Free Samples

Published November 30, 2006

History repeats itself - music is no exception. Artists constantly build and borrow from older compositions, producing vital works upon ancient foundations. The mid-20th century brought a new age of composers. The likes of Cage, Varese and Reich chose to create entirely new pieces of music based upon previously recorded works and archival found sounds. Their bold innovations paved the way for pop music's adoption of the sample. In the '80s hip-hop b-boys started digging through crates of vinyl, discovering treasure in forgotten albums. Genres were crossed and classics built from disparate worlds. 2006 finds the frontier of sampling in a state of disarray - marred by endless legal battles that leave artists constantly defending their work, but Daily Arts is here to comfort you with some of the genre's best.

"Miss Fat Booty" - Mos Def

Sampling "One Step Ahead" - Aretha Franklin

In a song about love and powerful sex, the mighty Mos conveys feelings most men would never even feel comfortable discussing. "Miss Fat Booty" appeals to both sides of man's spectrum: The awe-striking vision of an "ass so fat you can see it from the front" and the sensation of falling in love. This is a perfect blend for the vocals of Aretha Franklin's "One Step Ahead." Aretha's soothing melodies of being so close to love yet so far away feed into the hook for "Ms. Fat Booty" with her cry of "I know I can't afford to stop for one moment because it's too soon to forget you." The original's sweet guitar strumming lends a smooth transition from Mos Def's heavy drum beats and give voice to the love-struck brothers and the fly ladies they can't hold.

"Lose My Breath" - Destiny's Child

Sampling "Taps" - Michigan Marching Band drumline

Yeah, so maybe the ripe, sunshine brass of the University fight song gets you hot under certain circumstances, but Michigan Marching Band beats have never sounded as sexy as on "Lose My Breath." On Destiny's Child 2004 single, producer Rodney Jerkins coolly apes the drumline's "Taps" cadence for the track's introduction. Smart, militant snare drum cracks and snarls, and this rhythm spills into Beyonce's moaned demands to "hit me hard" and the girls' heavy panting. The drumline hasn't gotten much credit - a number of reviews simply referred to "some Southern marching band" - but Jerkins's borrowing of "Taps" won "Lose My Breath" a spot on a Stylus magazine's "Top Ten Drumbeats You are Powerless to Resist" list.

"Time: The Donuts of the Heart" - J Dilla

Sampling "All I Do Is Think of You" - The Jackson 5

The 31 miniatures that comprise the late J Dilla's masterpiece, Donuts, are at once spiritually transcendent and deeply emotional. "Donuts of the Heart" captures Jay Dee in all of his funk-laden glory, sprinkling a muted backbeat with The Jacksons' clipped harmonies, while a female vocalist moans and groans, bathing the mix in a foggy sexual haze. The song's outward appearance is overtly sexual, but Dilla's work runs deeper than the average slow jam. He uses a treated guitar riff as the song's backbone and its simple descending melody has an emotional resonance that masterfully plays against the music's blatant allusions to physical love. In a minute and 38 seconds Dilla calmly creates an eloquent musical moment that captures all of the joy and spiritual pleasure found in great works of art.

"Fantasy" - Mariah Carey

Sampling "Genius of Love" - The Tom Tom Club

Oh, Mariah, you on fire. "Fantasy" is exquisite in all the ways escapist pop music is meant to be. The beat samples The Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love," grounding the track in a simple bed of snare and computerized blips. Mariah's voice soars as she masterfully tows the line between sugary sex chanteuse and illusive schoolgirl. Forget what you know about Crazy Mariah, "Fantasy" showcases the diva at the peak of her powers.

"Can I Kick It?" - A Tribe Called Quest

Sampling "Walk on the Wild Side" - Lou Reed

The bouncy guitar slide that begins Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" is used in the exact same way all through A Tribe Called Quest's "Can I Kick It?" And until the rush-thump of the latter's manufactured bass line jumps in, it's hard to tell the two songs apart. Where Reed's original is smooth and laid back as he drawls out "Hey b-a-b-e / Take a walk on the wild s-i-d-e," A Tribe Called Quest takes his inimitable guitar lick and infuses it with a kicking beat and a fun call-and-response verse that makes for a great summer jam. "Can I kick it? / Yes, you can!"

"Mo Money Mo Problems" - The Notorious B.I.G.

Sampling "I'm Coming Out" - Diana Ross

Mark this as a turning point in hip hop's history. Producer Stevie J, one of Puff Daddy's numerous prot