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  • Ebonee Bailey

Reachin' or Preachin': Would You Like To Try A Sample?

As a well-rounded artist who knows how to produce and arrange music, and who knows how to play multiple instruments including the piano, Tyler, The Creator has always been an advocate for musicians to create original music instead of solely building off of samples.


While music sampling is nothing new -- it helped create the hip hop genre in the first place -- and is not considered a bad thing, there is a trend that has become overwhelmingly more noticeable within the past few years. Producers are not “sampling” anymore; they are just making music covers.


The business of music sampling has always been very tricky due to the legal red tape that artists and producers have to get through to get samples cleared. We all know how Marvin Gaye’s family took Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, and T.I. to the courtroom over the production of “Blurred Lines” so, artists and producers have to tread lightly when trying to make new songs out of already used material. It can be joyous when a producer or artist finally gets their wanted sample(s) cleared, however, some of you guys are getting carried away.


Let me explain why. 


Quality Control’s Layton Greene has recently starred in radio hit “I Can’t Leave Em Alone” along with Yung Miami from City Girls, Lil Baby, and PnB Rock. Produced by Hitmaka (formerly known as Yung Berg), the song “sampled” Ciara’s “Can’t Leave Em Alone.” Though this new song has gotten a fair amount of radio play on urban radio stations, I strongly feel this song was a very lazy attempt to help Layton get mainstream attention.


For one, Hitmaka has a particular formula of mixing and remastering classic songs into new hits for the next generation of stars…except he barely changes the beat for the song. An example of this is “Hit Yo Dance” by Rubi Rose, NLE Choppa, and Yella Beezy, which “samples” “What Happened to That Boy?” by Birdman and Clipse. Another one is “How You Want It?” by Teyana Taylor and Christian Combs, which samples “What You Want?” by Ma$e and Total. 

With Layton’s version, Hitmaka didn’t sample Ciara’s song; he just tweaked an already made beat. If you first listen to Can’t Leave Em Alone, or any number of the previously mentioned songs, then go back and listen to the original songs that Hitmaka sampled, you can see that he used damn near the same beat. That is not sampling. Secondly, the subject matter of the song and hook is the same thing. It’s like QC just threw a group of rappers on the song to distract away from the fact that they didn’t bother to try to make Layton a genuine and original breakout single. At least with City Girls' breakout hit “Take Yo Man” it’s evident they sampled 70s disco hit "Flash Light" by Parliament and remnants of Salt N’ Pepa’s “I’ll Take Your Man.” When the beat drops, it still sounds there was a genuine effort was made to give City Girls a unique song.


But, Hitmaka isn’t the only one to blame. It’s big business now. Everyone saw how well the use of Soulja Boy’s “Donk” worked out for Nicki Minaj with “Itty Bitty Piggy.” Some producers have begun to shy away from making original beats. Heavily relying on using an already made beat and calling it a “sample” for a chance to break on to the radio. It can help an artist score a hit because people already liked the original beat, and it allows people to gravitate to you faster. Still, it only ends up ruining your chances of having longevity musically.


Saweetie struck gold both with “My Type” using the “Freek-A-Leek” beat and “Icy Girl” using the famous “My Neck, My Back” beat. However, she literally can’t even get her original songs to get close to the same attention as those two songs. Same with Young M.A. Her breakout hit “OOOUUU” used Bobby Shmurda’s “Hot Nigga” and helped her take off. Unfortunately, as great and distinctive as her rap skills and cadence is, none of her songs have topped the success of “OOOUUU.”

Though we know “Itty Bitty Piggy” is really a freestyle, she went on to release it as an original song so she could get her credit. The problem now is too many rappers are trying to do it also. Yes, it worked for Nicki. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to follow suit. What rappers and producers do not realize is it’s time for people to get back to making original, timeless music pieces and stop trying to rely so heavily on the success of an already popular beat to help jumpstart their careers.


“Balling” by Mustard and Roddy Ricch is a perfect example of how sampling should be. At the beginning of the song, you can hear a snippet of 90s group 702’s “Can We Get It Together.” When the beat drops, though you can still hear little pieces of the sample, Mustard managed to produce an entirely new song. 


Let’s even take it back. If you listen to Wu-Tang Clan’s first album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers, you can tell they took in numerous samples from old-school jazz, pop, and disco songs, but all of the Wu-Tang songs sound completely original. That’s what we need to get back to with music production. Think of one of our generation’s classics, “Throw Sum D’s” by Rich Boy and Polow Da Don. Though you can tell the sample was “I Call Your Name” by Switch, the song that was conjured up for Rich held its very own. 


Now, I give props to the artists and producers who are in the process of creating, blending, and perfecting an original sound. It’s just unfortunate these types of creatives are overshadowed by labels and managers that are so thirsty for their artists to get on the radio that originality is starting to be compromised. Nevertheless, the main message I want to convey is, let’s make music creative again.


Bonus:

Let’s play a little game. Can you guess what songs were sampled to make these tracks? (Actually try to guess, not just look the answers up)


1. LOYALTY - Kendrick Lamar and Rihanna

2. Exchange - Bryson Tiller

3. Teenage Fever - Drake

4. Plain Jane - A$AP Ferg

5. Blow My High (Members Only) - Kendrick Lamar

6. NO BYSTANDERS - Travis Scott

7. Bad and Boujee - Migos and Lil Uzi Vert

8. RUNNING OUT OF TIME - Tyler, The Creator

9. Morena - Father, Abra, and Stalin Majesty

10. Trick Question: Electric Relaxation by A Tribe Called Quest AND Forbidden Fruit by J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar