Your favorite artist releases a new song. You press play, and suddenly you hear something that sounds quite familiar. It’s a song you’ve heard before, but it’s not by this artist. This phenomenon is known as sampling. When musicians use pieces of work from others to create new content, they are sampling. Not to be confused with plagiarism, sampling allows artists to use another’s work, but under set conditions. Typically, an agreement between the musicians and their labels is reached where the artist being sampled is given credit and receives royalties for their work. Hip-Hop and R&B/Soul artists are among the majority of those who sample in present-day, but there are instances across other genres when people do use sampling techniques. Artists can lyrically, musically, vocally and even rhythmically sample from one another; anything that is not the artist’s original work is concerned sampled.
Here is a list of seven songs that incorporate sampling from another artists’ work:
- “Otis” by Kanye West and Jay-Z
Sampled: “Try a Little Tenderness” by Otis Redding
Kanye, Jay-Z and Otis (may he rest in peace) outdid themselves with this song. The song begins with audio of Redding singing the ending verse of “Try a Little Tenderness,” and then cuts to a synthesized beat incorporating the piano run and drumbeat that runs through the entirety of the song. Kanye and Jay-Z rap over this beat that also it features repetitions of Redding’s scatting.
- “Stan” by Eminem
Sampled: “Thank You” by Dido
“Stan” is one of Eminem’s most acclaimed tracks, and this is partly due to the song’s beat and chorus heavily contrasting with the intensity of his lyrics. Eminem raps over the beat of “Thank You” by Dido, a song that emulates soothing early 2000s R&B vibes. Although Eminem’s lyrics to “Stan” are intense, the soft acoustic guitar from “Thank You” compliment the undertones of passion and remorse in his lyrics.
- “Work Out” by J. Cole
Sampled: “Straight Up” by Paula Abdul
Here, J. Cole takes Paula Abdul’s 1980s dance-pop hit “Straight Up” and turns it into a modern hip-hop dance song. Cole takes Abdul’s chorus and makes it his own in “Work Out.” Both musicians sing the same chorus, but they vary heavily in style and interpretation based on the melody and verses surrounding the chorus.
- “White Ferrari” by Frank Ocean
Sampled: “Here, There and Everywhere” by The Beatles
Off his most recent album, “Blonde,” Frank Ocean gives much credit to the Beatles’ past records for inspiring him to produce the album. Ocean credits two members from the Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon on the track “White Ferrari” which samples from the Beatles’ “Here, There and Everywhere.” It is very subtle, but there is still room to call sampling as Ocean uses the same rhythmic pattern from the Beatles’ classic on his song.
- “River” by Joni Mitchell
Sampled: “Jingle Bells” by James Pierpont
Just the slightest hint at another song is considered sampling, as shown in Mitchell’s “River.” In her original Christmas-esque song, Mitchell samples from Pierpont’s “Jingle Bells.” “River” begins with the first eight notes of “Jingle Bells” repeated three times on the piano and then transitions to Mitchell’s original piece. Throughout the song, there are still references to the original “Jingle Bells,” continuing with the holiday nature of the song.
- “People Ii: The Reckoning” by AJJ
Sampled: “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel
Simon and Garfunkel are known for classic American “feel good” songs; AJJ, not so much. AJJ samples from Simon and Garfunkel’s popular “Mrs. Robinson” lyrically and musically in their song “People Ii: Reckoning.” Musically, AJJ uses virtually the same acoustic sound from “Mrs. Robinson,” but they harshen the beat compared to the original version. Lyrically, the last verse of their punk rock song calls out their own Mrs. Robinson, saying, “So here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson/You live in an unforgiving place” unlike the original that says “And here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson/Jesus loves you more than you will know.”
- “Lost in the World” by Kanye West
Sampled: “Woods” by Bon Iver
Bon Iver and Kanye West frequently collaborate together on projects, usually one using the other as a producer. Off his 2010 album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” Kanye samples from Bon Iver’s “Woods” to produce his song “Lost in the World.” The song begins exactly as “Woods” does, with Bon Iver singing in a very electronic voice and the beat then intensifies into “Lost in the World.” The beat of West’s song mirrors that of Iver’s, but his plays more to the tune of hip-hop with the drum-heavy baseline.