Hip hop is truly a wonderful genre – it’s birthed countless unique subcultures, styles and practices that have had a recognisable impact on music and society. From the justice driven joints of Public Enemy, to Kanye’s (sometimes dubious) fashion choices. Out of the many things it has bestowed on us, hip hop has given popular music sampling – the act of taking a snippet of one track and using it in another. Although people who exclusively listen to ‘dad rock’ might tell you it’s stealing (these things get clearance, you know), it’s a creative way to pay homage to the old while breathing life into the new. A vocal sample is often the layer in a track that gives you that tingly feeling when you hear it and without it, the song could be severely lacking in emotion. Case in point, the timeless dubstep/garage love affair that is Burial’s ‘Archangel’. It has the classic raw, tumbling drum patterns and sub bass that Burial built his name on, along with an ethereal sample from the Metal Gear Solid 2 video game OST. However, the real super-killersweet blow is dealt by the vocal sample, lifted from the most unlikely of sources – Ray J’s ‘One Wish’. It’s chopped up and screwed with to give the emotionally numb instrumental a sense of hopeless, yet brings organic romanticism without any sort of obvious lyricism. Without it, the track would lose the will to live. Some producers have a supreme ear when it comes to vocal samples and can’t seem to put a foot wrong. Clams Casino’s popularity shot up when long-time collaborators A$AP Rocky and Lil B got a huge amount of recognition. Without Clams’ vocal driven beats to go over, it’s plausible to say Rocky and Lil B might not have gone so far. The vocals Clams chose to sample for a fair amount of the A$AP and BasedGod beats came from English singer/songwriter Imogen Heap, and it just seems to click with both rappers. The track ‘I’m God’ produced for Lil B, samples Imogen Heap’s ‘Just For Now’ and it provides the angelic chorus to Lil B’s divine flow, making for a truly transcendental experience. In contrast to samples that ooze like honey from your ears, there are some that when on paper seem awkwardly placed. Mike Finito produced the entire Heems mixtape Nehru Jackets and included vocal samples from Kate Bush and ELO, who are probably the last artists you’d expect on a rap mixtape, but it completely fits Hima’s smartass persona. It’s a testament to the art (because it is an art) of sampling to be able to take something so far removed from hip hop and place it in an entirely alien instrumental and still make the whole thing sound like it was always destined to be produced. Ryan Hemsworth manages to turn the humorous into serious business with the track ‘Benny Lava’ on the Swet Shop Boys EP, as he heavily samples the famously misheard ‘Kalluri Vaanil’ from the movie Pennin Manathai Thottu. The song received a homophonic translation on YouTube and was the subject of many laughs, but Hemsworth has flipped it into a Bollywood flavoured banger to underpin the socio-politically conscious rap of Heems and Riz. The art of sampling is often under-appreciated, but the way a vocal sample can make a track feel grandiose or emotional is nothing to be sniffed at. There’s a very human element to a production technique that is born from a technical process, which is a magnificent representation of how, even in this technologically-obsessed age, we can find passion and excitement from unlikely places. Nathan Butler
This feature is taken from the December 2014 issue of Audio Addict. View it on Issuu here, or pick it up along the South Coast.