808s and cynical corporate fiat

These TIs, man I tell you. As soon as you think they’ve run out of ways to ruin hip-hop, they find another one. Or have they?

My latest suspicion is that they’ve issued some sort of order that producers are no longer allowed to work with samples. Or maybe they’ve placed a limit on the number of samples used per album, or the total amount of money they’re willing to spend on samples per album.

This occurred to me yesterday while I was reading an article in SPIN (which I stumbled upon on the Internets – I can’t go into places that sell shit without getting depressed) about the death of sample-based hip-hop production. It was talking about there’s hardly any samples on many of the bigger recent hip-hop albums. On the new Young Jeezy album, for example, there’s only four samples, the most prominent of which just so happens to be on the one track on the album I found to be listenable – “Let the Dollar Circulate,” or whatever it’s called.

Then again, it’s not like Young Jeezy has ever been known to spit over a lot of hot samples. I was more surprised to learn that the new Kanye West album, 808s & Heartbreak, supposedly contains nary a single sample. Though obviously they aren’t counting that song “Coldest Winter,” which is a wanton rehash of an old Tears for Fears record. I guess it technically doesn’t include a sample from “Memories Fade.” It probably would have been better if it did. Could it be that the sudden, bizarre shift in the style of music Kanye West is putting out has as much to do with business concerns as it does his dead mom or whatever?

I wouldn’t be surprised if it does. Think about it.

a) We know Kanye has been complaining for years now about how he doesn’t make any money from album sales, despite the fact that he’s sold millions and millions of albums each time out, because he spends so much money recording them, shooting videos for them and what have you.

b) We know times are hard in the Def Jam building. If Shakir Stewart wouldn’t have died all of a sudden, he probably would have been let go at the beginning of the year anyway. That may have even factored into his untimely demise. Maybe he told Kanye to make his records more like Young Jeezy’s, and Kanye responded with “Love Lockdown.”

c) How hard is it, really, to loop up a few classic soul records and add a few layers of superfluous razzle dazzle? Especially given the fact that we know Kanye has guys he pays to find samples for him – just like he has guys he pays to blog. If money wasn’t an issue, I doubt they’d be in the situation they’re in, where the new Jay-Z album has been postponed to make it more like “Swagger Like Us.”

And that last point, in particular, doesn’t bode very well for the future of hip-hop as an art form. The thing about sample-based hip-hop production is that it’s already been dead, for the most part, since back in the 1990s. To the extent that you do still hear beats with samples on the radio, it’s been because of the few guys who can still afford to release albums packed full of samples. Guys like Jay-Z, Kanye, and… not a whole lot of other people, really.

Once those guys are gone… who knows? There might not be very much more sample-based hip-hop production released by major labels. If Def Jam replaced Jay-Z with the guy who brought us Young Jeezy and Officer Rawse, it’s not like they’re gonna replace him with Pete Rock or somebody. They’re gonna be looking for people with a similar sensibility. Especially given the fact that a few dumbasses are actually shelling out for 808s & Heartbreak. Given its relatively minimal production costs, I wouldn’t be surprised if they make more from it than they did from Graduation. Crap!

  • Pierzy

    So…are you saying it’s a big conspiracy or that Kanye is finally trying to get his paper right?

  • Smel

    I’m gonna assume you meant corporate *fist*, though if anybody was gonna drive a tiny, Italian, corporate fiat, it would be Kanye.

    If Yeezy’s lack of samples is due to financial concerns, then why make the statement about how he doesn’t care about album sales this time around?

    Dazzle camouflage?

    • http://jasongchu.blogspot.com Grand Master

      Nah, pretty sure Bol (a college graduate, unlike yeezy) meant fiat.

  • Hate Hate and More Hate

    I think KanGay’s flop ass album would have been better if we would have used samples. For instance, he could have replaced his lyrics with a sample of a 3 legged dog giving birth while being stabbed in the eye with a rusty butter knife, slapped some drums over it and his album would have been 100 times better.

    • BIGNAT

      LMAO OH SHIT OH SHIT NIGGA I GOTTA BREATHE HAHAHAHAHHAHA

  • Phil

    “How hard is it, really, to loop up a few classic soul records and add a few layers of superfluous razzle dazzle?”

    Harder than you think. I’m not even going to argue about this ignorant “point”, except to say that the MORE people fight something, the more it FIGHTS BACK. In other words, like real Hip-Hop is, this gets the middle digit.

  • Matt Herbz

    Well, as Kanye’s sound has come into its own, his use of samples, I believe, has decreased. But it only makes sense as you finally step out from behind the board that you start actually making your own music. Once you know the sound you’re going for, then you can reproduce that effect without having to pay for no samples. Hell, you could get the bitch on the corner to spit a verse on the mic instead of slob your knob, then run the sound clip through the computer and make it sound like it was sang 40 years ago on some classic jazz shit. I give Kanye grief because of his huge ego and general bad attitude…oh, and his metro-homosexuality, but I’ll give him credit for creating his own sound. You can just about tell a Kanye beat without looking at the credits. Now he’s just got to find a way to do it without sampling, but he’s the one to do it if it can be done. I don’t think there is a conspiracy, I just think it’s smart music making.

    –Matt Herbz–

    • Phil

      Sure, and as a result, we get a bunch of poorly played, synthetic, emotionless “music” that starts soundling like EVERYONE ELSE’S.

      Great. Progress at it’s most assimilated. Have fun.

  • BUKKA BUKKA

    In that New Zealand press conference he said he hardly used 808′s himself, instead using 909′s.

    Most, if not all (I can’t remember what he said) of the 808′s on the album are sampled. I don’t know if you pay royalties on sampling drum loops though…

  • http://xxlmag.com Billy X. Sunday

    808s is the best album of 2008. Better than the Renaissance and better than Rising Down.

    After the fall of humans and the rise of the robots (Skynet). 808s will be sampled freely for commericials and other shit.

    • Phil

      You are clearly insane and susceptible to pop bullshit. Get your meds.

    • BIGNAT

      BILLY MUST HAVE BEEN IN THE HERB GARDEN TODAY

  • JAY STONE

    Bol and his conspiracy theories eh!

  • http://www.incilin.blogspot.com Incilin

    Yeah, you might on to something here. Or at least, those dudes at Spin are.

  • Josh

    It’s not rocket science.

    Budgets have been slashed and samples cost money to clear.

    And from the producer’s standpoint, selling a beat with a sample can mean a smaller advance and possibly no publishing (especially an up and coming producer).

    So…less labels are paying for beats with samples and less producers are using samples.

    It’s not a conspiracy.

    • FlapJack

      I thought the exact same thing..

      Is it cheaper not to use samples? Really?
      It’s always some conspiracy

      Maybe Kanye’s mom isn’t dead at all, and they just tricked us into buying a bunch of sampleless cd’s…laced with heroin..
      Aha!

  • http://jasongchu.blogspot.com Grand Master

    Smel – nah, pretty sure Bol (a college graduate, unlike yeezy) meant fiat.

  • JDizzel3000

    The inlfuence/popularity of Southern Rap Music which generally uses more rythm/bass oriented beats have caused the lack of “traditional” sampling sound …not some half-baked conspiracy theory..

  • Moi

    no “pause” after tears for fears?

  • latino heat

    lmao at officer rawse.

  • tony grand$

    I agree that the sample-free era has been upon us for quite some time (possibly beginning with the downfall of Death Row), but I’ve also noticed that as a whole, hip hop has grown to accept the more crisp, original turn our music has taken. All the guff and clamour we received for jackin beats just sort of dissolved as we became more sonically independant. I’m not sure how I feel about the sampling, bcuz only a few artists still exist with the penchant for using the sample as a part of the instrumentation, i.e. The Chocolate Boy Wonder, Preemo, Yeezy, Lord Finesse, Dr Dre, Erick Sermon & Diamond D to name a few. Even the rappers don’t have that “thing” vocally to even mesh right with samples if u ask me. I’m not interested in hearing Soulja Boy or Da Snowman wax philosophic over an Isaac Hayes riff. But I definitely miss the Black Moons, Gangstarrs, Smif-N-Wessuns, and those of the like. Hip hop has matured & become increasingly self reliant, even if it meant sampling ourselves (a la EPMD). But, if there are still those who do know how to pimp a sample & revitalize the original feeling it had, it would be under Kanye, or Jay-Z. So if there not doing it any longer, then it may be a jagged pill to swallow, but I don’t think it would damage the creativity of the artform. Producers would have to indeed earn that title like they had to back in the cave man days. It would force artists to really step their game up in front of, as well as behind the mic, so it may be the blessing in disguise needed to get us outta the muck we’re currently stuck in. May turn out to be a good look. We know in a year or so, it’ll be time for the annual hip hop face lift again anyway. As long as Lil Wayne isn’t spearheading the evolution, I’m all in.

  • amar

    i hate to be the guy who relates something to this, cuas ei hate that fucking guy who does that but…….could it be becuase of the recession that they’re saving money on samples?

  • http://www.theunderwriters.blogspot.com THE UNDERWRITER

    Great points in this one. Sampling is dead.

  • geico lizard

    If this is true it will rid the industry of producers with no talent who just do remixes,mixtapes and sample other songs.

    • Phil

      So cats who remix have no talent? Cats who bust they ass to promote new talent have no talent? GTFOH! And replace them with who? Kings of the Casio? You want to kill the DJ, too? You don’t even know what the fuck you’re saying.

  • http://kobasounds.com Koba

    To nitpick (co-sign on the general point) but I’m pretty sure “Bad News” off 808′s uses a sample from Nina Simone’s “See-Line Woman” or a craftily accurate interpolation of the percussion anyhow.