Introduction

Sampling, in its broadest conceptual sense, plays an integral role in our capacity to create. Whether it involves a direct reference to a previous work, a reinterpretation of an idea or theme, or building upon various existing forms of thought or influence, making forward progress in any medium is inevitably predicated upon what came before it. To deny the role of these influences is to deny the culmination of humanity’s cultural evolution, reaching a temporal nexus point at each new moment of creation. As such, understanding the impact of our influences and the nature of the threads that bind them together marks the framework of an ideological lineage.

Generally speaking, “sampling” is typically – if not easily – associated with music. While the obvious forms might include such popular songs as Eminem’s sampling of Dido’s “Thank You,” in his 2000 single, “Stan,” or, Dianna Ross’s “I’m Coming Out,” as sampled in The Notorious B.I.G.’s famous 1997 track, “Mo Money Mo Problems,” pinning down just what constitutes sampling, or the use of a sample, is much more nuanced. The use of a recognizable portion of a song remains a colloquial definition of “sampling;” however, historic changes in technology, ranging from mechanical printing to the most advanced, contemporary DAWs (Digital Audio Workstations) bookend the vast array of creative permutations that make up just what sampling can be.

As a topic that is rife with concerns about authenticity, intellectual property, creative ownership, and the ever-elusive legal argument of “fair use,” music serves as an effective vehicle for evaluating and deconstructing the interdependent relationships between culture, technology, and art, over time. Tracing the history of sampling through the lens of music represents important socio-cultural implications, following the democratization of music as both a creative commodity, and a basic tenant of artistic expression, somewhat reinforcing the oft-cited idiom that music is a universal language.