Saturday, June 16, 2007

the breaks

Not too long ago, I came across an article which traced the musical legacy of Yellowman's "Zungazung." From KRS to Tupac to Black Star and many many more, Zungazung has been sampled, referenced, and sampled again throughout hip hop history. In his piece, author Wayne Marshall paints such an incredibly detailed and fascinating account of Zungazung's influence that it may just give music nerds wet dreams.

While some people criticize hip hop's heavy use of samples as unoriginal, what I love about it is how it connects one work to another and extends a song's musical legacy and influence. Of course, there are many bad examples of sampling gone wrong, most obviously when hip hop cannibalizes it's own beats, or just about anything diddy does (which can't really be called sampling because you're pretty much using the whole song). Yet when sampled properly, a song is revived in a new context and form, and is taken in an often completely different direction. This is really what good producers do so well. For me, I love coming across a dope hip hop song, then digging up the break and having my mind blown yet again.

To use a well-known example, think of Dre's "Nuthin But a 'G' Thang", which sampled Leon Haywood's "I Wanna do Something Freaky to You". Although "Nuthin But a 'G' Thang" and "I Wanna do Something Freak to You" share the same beat, each song is distinct from the other in terms of lyrics, tone, and feel. Nevertheless Dre's benchmark west coast gangsta banger brought to a new generation an appreciation for Haywood's classic, whether they realize it or not. So when you're listening to "Nuthin But a 'G' Thang" you're also in a sense listening to "I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You".

It's a little ironic then, that hip hop, rooted in braggadocio and testosterone would owe so much and be so influenced by the language of love, soul music, which is so often the source material for hip hop beats. I can't say I can explain why the connection works so well, but think it over while you listen to some of the originals and see if you can figure out who sampled these- it shouldn't be too hard.

[MP3] William Bell :: Private Number (feat. Judy Clay)
[MP3] The Main Ingredient :: Prove My Love to You
[MP3] Wendy Rene :: After Laughter (Comes Tears)

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