Sampling or Stealing?

Stealing is such a strong word. Sometimes it may seem that an artist completely ripped off some other artist’s idea, but in a creative industry, it isn’t stealing.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s morally right either.

The worst example, or best depending on how you look at it, in today’s music is Will.I.Am. If you follow music news and blogs or are into EDM, you’ve probably heard about his newest album ‘stealing’ from other artists, in particular this track. You can hear the similarity even if you are not into EDM, because he ‘sampled’ the backtrack. What this means is he used the same audio file as the original song and mixed it, edited it, and put the vocal track over it. The thing is, usually when you sample something its to implement an existing piece of work in a new or unique way. This is bare-bones copy and paste, and the song that he sampled was also new and trying to be sold at the time, so it was really not a cool move to use it without permission. Yes, he did ask for permission to do a “collaboration” with Mat Zo before creating this track, but he never got legal permission and proceeded anyway. This is opposed to coming up with his own original ideas and music which apparently is impossible for him to do. Why should he care, people listen to it, people don’t care where it came from, and the publicity Mat Zo gained from this ordeal probably outweighs the legal issue. Will.I.Am isn’t all bad (yes he is), here is my favorite sampling job by him:


Now onto someone else.

I won’t say Kanye West is a talented MUSICIAN, but he is absolutely an amazing producer and poet. This is much better sampling; he only takes a small portion of the song and loops it, then adds his own beat, and of course uses his best aggressive talking voice to tell his own story. There are a lot of Kanye haters out there, me being among them (not because of his music), and the fact that he uses sampling is fuel to fire their argument against him. I don’t think this is any less creative than most hip-hop, I think the sample adds a layer to the music beyond the beat that gives it character.

I bet you always though Kanye sampled Daft Punk. Well Daft Punk used to sample music almost exclusively, they still do, but there is a lot more original work on their latest album, you know, the one that won ‘album of the year’ at the Grammy’s? Although both of the songs that sampled ‘Cola Bottle Baby’ had huge success, I doubt anybody has heard of Edwin Birdsong unless you are into classic funk.

Both Kanye and Daft punk did some good sampling, but ultimately the previous sentence is my problem with sampling. It’s not that they stole it, it’s that they don’t tell the listeners where their idea came from. Record companies would prevent any artist from disclosing “This song is based on this song” because ignorant people think sampling makes you a thief automatically. Just read some Youtube comments on any of these videos and you might see what I mean.

Go back to the top video. This is the oldest and most “sampled” song of all time. The opening melody is the part that gets used over and over again, spanning centuries. The original dates back to the 13th century (swords, catapults, castles and stuff)

uses the same words, not the theme though.

Uses the opening melody (first heard @6:50)

In the form of a piano solo, theme heard @ 1:00

Maybe you have heard of this movie…

Recognize it now?

I could go on, but you get the point. Even classical musicians used each other’s ideas, they didn’t have the luxury of cut and paste, they had to write it out and re-arrange it for the size orchestra they are writing for. Dies Irae is one of the oldest documented melodies known to man, written by monks who hadn’t even invented meter yet (time signature). It has transcended time, reincarnating itself in many forms. It’s a perfect dark and foreboding theme that was sung at funerals, the theme represents death when you hear it in classical works. It is amazing how one of the oldest melodies has endured time.

In conclusion, here is some of the worst sampling I have ever heard.

Because, WHY?!


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