Hip Hop and Sampling: The Pros and Cons of a classic art form

While listening to Lupe Fiasco’s new single, “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free), which samples the classic hip hop tune  “They Reminiscence over You  ( T.R.O.Y.)” by CL Smooth & Pete Rock, a sense of nostalgia came across me and I immediately wanted to hear the original tune by the hip hop duo. The group’s 1992 song T.R.O.Y. is a timeless hip hop song that applies a jazzy alto sax and bass line with street edge lyricism that both sheds light on urban issues plaguing society such as single motherhood and poverty and highlights the similar childhood of the young rappers. This song perfectly embodies the richness of hip hop and the original music from which it sprung: jazz.

On the one hand, I was happy that Lupe brought the classic jazz rap joint back to the forefront of hip hop, but Lupe did not take the song beyond its classic beat. Other than speaking about the self absorbed antics of the younger generation and controversial, worldly subjects that are further giving a bad rap to America, Lupe did nothing to further the scope of what Pete Rock & CL Smooth did with the song. They took a sad situation(the song is dedicated to their close friend Troy Dixon who passed away) and transformed it into a classic reflection of the past and present climate of America, which ironically resembles the intent of the blues, which is to transforms pain into happiness.

Perhaps Lupe’s purpose for sampling the song was to bridge the gap between hip hop’s golden era (late 80s early 90s) and the more pop infused hip hop of today. Or, maybe Lupe simply wanted to capture some of the same creativity that the group had with their single. But, I wasn’t pleased with the results.

There always seems to be a double edged sword when it comes to sampling records by other artists. You either expand on the original record and make it more appealing to the younger generation, or you totally screw up the classic work of art that was done by the previous musician. In Lupe’s case, he chose to use the original beat without changing anything other than words, but it was hard to actually listen to the song and lyrics because T.R.OY. is a song that should not be sampled; it should simply be left alone and not tampered with.

That has been the case with a lot of songs, particularly within the hip hop genre where they sample songs that should have simply been left alone. But, then again, there are also a lot of musicians who have been lucky and expounded on the creative methods of a previous artist. T.R.O.Y. is also a good example of sampling music and coming up with something fresh and imaginative. The group sampled the song “Today” by jazz saxophonist Tom Scott as well as the 971 song “When She Made Me Promise” by funk group The Beginning of the End.  Since June is Black Music Month, I thought it would be cool to highlight a few artists who have sampled classic tunes and further expounded on the inventive qualities of the original song.

And might I just add, since hip hop is a music that is based off sampling, you can be sure that there are tons of songs that have utilized a lot of original material. But, since there is nearly not enough time for me to go through every song that has sampled another musician’s work, I’ll just keep it down to a few. You may be surprised at some songs that you thought were original but were actually created by someone else.

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