How Music Sampling Works

How Music Sampling Works: Author's Note

Jane McGrath, Staff Writer
Jane McGrath, Staff Writer
HowStuffWorks 2009

Having grown up during the height of hip hop, it was fascinating to learn more about the history and evolution of sampling. I’ll admit I’ve always been more partial to the soul and funk genres that hip hop artists were sampling than to the hip hop genre itself, and it’s easy to understand hip hop’s desire to incorporate those older classics. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, sampling could be considered a form of worship. But the questions of copyright and ethics inevitably plague the topic of sampling. Despite the facts that hip hop artists might have good intentions and ultimately create a unique sound that is drastically different from the original sampled song, sampling is a sticky legal issue. On the one hand, it’s easy to sympathize with the argument that the original artists deserve recognition and compensation. But it’s harder to accept that argument when it turns out that compensation from the lawsuits often goes to non-artists who happen to hold the copyright. There seems to be no easy answer.


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