(from Burial vs. Sisqo - Stolen Thong, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful mashups of all time)
From the first instances of blatant rip-offs in hip-hop instrumentals (a rich tradition that continues today *cough* Will.i.am *cough* Kanye) the art of sampling has undoubtedly evolved beyond just straight copy and paste antics, allowing hitherto unknown artists a chance employ a little subtlety while avoiding the long arm of the copyright law.
In terms of the former method, P.M Dawn’s relatively forgettable 1991 hit ‘Set Adrift On Memory Bliss’ made gratuitous use of Spandau Ballet guitar chords in a way that seems almost lazy now. Puff Daddy (as he was rather queerly billed as back then) teamed up with Faith Evans and 112 so that they might wholeheartedly lift a Sting & The Police tune and clean it up in tribute to Biggie (who himself had a number of recognisable samples throughout his work). De La Soul jacked a Funkadelic track for ‘Me Myself and I’. Pitbull, in various crimes against nature, has cannibalised songs that have cannibalised others…. the list goes on and on ad nauseum.
Not that there’s anything wrong with putting your own spin on a selection of good music, but contrast those with some of the thrifty sampling in recent electronic music. Old tracks are recycled in a way that remains virtually imperceptible and perhaps serve to tip the proverbial cap toward an artist’s musical influences as opposed to overtly copying something over a breakbeat. Yes, a lot hard graft goes into dissecting riffs and vocals in order to incorporate them into something very new and novel, which may be especially important when teams of lawyers from the likes of Sony, Warner, Universal and EMI circle like hawks overhead and your pockets remain relatively empty thus far.
So, with that in mind are a few interesting yet overlooked examples o’ samples that work nicely, yet don’t bear much resemblance to the original source:
Burial - Archangel
»» Ray J - One Wish
I don’t know why but I find this one absolutely hilarious. Maybe it’s the contrast between the eerie, post-apocalyptic garage vibes of Burial (replete with haunting choral bits from Metal Gear Solid 2) and Ray J’s cringe slow jam crooning in the rain - with lyrics that might as well be saying “ain’t easy being both Brandy’s brother and Snoop’s under-appreciated second cousin, peep my new sex tape out next month, better than that old Kim one, swear down, please?.. please?!…. love meeeeeee”.
Blawan - Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?
»» The Fugees - How Many Mics?
As Blawan responds with a question of his own, we find that the slightly spooky tone of a Fugees classic from their magnum opus The Score actually becomes the score to an unwritten horror flick all its own. Imagine being hunted down by the ghost of John Wayne Gacy (in full clown suit) as Pras Michel’s pitched down vocal resonates throughout the corridors behind you. *shudder*
Mount Kimbie - Before I Move Off
»» Missy Elliot - One Minute Man
Before I Move Off's serene blend of acoustic and electronic does very little to betray the source of the cutesy vocal cuts toward the end. That’s why I found great pleasure in the realisation that, when you listen closely, they’re actually little snippets from Missy Elliot’s One Minute Man - though that tune happens to be kind of sexy you shouldn’t really take home to meet your folks, for that I’d stick with freckle faced innocence of Mount Kimbie’s release.
Bauuer - Snap
»» Jessi Malay - Booty Bangs
It’s not so much that this sample is hard to equate with the original, it’s more the fact that once they’ve been pitched up in Bauuer’s upcoming track the diva-esque lyrics are a little harder to decipher (“snap of my finger and I clear out your whole crew”). Thus, numerous attempts at guessing what they say have ended up missing the mark to rather humorous effect. Possibly the most ridiculous one to catch on would be “sniffin’ my bacon and I can’t get to the kitchen”, which I’ve seen posted alongside it several times. However, I find this highly implausible as any self-respecting diva could get access to bacon just like that if she wanted - so thats instantly ruled out of the candidates in my view.
Update: Saw that the top comment on the Alias upload is someone actually getting upset about folk mishearing it. Honestly?! Get a grip. Bet they take Harlem Shake dead serious too.
Jamie xx - Far Nearer
»» Janet Jackson - Love Will Never Do (Without You)
Another oft misinterpreted vocal cut (“I smoke dope, you smoke dope with a happy meal mate?” as opposed to “I feel better when I have you near me”), this time due to it being sliced about and pitched down to the point that it sounds like Janet was the one who secretly stole all of Michael’s testosterone for herself. I must confess, I find the natural sounding steel drum rhythms a welcome departure from the awful 80’s synthesised beats that characterise her cack teen-pop effort. Prime example of Mr. xx recycling a sub-par piece into something worth the listen.
Eats Everything - Entrance Song
»» Floetry - Say Yes
Asides from running the tempo right up the flagpole knowing everyone will salute it, Eats Everything somehow keeps the sensuous feel despite skewing and gating the vocals every second bar or so. Whereas Kromestar’s reinterpretation of this track kept cautiously close to the original, adding only some beefed up drums and sub bass, this edition threw the whole song around the bedroom in a flurry of sweaty limbs. Although it doesn’t get further than the first two lines of lyrics, it deserves respect for totally revitalising this Floetry track in a seemingly effortless manner.
Jacques Greene - Tell Me (Kingdom Edit)
»» Keyshia Cole - Love
A footnote more than anything. Only just realised that, besides the original “tell me” vocal, Kingdom’s spruced up edit makes use of an a capella of Keyshia Cole’s track Love - an R&B ballad that’s filled with parts just ripe for the sampling. Astute choice good sir.
*duly submits it to whosampled.com*
Hope some of these have been of mild interest to you if you’re an insufferable geek like myself. As you most likely know there’s a whole treasure trove of weird sampling choices that have been worked into big anthems for one reason or another, and so I would encourage anyone to pick up the shovel and dig dig dig - as it can feel surprisingly rewarding to trace the links between them like some kind of prospector of musical knowledge. Happy hunting ya varmints.