Samples are a Beautiful Thing

One of my favorite things to examine in music is samples. Especially in hip-hop, modern music is rampant with recycled sounds from the classics of yesteryear. There are few things that I love more than discovering one of my favorite songs has been sampled or is built on samples, and I can find a new way to enjoy a melody that I’ve already become familiar with.

When people first think of samples, they immediately jump to songs like Cardi B’s “I Like It.” Songs like this take a highly recognizable part of a classic and reprocess it into a modernized and consumable beat, and it almost always produces a song that if not good, is at least fun. Two other examples of songs like this are “Back in Time” by Pitbull and “Icon” by Jaden Smith.


Samples can also be implemented in less recognizable ways. Two more samples that I love, but don’t quite fit into the category mentioned above are “Can I Kick It?” By A Tribe Called Quest and “Famous” by Kanye West. “Can I Kick It?” pulls its guitar riff from the Lou Read classic, “Walk on the Wild Side.” While it doesn’t use the voice or chorus of the song, the sample is instantly recognizable and perfectly implemented into the 90s hip hop classic. In “Famous” by Kanye West, he brings in a sample from Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam” to carry the bridge at about 1 minute and 50 seconds in. He lets the track be completely consumed by Sister Nancy’s groovy melody.


My favorite type of sample is the meaningful sample. This is a sample where the history of the musician and the lyrics of the song being sampled add to the meaning of the new one. My favorite example of this has always been Jay Z’s use of “Four Women” by Nina Simone in his song, “The Story Of O.J.” “Four Women” tells the story of generations of black women in America and the struggles that they face. In “The Story of O.J.” Jay Z reuses key parts of the track and discusses the modern struggle of being black in America. I highly suggest spending some time processing the lyrics of these two songs and thinking about how they work together. Another time you can see this meaningful sample is in Drake’s “Nice for What.”


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