Sampling is musical recycling; taking bits and pieces from music that’s already been released and using it to make something entirely new. While sampling is most prevalent in hip-hop, it has become a staple of modern popular music. With that being said, here are 5 albums to get you into the art of sampling.
Beastie Boys - “Paul’s Boutique” (1989)
Albums like De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” and Beastie Boys’ “Paul Boutique” were far from the first albums to experiment with samples, but they are the perfect starting point to see what makes the style so special. Released in 1989 as the follow-up to 1986’s “Licensed To Ill”, “Paul’s Boutique” pulled from seemingly everywhere in its sampling. From the obscure to artists as big as Curtis Mayfield and The Beatles (!), the album was the beneficiary of artists not catching onto sampling earlier. After albums like these, the industry would start cracking down on producers rampant use of samples. That doesn’t take away from how unique the record sounds and how influential it was to future producers.
DJ Shadow - “Endtroducing….” (1996)
“Endtroducing….” was structured like a hip-hop album without any actual raps. The album is essentially one long DJ mix without the MC. However, DJ Shadow is not just any DJ. You can tell while listening just how much thought was put into the record. From the samples used, to how they were flipped and every turntable scratch in between. Composed almost entirely on an MPC60, the album was a major milestone in both instrumental music and hip-hop.
The Avalanches - “Since I Left You” (2000)
Often swept under the rug that is Daft Punk’s “Discovery” - released just four months after - The Avalanches “Since I Left You” is highly regarded as one of the best sample induced albums ever. The album from the Australians is made up entirely of samples that - for the most part - come completely out of left field. Attempting to figure out each obscure sample used here could take an excess amount of time. Considering that the group didn’t release another album until 2016’s “Wildflower,” it goes to show just how much time it takes to make an album out of listening.
J. Dilla - “Donuts” (2006)
Back before you could buy and send instrumentals between artists and producers willy-nilly, there was such a thing as a beat tape. A beat tape was essentially a bunch of beats put together by a producer that was sent out to artists so they had options to pick from and see which beats they might like. This was J. Dilla’s beat tape. One of the most prolific producers of the nineties and early 2000’s, Dilla had such a unique way of chopping and screwing with samples. All of that is on full display here as this is the one album on this list that is more so structured like a beat tape than an actual album. The songs may be short, but they’ll stick in your head long after you’ve pressed pause. R.I.P. J. Dilla.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib - “Piñata” (2014)
What makes Madlib so unique actually doesn’t take that much effort. He takes loops, replays them over and over and makes them sound raw and gritty. End scene. While “Madvillain” - his 2004 collaboration with rapper MF Doom - is arguably the better overall album, it’s on “Piñata” where his beats shine brighter. A collection of some of his grittiest sounding instrumentals, Madlib lays the perfect backdrop for Freddie Gibbs to lay his Street Rap anecdotes onto.
“Madvillain” is darker, but “Piñata” is far more gangsta.