If you’ve been tuned into previous What the Dubs you should have a reasonable understanding of the history and lineage of 140 music, and all the various other genres and movements that have influenced the sound over the years. This week we're going to talk about a technique that has built some of the duttiest rhythms witnessed in the scene, sampling. Before we continue, a likkle disclaimer. If you’ve come for a tutorial on how to sample you’ve come to the wrong place. Masters of sampling are like magicians; they don’t reveal the process behind the magic. This post is going to be more on how samples have influenced the scene, where they came from and a brief circle jerk for all sample spotters/music nerds to collectively discuss their favourite samples and where they came from.
At the most basic level, sampling is taking a sound recording from another track or recordings and utilising them as instruments in a new tune. Now, depending on who you ask, sampling may have first been utilised by several musicians. If you ask Lee Scratch Perry, he will tell you Lee Scratch Perry was the first to make use of samples in music (check out the Upsetter documentary for more on this). Whoever first used the technique is, however, irrelevant. Dub music was the first movement to start widespread use of the technique, whether this was through essentially remixing older reggae tracks or using recordings of bottle smashing etc. to help form a drum pattern. Prior to the 1990s a lot of this was achieved using tape relay keyboards, which stored recordings on an analogue tape, but as time and technology moved forward, digital sampling machines became more common. Whilst it wasn’t the first by any means, the Akai MPC series became the machine of choice for many within the Hip-Hop community. Hip Hop had been sampling for quite some time, you can check out The Sugar Hill Gang’s 1979 Rapper’s Delight and compare it to Chic’s Good Times to get a sense of this, and pushed forward the idea of incorporating other songs into a new piece for the masses. However, sampling is not unique to anyone genre of music and is present throughout nearly all forms of electronic music.
If we shift our emphasis across the pond and to Europe it’s probably worth taking a look at its use in Hardcore/Breakbeat/ Jungle as these three sounds were early influencers for some of the earliest 140 producers. Let’s just go straight for the bait one. The amen break drum loop, lifted from the Winston’s Amen Brother was chopped up and chewed out by a huge range of producers within the Breakbeat and Jungle scenes, creating frenetic energy when combined with subbass and a plethora of other samples lifted from other older tunes. Another common sample typically associated with these scenes comes from Lyn Collin’s Think. Juan doesn’t actually know if this sample has a proper name, but it’s the “uh-huh” sound timestamped in this video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKix_06L5AY)
Sampling in 140 employs all these same techniques, ripping older tracks for samples and recording new sounds for sample based use. Name a classic 140 tune and chances are it uses at least one sample. There are undoubtedly some recurring motifs in 140 samples. The first of these are samples from movies, probably best highlighted in Loefah’s Goat Stare, which features an ominous monologue ripped from 1981’s Scanners, followed by that mental subbass drop which has wrecked many a Juan night. Reggae is another common source of 140 samples, to give you another example from a tune that makes a regular appearance at our dances check out this tune https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wA76fwh8F-8 and then listen to Coki - Burnin. Hip Hop has also provided the 140 scene with a plethora of samples. Juan’s favourite example of this comes in Commodo’s remix of Gantz’ Free Focus, which samples this tiny little snippet from Madvillain’s America’s Most Blunted https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jytxkJUM_7U#t=3m24s (told you they’re basically magicians). If we step over from the dubsteppy side of 140 and move to the grimier side, we can chat about the rise of wifey riddims and rng, which saw a large range of old and new school producers chopping up early noughties rnb tunes and turning them into melodic 140 bits for the new wave of MCs to spit over.
The final thing to say is that samples can also be a pain in the arse because they can fuck you over legally. If you want to release a tune with a sample, you usually have to get the sample cleared before you can release it. Sometimes this isn’t a problem, but sometimes you just can’t get them cleared. What do you do when that happens? Stay locked for next week and we’ll chat about white labels! Big ups for reading this far!
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