Tag Archives: Culture

Black Music Month: 11 Most Sampled Artists in Hip-Hop

“A vital part of our Nation’s proud heritage, African-American music exemplifies the creative spirit at the heart of American identity and is among the most innovative and powerful art the world has ever known.” 

—– Former President Barack Obama

Music, a cultural artifact that expresses a people’s story, challenges societal norms, and bridges the gap between groups from all colors, cultures, and creeds. Music can be celebratory in tone or a tool for lament. Ultimately, music touches the soul in ways that can have a wide-range affect on the world. Black music in particular has “compelled us to stand up, to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice” and so much more as Former President Barack Obama expressed in his Presidential Proclamation during last year’s celebration of Black Music Month.

There will always be a time and place—at any moment in the year—to celebrate the contributions of black musicians. However, the official commemoration was developed in 1979 by Kenny Gamble, Ed Wright, and Dyana Williams. On June 7th, 1979, then President Jimmy Carter declared the month of June as African-American Music Appreciation Month. Since then, every president has followed suit in making official Presidential Proclamations. In our current President Donald Trump’s address, he mentions that “[Black] creativity has shaped every genre of music, including rock and roll, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, hip hop, and rap.” Our DNA is embedded in almost every American music genre. We created rock & roll, blues, R&B, jazz, gospel, hip-hop, and rap to house our narrative of oppression, pain, triumph, excellence, creativity, spirituality, intelligence, vices, and humanity.

black-music-month-9983FullSizeRenderFullSizeRender-1Marvin Gaye Performs In Rotterdam


For this particular post, I want to focus on the creative contributions of Hip-Hop and Rap, a subculture and genre of music created by black youth over 40 years ago in South Bronx. I won’t go into too much of the history—there are documentaries like Netflix’s Hip-Hop Evolution and Complex Magazine’s list of 25 Hip-Hop documentaries that you could watch. Instead, I want to focus on something so fundamental and deeply rooted in the musical veins of Hip-Hop. I want to focus on Hip-Hop’s art of sampling. Without sampling, Hip-Hop as music genre would not exist. During it’s inception, DJ’s in the late 70’s would use Disco and Funk records on turntables to create “breakbeats,” the isolated drum section of the record. These breakbeats were manipulated for B-Boys to dance and for the MC, or rapper, to spit rhymes. There was a science to effectively and continuously looping these breakbeats. As technology advanced, DJ’s and producers sampled melodies—piano, horn, vocal, and other sections from a plethora of genres. One thing is for certain, the art of sampling will never die. It will continue to be a staple of present and future expressions of Hip-Hop.

Some view sampling as lazy, prehistoric, irrelevant, or uncreative. I would venture to say that school of thought misunderstands why Hip-Hop continues to use this method. There are many Hip-Hop artists and groups that don’t necessarily need sampling. They’ve employed live instrumentation or electronic production to build colorful soundscapes. Sampling adds more texture or detail to those soundscapes but, for Hip-Hop, it’s deeper  than that. It has less to do with compensating for musical deficiencies and more to do with paying homage to artists that came before. Sampling attempts to connect generations of black artists to one another. It’s an expression of the communal aspect of black culture. The sharing of sounds and ideas from one artist to the next creates a sense of interdependency. There is nothing new under the sun and we need each other to fuel our community’s creativity. Funk, Disco, Jazz, Soul, and Gospel artists will always be connected to Hip-Hop artists because we share a common narrative, a common heritage, a common soul, a common humanity. Chicago-based Soul singer Jamila Woods had this to say about sampling: “I think of music as creating a space. I like to put things in that are comforting to me and are nostalgic. To me, that’s what sampling does in songs; it’s making deeper layers for people who know where it comes from, but also referencing another part of my history and my memory or a memory that I have.” 

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With that being said, I want to share with y’all the 11 most sampled artists in Hip-Hop history. These artists range from Funk to Soul to Pop to one of Hip-Hop’s own. Below I’ve provided the list of those 11 artists and two playlists for your listening pleasure. The first playlist is packed with my favorite songs from those artists. The second playlist is filled with those same songs and their Hip-Hop counterparts underneath. I had a lot of fun researching and putting together these playlists. I found samples I never heard before. Not every rap song samples in the same way. Some producers flip a vocal, piano, horn, or drum sample in a way that isn’t obvious to the average ear. Feel free to peruse through the playlists and enjoy connecting to the shared history of African-American culture through this powerful art form!

Side-Note: I have Nas’ classic “N.Y. State of Mind” listed as one of the rap songs paired with a drum sample from Kool and The Gang’s song “N.T.” I tried finding the song of second sample—the piano sample DJ Premier looped to build the melodic backdrop of the beat. I couldn’t find it anywhere on Spotify, iTunes, Apple Music, or TIDAL. However, I did find it on Youtube, so for those who are interested check out Joe Chambers’ “Mind Rain.”

11 Most Sampled Artists in Hip-Hop:

  1. James Brown
  2. George Clinton/Parliament/Funkadelic 
  3. Isaac Hayes 
  4. Aretha Franklin
  5. Lyn Collins
  6. The Winston’s
  7. Kool and The Gang
  8. Marvin Gaye 
  9. Michael Jackson
  10. Prince
  11. Kurtis Blow

Original Songs:

Original Songs & Hip-Hop Counterparts:

***Disclaimer some songs have explicit content***

 

 

 

 

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Free At Last: A Poem On Black History & Christianity

Last night I had the opportunity to perform this poem at an open mic event in D.C. The poem expresses my thoughts on Black History, the significance of it, two figures in Black History, and how Christianity is weaved into the narrative of Black Americans. Here’s the imbedded YouTube video link and lyrics, hope you all enjoy!

Free At Last

Negro History Week
Let us–take a peek and rewind to the time where the mind of a black man conceived the thought of a national holiday 
celebrating the achievements of colored people–
Dr. Carter G. Woodson, thank you for your contributions 
On the second week of the second month in 1926, 
The Havard-trained historian attempted to re-educate the miseducated negro and the American public through the public school system
Unfortunately his creatively crafted curriculum meant to correct false views of black folk was at first lukewarmly received 
But year after year after year 
The celebration of black excellence continued 
where Teachers, Scholars, and the ASNLH became the sinews of a once infant skeletal structure 
making its way into metaphorical adolescence in 1976 
Negro History Week became Black History Month 
and it still got a lot more growing to do before it’s mature enough to no longer need special attention 
but while I have your attention, let me let you in on a little secret
Slavery is not the beginning of black history, it was just an interruption
Pardon me for the tangent 
However—
I’ve grown increasingly interested in the intricate lives of Frederick 
Douglass and Phillis Wheatley 
Brother Douglass was born a Talbot County slave— 
Went from being sold on auction blocks to articulate author and abolitionist 
but what caught my attention was the faith that he finished with
continual hope in a Liberating God was imperative 
And as I sat down one night 
scanning through the pages of his Narrative 
I couldn’t help but question a few things….
Like why would a man plant himself so deeply into the soils of Scripture 
when them same Scriptures were used to rationalize the whipping of Aunt Hester? 
Could you imagine staring into the blood-shot eyes of a drunk slave master?
Captain Anthony, so intoxicated with power and pride
that he could not see the humanity of the woman in front of him
So Frail, 
So Broken,
So Terrified 
and yet popular Puritan preachers at the time justified this heinous crime 
Or Sister Wheatley, 
the West African slave girl turned prolific poet 
who trusted in the Providence of God
the same God that evangelists taught created her dark ebony skin as a curse 
slowly ripping away at any sense of dignity and worth 
and yet still immersed herself in a faith-filled life? 
Why and How?
the two questions that were so ever-present in my mind 
weighing heavy on my psyche all night
I decided to sleep it off
And the next day 
as I awoke from my slumber sitting on the cold corner of my bed
poetic rhetoric from Propaganda rang powerfully through my head
“Scratch your temple, so deep it’s simple…in all your getting, get understanding, you don’t get it do you?”
Then it clicked–
The reality of God’s existence is not dependent upon poor performance from backwards Puritan preachers 
Nor should the truth of Christ be eclipsed 
By the white slave master’s whips
And I know some who claim to follow Christ, 
Wake up, 
Brush they tongue in hate speech, And go to bed under Confederate Flag sheets deter you from traversin’ on that straight and narrow
Believing it only produces narrow-minded, straight people 
And I know that it’s a dark part of our history
A winter solstice, where the sun shines few and its bright light dim
the Longest Night
And them cold, frigid winds of lies 
cuts at your skin giving you frostbite
Making it hard to breath, it suffocates the truth
Like a noose wrapped around its neck
Hanging from poplar trees
All I see is strange fruit—
However, we all know that winter don’t last forever 
And that the renewing warm breeze of Spring brings 
what was dead back to life
what was hidden in plain sight 
And them potent rays of light pierce through thick gray skies
So that the reality of the Sun (Son)
Loosens that noose 
Gives breath back to them lungs
And heals the wounds of those to whom it may concern
So now, I emancipate my vocal cords 
for the proclamation of a narrative that’s far from a European folklore
–that was extra for my 5% & Hotep brothers, how a Mideast movement gon’ be a white mans religion? 
Like didn’t you know that Jesus grew up in Nazareth & his tattered feet walked Egyptian soil?
And yes, them Puritans were trippin’ 
They used faith to bind black men, women and children 
but Yeshiva, God in his Providence loosened the physical shackles and chains of our people 
And in the process some even became His people
Spiritually set free from the grip of their own depravity
Harmoniously proclaiming: 
“Free at Last! Free at Last! Thank God Almighty we’re free at last!” 

Hip-Hop, Culture, and Jesus: Help Is Just One Prayer Away, Don’t Be Afraid To Say “Mayday!”

Every culture has a uniquely crafted language by which its people use to articulate ideals, struggles, and the realities that are ever-present in that culture. Hip-Hop, an interesting subculture within the American majority culture, has its own language–rap music. The people of Hip-Hop, or better known as hip-hoppers, have used this linguistic vehicle to speak about the struggles that plague disenfranchised youth in the ’70s and ’80s. Even today, rappers, Emcee’s, MC’s (whatever you want to call them) use the language of Hip-Hop to broadcast to the world the cultural values and norms of the subculture and the overall problems within this world. Rap music has this weird, yet amazing way of bringing a certain ideal, worldview, or message to the global table. It is a music style that’s seen all over the globe. From the different countries in Africa to the island nation of Japan, rap music is a language spoken by many. But, the art form of rap was not created by man or for man’s glory. With an understanding of a Creator God, who made all things through Jesus for His glory (Colossians 1:16), it is safe–and rightly so–to say that rap was created by God and for His glory. I am ecstatic to see Christians use this language to point to someone who is greater than them! Not only are followers of Christ using rap music as a vehicle to articulate the raw truth of the Gospel, there are some who use the language of rap to articulate the struggles that plague our culture.

With that being said, I’d like to introduce ya’ll to Lecrae, a rapper whose album Gravity won a Grammy earlier this year.  Some would call him a Christian rapper, others would say a rapper that just so happens to be a Christian. Either way, there’s no doubt that he approaches life and sees everything through a biblical worldview. One song  on Gravity that had the most anticipation and received the most criticism was “Mayday,” which features both Big K.R.I.T. and Ashthon Jones. Here’s the song below:

When the tracklisting for Gravity released, this song was the most anticipated song on the album because it featured K.R.I.T. Interestingly enough, it also received a lot of criticism from the Christian community because of K.R.I.T.’s feature. Critics disliked the song not because of the content or what K.R.I.T. said in his verse–the song hadn’t even come out yet. Some people in the Christian community simply did not like the fact that Lecrae decided to collaborate with a “secular” artist.  At first, I was somewhat thrown off by the collaboration until I began to think a little bit more about the song, Big K.R.I.T., and Hip-Hop culture in general. Like I said before, Hip-Hop culture has always used rap music as a language to communicate just about everything and anything under the sun. That’s exactly what Lecrae and Big K.R.I.T. did with this song; they used it as a tool to communicate something. What was that something? Well if you’ve already listened to the song then you probably have it figured out, but I want to take what they said and go deeper. I won’t go into a line-by-line study of both Emcee’s but I do want to highlight key lines. Starting with Big K.R.I.T.

Up until I heard Mayday, I had a vague understanding of who Big K.R.I.T. was as an artist and a very shallow understanding of what topics his music touched upon. I thought his music simply spoke about what we hear on a day-to-day basis on the radio: sex, drugs, money, braggadocio, and material wealth. I did some homework on K.R.I.T. after hearing his verse on Mayday and found a mixtape called King Remembered In Time and a song such as Praying Man from his Live From The Underground album. This mixtape and song caught my attention because of the heavy Christian content in it. I know that MC’s throughout the history of rap have used Christian themes in their music, album artwork, and music videos, but K.R.I.T.’s constant use of Christianity seemed unique, almost personal. I came to the conclusion that K.R.I.T. has a personal understanding of parts of Christianity. It’s no wonder why he said

A non-believer I never have or could be
Lord give me time to peep the signs I should see

This line pretty much sums up everything K.R.I.T. communicates in his verse; he’s never been an atheist–never doubted that God exists–but isn’t completely sure about everything Christ has to offer. Towards the end of his verse he continues to be honest with listeners about his wrestle with Pastors and “church-goers” and makes it clear that he isn’t claiming to be perfect. He’s simply being as honest as he could be.

I rarely go to Church
False prophets rocking Prada so I rarely feel the word
Jezebels lurking in the pews on the first
Preacher’s weaker than the deacon cause it’s hard to fight the urge

It’s hard to live and serve when you on the Devil’s turf
Sell your soul for the low with no sense of what it’s worth
Don’t get it twisted, I ain’t no saint, I ain’t no pastor
But prayer ain’t just for cloudy days and natural disasters

Aware of what comes after, I bet you ain’t for sure
I was warned that Heaven ain’t the only place to go

K.R.I.T. has heard about all types of Christian doctrine and bible verses from his grandmother but confesses that he is still unsure whether or not all of it is truth. I appreciate this honesty and believe that many of us can relate to this. Whether we’ve been a Christian for years or never even thought about becoming a Christian, there will always be times where we doubt what we believe in. What will either make or break our faith is dependent on having some type of way to confess our doubts. Next to that, we need someone to walk us through our doubts. They may not be able to answer every single question perfectly–and we should not expect them to either–but for some odd reason having a mature believer in Christ walk us through our doubts helps. It did for me when I began to doubt Jesus’ very existence and the truth of the Bible two years ago. For me, I had a pastor, church leaders, and other friends who wrestled with me through my doubt. Even though they were a big help, they would not have known I doubted God’s existence until I spoke up.

It seems to be the same way for  Big K.R.I.T. He’s been wrestling with doubts, with how some Pastors and Christians represent Christianity in a bad light; with whether or not the stuff his grandma taught him growing up is truth and Lecrae has been that person to walk with him through those wrestles.

When I hear K.R.I.T. confessing I respect him
Cause most of us be lying like our lives don’t need perfecting

This line from Lecrae simply states that there’s nothing but respect for K.R.I.T. for confessing his doubts. If you’re someone who can relate to what K.R.I.T. confessed, then it’s the same for you. There’s nothing but respect for you. So my encouragement to anyone who is doubting Christ–whether you believe in him or not–is for you to be honest with yourself, with God, and with someone else who you know you can trust because…

Help Is Just One Prayer Away, Don’t Be Afraid To Say “Mayday!”