So what does it represent?
It would be easy to just presume that the choice of a sample just merely reflects the music taste of the producer, but in reality it reflects much more. A sample is not just a piece of music, it is a timbre of sound, a sonic landscape with its own audible fingerprint. Sampling is about aesthetic as much as anything else.
Of his sampling method DJ Premier (largely thought of as being a pioneer in his use of Jazz and Soul samples in Hip Hop, regarded as one of Hip Hop's finest producers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHv3-ESOOQE) says, "Any artists I work with, I always hear the song before I do it. When I start looking for samples or sounds on old records or whatever, I'm trying to find that sound that I heard in my head, and until that sounds like what I'm looking for I gotta search for a month until it sounds like what I'm looking for, that's going to be what it takes". To him sampling is about capturing the sonic essence of a performance, his love of the distinctive sound of early funk and soul recordings (the funk doesn't sound rugged like is used to) was driving force behind incorporating their use into his beat making.
It's common to see trends in production, but often from artist to artist. Territories relating to sampling early funk and soul samples beyond just drum breaks returned to the fore during the mid 00s, but it's easy to see increasingly obscure sources of sampling being used in Hip Hop throughout the last decade.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate this is with an example. Here are three separate songs that sample the same piece of music and use it as the basis for their composition.
This shows quite clearly the amount of manipulation, processing and aesthetic styling that any piece of music goes through from the original sampling stage. Is this what the lawsuit filers are missing in their attempt to brand something as musical appropriation?
The creative process of Hip Hop is not possible to articulate or simplify to the reasons behind the use of a given sample of pre-existing music.
Like Jazz, the producer learns their instrument, their workstation, their sampler, to a degree that a direct relation of his musical ideas is at their fingertips. Like the classical composition of the 18th and 19th century, producers build musical works around concepts, exploiting timbre and development of themes to build suspense, anticipation, tenderness and intensity in their music.
The producer is not only a composer, but also a sound designer, an acoustic technologist.
Sampling in hip hop represents a producer's ear to hear music and composition, it represents an understanding of aesthetic and what it can inherently offer them. Sampling is not just the continuation of a tradition, nor is it just an attempt to emulate the past, this is living, breathing method of producing original music.
And if you want to get around any worries of legal clearance, you could always sample yourself
And if you want to get around any worries of legal clearance, you could always sample yourself.rself.