so he exercised his moral rights and forced the record pressing to be restricted to the 35,000 already done at the time. Shut Up and Dance also agreed to give all the profits to charity, but money wasn’t the issue. The moral rights of the originator were.” (from here)

Did you even give Paul’s Boutique or Since I Left You a listen?

Believe it or not, there are many people who make records expressly for sampling. They want them to be stolen by DJs. Go into a DJ shop sometime (the ones with all the LPs in the window, and the kids with huge earphones inside) and listen to a record - it’s probably going to be very, very boring. But a good DJ will mix it with other boring records to produce a sound that is unique, and great.

The albums I have which use this kind of sampling do not have credits for the music that they sample.

However, I have a number of albums that do have credits for the songs sampled (therefore permission has been given and royalties may be paid). I think it has to do with the amount (in bars) of the song that’s used. Like, remember when the Verve got sued by the Stones for using their riff without credit?

Did the Police sue for that “I’ll Be Missing You” abomination, or did they give permission in the first place?

Also: if it’s so easy to mix a great song, then why don’t you have a hit record by now?

A few more suggestions, if you’re interested in learning about it:

MC Conrad and LTJ Bukem
Amon Tobin
… or anything off the Ninja Tunes label