Sampling has been used in Hip Hop more than in any other music style. It’s being called a cornerstone of production, an artform as well as a curse.
The debate about the level of originality of an artist who uses sampling is everlasting. So let’s get right into it one more time!
The fact that sampling came so far is partially explained by the creation of the doctrine of fair use.
Under a few, not certain circumstances, that vary from case to case, you can take parts of somebody else’s work without infringing their copyright.
I recommend reading my earlier post titled “Fair Use – a legal fairy tale”.
But why not create something really new without using somebody else’s work?
First of all, there could be no inspiration without getting input first. If you’re alone on an island, you’re just lost.
The egg can’t lay itself, there has to be a hen first.
No matter if you follow this input or go a totally different direction, the input you get is the starting point of your creative journey in music.
The question is, how much of that input can you use to what extent, without losing originality?
When it comes to sampling it’s pretty obvious, that a certain piece of input is being used “at its best”.
The how and why of using the sample is as important as appropriate recognition of the “original” artist. If this is being followed, I don’t see why sampling should be a bad thing.
We have always evolved on base of our past. How else could it be?
Even though the secondary artist probably won’t replay the parts him-/herself, there’s still a certain degree of creativity involved. Otherwise it wouldn’t be sampling, but just plain copying or bad beat-biting.
Unfortunately there were, are and will be artists who don’t seem to care too much and take it a little too far sometimes.
That’s when somebody takes more than just a few beats. They take the heart of the song, the essence that made it so good and/or successful. They put little creativity into creative transformation, but it becomes the spine in their song’s skeleton. And that’s not sampling, not even remixing, that’s just plain lame beat-biting.
The difference between those three lies in the quantity of material that is being used as well as the level of creativity you put into transformation.
If a good sample is used well in terms of artistic expression, only a music geek genius will be able to recognize it. The broad masses will just enjoy a new piece of music, hopefully.
I think in that case, the end does justify the means.