Portola Fest artists on the state of sampled music


How has the state of sampled music evolved since you’ve been listening to and making it, in terms of stylistic and technological innovation?

Na’el Shehade: Personally, I think a lot has changed since the 1980s when sampling started in the United States. Stylistically, the producers expanded their musical tastes from sampling funk and soul records to sampling international melodies from Egypt to Asia and turning them into global hits.

From a technological point of view, the quality of the samples has gone down. The warm sound of the ASR10 can never be reproduced and is not really feasible in the studio these days. Now we sample using VST plug-ins that degrade and eliminate that special sound. I can’t lie: I’m a victim of it, but it makes my life easier.

Nozzle: Thanks to AI, it’s like being in the Wild West of sampling again. Like it was in the early days of hip-hop. The AI ​​can separate the stems of any song, any idea into stems. It’s something I dreamed of when I was a teenager. Now it is a reality.

City of the Gorgons: It has completely changed and is now fully online. It’s so easy to go to a sample website and download a pack of any genre and create a melody in three hours. It made the choices endless and the search effortless. Back then, it was much harder to find good samples. He did more ripped tracks and overused samples, but also maybe people put less effort into originality.

SG Lewis: Sampling has become so easy now with digital sampling software that often you don’t even need to know what part you’re going to sample before you get to work. Sometimes I fire up a track in Serato Sampler and just look for little chops and riffs rather than sample an entire section of a song. There are also so many processing software now that a sample can be mutilated beyond recognition very easily.

Killer: I feel like tweens and samples are EVERYWHERE now. All over the radio, all over the pop top 40. It wasn’t like this a few years ago, so there’s definitely a big trend going on right now. Sampling always has been, and always will be, however. But I think lately people are using the song they’re sampling a bit too much rather than flipping it in a new way.

Sophia Kourtèsis: I used to rip from YouTube, to be honest, but these days I have a mobile recorder and take it everywhere in case I hear something I like.

Range: Stylistically, I feel like the samples have generally become much more defined and carry less historicity than when I first started making music. There was a land to the choice of sample which was accentuated by definition, as you were more likely to be dealing with tearing and re-tearing of the material commensurate with its age. Now it feels more referential when a sample is chosen than a way to force the music to respond to the degradation that occurred when ripping from older sources.

I suppose – in the same way, of course – that the speed of the processors does not impose any stylistic choice anymore. For example, I can now change single notes intra-chord if I want, whereas before you had to live with pretty insane artifacts if you wanted to harmonize with the sample in a different key. This is accentuated by the proliferation of Splice and Sample Packs, which are deeply functional but lack much of the extra lattice of where and why someone picked a sample. It’s still my driving force, but it’s starting to feel a bit in the rearview mirror, just because of how simple the software is now. Even sampling chords via MIDI packs is now commonplace, so you can practically sample entirely without listening to the recordings, which is neither good nor bad but very different in nature from the history of sampling until ‘now.

Young Franco: I think we’re seeing a new wave of sampling right now, (Jack Harlow, Nicki Minaj, LUUDE), and it’s exciting! People take inspiration from songs and interpret them in their own way, much like [they did in] the 90s and 2000s. Only this time around (usually) it’s with more pop songs rather than niche records.


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