When it comes to sampling music, Rap and Hip-Hop stars are often much maligned as sampling is seen as a cheap and nasty way to have success without originality. Sometimes though a good sample can work wonders for a song, as witnessed by the Eminem songs that sample Dido and Aerosmith.
It was as far back as 1988 that American hip-hop band Stetsasonic released their second album, entitled In Full Gear. The album featured a track called Talkin’ All That Jazz, which was released as a single, but didn’t exactly set the heather alight! It reached number 34 in what was then known as the Hot Black Singles chart and also number 25 in the Hot Dance Singles Sales – but mainstream success passed it by, failing to chart on the Billboard Hot 100!
Stetsasonic – Talkin’ All That Jazz
Lyrically, Talkin’ All That Jazz is a song that certainly tries to address some of the ‘criticisms’ that are often raised about ‘rap’ music, mainly that it is nothing more than simple music for simple people and that, by incorporating samples, it lacks originality. Although, on face value, there may be some truth behind that, does that mean it is a bad thing? Here is a lyric from the Stetsasonic song Talkin’ All That Jazz;
<blockquote>Tell the truth, James Brown was old
‘Til Eric and Rakim came out with “I Got Soul”
Rap brings back old R&B
And if we would not, people could’ve forgot </blockquote>
For those who may not be as ‘up-to-date’ on their ‘hip-hop’ knowledge, the lyrics above are in reference to a song called I Know You Got Soul by Eric B. and Rakim, who were a hip-hop duo from the latter part of the 1980’s – they were credited with popularising samples of James Brown in hip-hop songs!
As an interesting aside, by the time Eric B. and Rakim had popularised the sampling of James Brown music it had been almost a decade since James Brown himself had had a chart hit of note (apart from Living In America, whose popularity was assured because it featured in Rocky IV). But in 1988 James Brown was sitting at number 12 in the UK charts with the song The Payback Mix and later that year he hit number 31 in the UK charts with the song I’m Real, which also hit number 2 in the U.S R&B Singles Charts. Considering that those two songs were two of the highest charting songs for James Brown respectively and came at a time (Living In America notwithstanding) when his career was on the wane, perhaps there is something in the thought that because Eric B. and Rakim sampled him so much people didn’t forget James Brown and, as a knock on effect, the music of James Brown became ‘popular’ all over again.
Sampling music, when it comes to a rap song or a hip-hop song, isn’t just about bringing back an old song and it certainly isn’t just about doing so so that people won’t forget the original. And although some people may be of the opinion that sampling is just a lazy way to cover for a lack of originality, there can be something quite endearing about sampling in music – it’s like taking something else, stripping it back and building it back up to see what can be made that is totally different. For example, think of the Dusty Springfield hit Son Of A Preacher Man – a love song with ‘religious’ overtones – and then compare it to the song Hits From The Bong by Cypress Hill – a song about drug taking. The latter samples the former and it works well, even though the two songs are on subjects that couldn’t be further away from each other! It’s two completely different songs, on different themes, in different styles, yet one is created from the same basis as the other.
Image via Wikipedia
Most, if not all, rap and hip-hop stars have sampled other people’s works often enough and, in the main, it is very subtly done so it’s not overly apparent to the listen from where it came, or is a sample of a song that was not well known in the first place. Sometimes though, the sample comes from a song not yet released and because the sampled version became popular the song the sample came from is released and becomes popular in its own right – take the following song for example;
Eminem – Stan
Eminem first hit the UK charts with the song My Name Is in April 1999, reaching a peak of number 2 in the UK charts, by the summer of 2000 Eminem scored his first UK number one with The Real Slim Shady (which hit number 4 in the US), but it was, arguably, the release of Stan that truly announced Eminem as a music star outright. Released in late 2000 it hit number one in the UK in December; it also hit number one in Australia, Austria, Germany, Ireland and Italy (but, strangely enough, only number 51 in the US!). The song that the Eminem song Stan samples is Thank You by Dido.
Dido – Thank You
The Eminem song Stan, which sampled this tune here, was released at the end of 2000 but it wasn’t until 2001 that Dido first started releasing songs for herself. Her debut hit Here With Me hit number 4 in the UK charts in February of that year and, in the summer, this song was released and it peaked at number 3 in the UK charts, it also reached a peak of number 3 in the Billboard charts. The song Thank You had been included on the soundtrack to the 1998 film Sliding Doors but it speaks volumes that it, and Dido herself, became so popular after Eminem had sampled the song.
The sampling of the Dido song by Eminem must have come about somehow, and remembering that Dido hadn’t had a chart hit (or career of note) yet, this sampling was certainly not a case of using a famous song and re-working it in to something else – this was very much taking a random, unheard of song and re-working it in to something else, something popular, which ensured the popularity of the first song also!
If you think about it in a round about way, Eminem, a rap star of note, must have been aware of the music of Dido and, dare I say it, liked it enough to consider it worthy of sampling. Can we ascertain then that Eminem was a fan of Dido before she even became known to the masses? Does the sampling, and obvious knowledge of the original song, point towards what musical influences Eminem has? Does looking at other songs by Eminem that sample other songs show what kind of music Eminem likes to listen to when not recording his own stuff?
Eminem – Sing For The Moment
The Eminem song Sing For The Moment appeared on his 2002 album The Eminem Show. Those of you with a good musical knowledge may well recognise what song this one samples – here’s another clue though, the writing credits for this Eminem song reads S.Tyler & M.Mathers. The M.Mathers is obviously Eminem himself, and the S. Tyler is none other than Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The song that this one samples is the following Aerosmith song;
Aerosmith – Dream On
The Aerosmith song Dream On appeared on their self-titled debut album in early 1973 and was written by Steven Tyler. Eminem chose to sample this for his song Sing For The Moment and, as such, Steven Tyler was given a writing credit for it. As a point of interest though, the guitar on the Eminem song is not actually a sample of the original song, but is actually Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry playing for real!
At some point then, Eminem must have been listening to the Aerosmith song and then came up with the idea of re-working it in to a rap song for himself. The argument of whether doing so is a good thing or a bad thing is pointless; debating whether it is better or worse is also pointless. The one thing that can be said with clarity is that sampling like the above two Eminem songs have done certainly brings something different to the table.
If the earlier question about whether or not the tracks sampled give away what Eminem (or any other rap/hip-hop star) likes to listen to, we could conclude then that Eminem likes to listen to Dido and Aerosmith; from looking at some of the other bands that Eminem has sampled a picture may well emerge as to his musical tastes: Queen, R.E.M, Haddaway, Black Sabbath, A Tribe Called Quest, Metallica, Heart, MC Hammer, Spooky Tooth, AC/DC, Grandmaster Flash, Cypress Hill, Snoop Dogg and Michael Jackson are just some of the names that Eminem has sampled for his music. If that gives away the taste in music that Eminem has then it certainly could be described as eclectic!
Sampling music may not be to everyone’s taste, but to each their own. The one thing that I do find somewhat fascinating though is that every sample must have had a beginning; that is to say, at some point the artist must have been familiar enough with the original to think they could use it, and then they must have had the vision to see how they could use it to create something new. It is that vision of taking something (like an Aerosmith rock song from the 1970’s), stripping it back and then building it back up in to something new ( a rap song from the 2000’s) that shows just how versatile music can be.
P.S. This article was originally published by the same author on Triond on the 16th of August 2011 and can be found by clicking HERE.