Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sampling: When Is It Art?

When a piece is created for the sole purpose of making money, this can not be considered art. Art is defined in numerous different ways but the ones that caught my attention as defined by the English dictionary were as follows:

1. Skill that is attained by study, practice, or observation

Keyword here? “OBSERVATION” if art is a skill that is attained by observation, surely a key element of the qualities needed to create a beat from sampling matches this description.

2. High quality of conception or execution, as found in works of beauty; aesthetic value.

Keyword here? “EXECUTION” if art is measured by the quality of it’s execution, this would mean lazy sampling can not be considered true art but that which has the ability to inspire and move the human spirit is in itself the essence of art.


Picasso is considered an icon of 20th Century art. In the 1950’s he began to produce what are known in the art world as “re-interpretations” Picasso would take pieces from his favourite artists and restructure them in his own modern styles, often distorting images, changing the sizes and generally making the paintings his own while maintaining a clever nod towards the original.

The Original

Picasso's Version

Masters of Sampling in Hip Hop:

The best examples of a similar procedure used in hip hop come from artists like: Pete Rock, Hi-Tek, J Dilla & RZA.

Below are two records J Dilla sampled to create an entirely new instrumental. In doing so, the sounds seem to take on a new life and one which can be appreciated by a completely new generation.

The Originals

J Dilla's Instrumental

What is strikingly similar between the art world and the music world is that in both cases the new generation is restoring interest in the old. Many artists have renewed followings in their careers thanks to hip hop sampling while Picasso restored wide-spread interest in the artists he imitated.

1 comment:

  1. Gr8 post Patrick! i always wondered where Dilla got that bubbly electro noise from... thanks for schooling me!