January 25, 2009


The sampler, one of the most revolutionary instruments since the invention of the electric guitar, was not only a key player in the evolution of hiphop and dance, it also spawned a whole new way of listening to records. I'm always interested in, or rather, intrigued by interviews with producers who unravel their "sacred" records when they talk about sampling (Wax Poetics makes for good reading on this topic), especially when those records turn out to be some sort of freejazz gems that are impossible to listen to (for me) due to the sheer noise and seemingly random rhythm patterns that features them. I'm intrigued because people actually buy these kind of records and listen to every nano-second of it not so much because they like the music, but because they are in search for that one little sound or break that hasn't been sampled yet. And although not all songs that have been sampled are worthwhile listening to, it's always fun to trace a sample because you never know what you might find. And that is the true art of sampling: it became a two-way street with producers on the lookout going one way and sample tracers going the other.

I'm not a hardcore sample chaser, really. Every now and then, when I listen to a record, some familiar sound may pop up that grabs my attention. If that occurs, I'll begin my search for the original, which basically involves me frantically scanning hundreds of 7"s and records because "I'm sure I've heard that sample before, but I just can't figure out what it is." Here are some of my recent findings. Who knows, maybe there's a gem in there you've never heard before?

Zomby - Spliff dub samples Billy Boyo - One spliff a day
Billy Boyo was one of the many teenage stars the Jamaican music industry has spawned. With some tunes released on the Greensleeves label his future was looking bright for a moment but unfortunately for Billy his (international) career never really took off. Billy died of a brain tumor in the year 2000, after which some more of his musical legacy was unearthed. The album "The very best of me" (released on the Jah Guidance label ) included his biggest hit up to to date "One spliff a day" which, although being an avid reggae collector, I only discovered after hearing the epical Zomby track: "Spliff Dub."

Burial - Broken Home samples Sizzla - Just one of those days
Dubstep superstar Burial has been making quite a name for himself with two albums full of beautiful tracks in which the human voice are key elements. The human voice keeps the cold, computerized tracks from freezing below the subzero level and gives a tune an often well deserved amount of emotion. In "Broken Home" Burial utilizes two tiny snippets of Sizzla's hit tune "Just One of those days" (aka "Dry Cry"), providing the tune its wings to fly with. In terms of approach the two tunes are quite the opposite of eachother, which makes it even more interesting to link them.

12th Planet - Control samples Mikey Dread - Saturday Night Style & Gregory Isaacs Allstars - Crops
12th Planet's banger Control uses two reggae tunes to provide the song with its seductive hooks. The "Control" bit is taken from the song "Saturday Night Style," the first tune of the most sampled reggae album ever: "African Anthem Dubwise" by Mikey Dread. This album was a showcase of his legendary radio show, in which Mikey never talked but used self produced "jingles" instead. These jingles ("you make me feel so goooood;" "Brand new, good for you!;" "Brothers and sisters goodnight, I hope you're feeling allright;" "Is that a turntable? Well get on it, it's your turn;" "You're disckjockey? huhuhuh, what's that?" and loads more) are still being used on a regular basis.

The keyboard part of "Control" is taken from a song called "Crops" (or "Crofs" as it is often credited), which is the dub version of Gregory Isaac's "Word of the farmer" from the Cool Ruler album.

ConQuest - Forever samples Barrington Levy - Here I come
This one took me ages to find. Forever by ConQuest, one of the most beautiful dubstep tunes ever, clearly leans heavilly on a Barrington Levy sample, an artist that has been a prolific "sample victim" from day one. But unlike all the other jungle, drum 'n' bass and dubstep tracks out there, using mainly Barrington Levy tracks like "Here I come", "Under mi sensi" and "Murderer," the vocal part in "Forever" didn't ring a bell, and yet, sounded strangely familiar Even hardcore Barrington fans, struggling with the same dilemma, couldn't identify it for me. In the end, though, I found the tune on the net. If you listen to the sample, you'll hear some heavy hissing which, I figured, may very well stem from an audience. After checking the net for Barrington live performances I found out "Forever" does sample the song "Here I come," but a live version of it, and instead of using the chorus, Conquest uses a part in which Barrington Levy rides the riddim in a brilliant freestyle, boasting about his woman: "She give me love."

The Qemists - Dem Na Like Me sample Morgan Heritage - Uncomfortable
"Stop that train, I wanna get on, my baby she is leaving me noooooow.." It was a rocksteady hit for Keith & Tex in 1967, was an international smash in 1982 when Clint Eastwood & General Saint launched their remake of it, and it was again heavily in rotation in 2004 when the Big Yard label released a stunning one-drop version of it: Stop that train is one of those riddims that never seem to fail.

The 2004 edition of the riddim enjoyed its biggest succes with a Morgan Heritage cut, called "Uncomfortable" (aka "Hail up the lion") which is exactly the version that can be heard in the Qemists (featuring Wiley on vocals) hit "Dem na like me" which is hitting it big right now. You can hear the guitar part quite well, but listen carefully and you'll also hear the "ow!" part with which Morgan Heritage start off their tune.

Probably more to come in the future!


elephantsoundz said...

we love this lesson! more more more!

large said...

awesome post!

ben v said...

shit. had never heard the billy boyo trk, i dig zomby (& rustie's) pilfering. love the frequency boyo's singing at, well juvenile!

props for the posts. peace


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