“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.”
In the early days of electronic music, sampling gave artists almost infinite resources for creating new sounds. As long as you had a multi-track sampler you weren’t in need of cumbersome or expensive instruments. Hip hop was born out of an ability to take already recognised drum beats, guitar melodies or vocal hooks and manipulate them into something new.
The go-to records to sample were usually ’60s and ’70s R&B and funk & soul albums. Filled with slick bass lines and smooth drum progressions, they naturally lent themselves to looping. But as artists became more experimental they began pulling from wider pools of influence.
Rock music intrinsically lends itself to sampling. Whether it’s a distinctive drum beat or an easily looped guitar hook, a carefully spliced in sample can elevate a track to musical perfection. From lifting entire sequences or simply dropping in recognised riffs, these tracks are prime examples of sampling at its best.
Cypress Hill are a hard group to pin down. They don’t really sound like anyone else, and few other hip hop acts have such a distinctive style. Their dusky brand of gangsta rap features ominous rhythms and beats, with lyrics that revolve around two things: the gritty streets and the virtues of smoking weed.
Headed by Sen Dog and B-Real – both of whom have Cuban heritage – the Latin influences are strong and were particularly prominent on their self-titled debut – which featured numerous incidents of rapping in Spanish. With their follow up Black Sunday (1993) they dropped the Spanish – for the most part – but retained the pot smoking themes, demonstrated on “I Wanna Get High” and “Hits From The Bong”. Both tracks exhibit the floaty, glazed-over ambience Cypress Hill have become associated with.
On the other side of the fence, however, the record features the far darker “I Ain’t Goin’ Out Like That”. Underpinning the track are samples from Black Sabbath’s “The Wizard” and “Wicked World”, adding a distinctly more ominous but no less addictive tone.
Before engrossing myself in the written word, I spent several years in the TV and film industry. During this time I became proficient at picking things up, moving things and putting things down again.
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