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No More Samples, Please
(Written July 31, 2001)

There is a popular saying that all good things must come to an end. 

It may be time to apply that logic to sampling.

Don't get me wrong.  Sampling is without a doubt the most revolutionary production tool since the pioneering studio techniques of Hendrix and the Beatles.  And I'm not saying that we should reject samples altogether.  But I do think the current state of sampling is one that has devalued the quality of music.

It used to be that sampling was an opportunity to display your crate-digging skills, searching for that elusive 4 bar sample to complement your original track.  Now it's commonplace to rip off entire songs for your "new" joint.    Sean Combs even goes so far as to declare that something is not a real sample unless it's from a major hit.

Speaking of P-Diddy, it is largely because of him and other producers like the Trackmasters that rap has borne the brunt of criticism about sampling, but dance music is just as guilty.  Pick a big song of the last 5 years -- "Get Get Down," "Lady," "Music Sounds Better With You" -- and you'll find the filtered riffs of disco classics making up the most memorable parts of the record.

Building a lucrative career using 20 year old songs is not about respecting the music.  It's creative bankruptcy bordering on artistic theft, considering that most records don't list the source of their samples.  It is almost like producers are daring people to file a claim against them.

That strategy worked for Todd Terry, but set a bad precedent for others to follow.  When you have a genre adopting a predatory mentality towards its stylistic ancestors, how long can it survive before hemorrhaging from its own greed?

Don't expect the music industry to make a sudden call for a return to originality.  Now that sampling's a multi-million dollar industry in itself (clearance houses, attorneys, publishing, etc.), many people have a financial incentive in seeing people continue to raid old catalogs.  It is up to the true music fans to demand that producers either make more creative use of sampling or accept the challenge of creating all original tracks.  Because as it currently stands, this generation is not leaving a musical legacy to be very proud of.

Copyright 2001 Anthony Lamar Rucker.  All rights reserved.


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