10 Excellent Unconventional Samples
  • MONDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2016

  • Posted by: Mike Montemarano

The concept of samples as a means of embellishing music, or structuring a song around an altered version of a sample, has been embraced as a new and innovative way to reimagine older ideas for one's own purpose. It predominantly began and was most prevalent among hip hop musicians but continues to be tapped into by a variety of independent musicians in ways which thematically contextualize musical ideas in really great ways. Here's a list of some super cool and unexpected uses of strange samplings which totally work.

Doom - "Cellz (Born Like This)"

Doom, also known as MF Doom, is a UK rapper whose productions are absolutely one of a kind. His often mellowed-out, retro styles incorporate spoken word samples coming from a diverse range of places including old Marvel comics tv series, cinematic soundtracks, and Motown melodies. With a strange metal face mask, he embodies a stage character preoccupied with apocalyptic visions and comic book villain qualities (his name a reference to Fantastic 4 big bad, Victor Von Doom). "Cellz" opens up with Charles Bukowski reciting one of his poems entitled "Dinosauria, We," being backed by a string section that sounds like it's from an old horror movie, and campy science fiction sound effects. Doom's eccentricity in the beats he produces adds such a novel and fun quality to his elaborate repertoire of music in a way that can only be experienced firsthand.




Death Grips - "Klink"

The experimental rap-noise project Death Grips is a culmination of frenetic boundary-pushing in multiple genres of music at once. Almost all of the beats they produce have incredibly strange and distorted rhythms full of samples which are heavily processed and distorted to sound like horrific versions of what they once were in a cluster of noisy, droning crescendos. Arguably the most identifiable sample is the recognizable guitar riff from Black Flag's "Rise Above." Perhaps MC Ride and the group of Californian noise enthusiasts were paying homage to the band who had quite an experimental, minimalist sound that Black Flag were peddling in their home state. Either way, those fuzzy power chords were one of the most iconic guitar riffs of the 1980s punk scene.




Vacationer - "Trip"

Okay, so here's one band that just takes the cake. Not only does Vacationer use really cool retro samples, but the majority of the sounds they produce ARE samples. It's pretty hard to imagine the savviness it would take to be able to discover and mix so many sound samples from all over the place to construct such well put-together songs, and there are too many samples in any given song to even begin to describe the complexities of the collages of retro, cinematic music Vacationer puts together.






Iggy Pop- "Lust For Life"

The unofficial godfather of punk rock, Iggy himself, used a Supremes sample in one of his most popular songs, "Lust for Life." The bubblegum bassline which he utilizes for the root of the song was Iggy's way of paying homage to Detroit, his place of origin. The sheer contrast between the sweet innocence of the Supremes, one of the biggest names in Motown, and the raw, unbridled energy of a self-described "street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm" is one of the most unexpected clashes that just somehow works seamlessly to create one of Iggy's coolest songs.




Public Enemy- "Bring The Noise"

Sure, at this point sampling straight Motown has become a bit cliche, but Public Enemy were among the first to do it, and in many ways were the best. They found ways to get tons of samples in each of their songs to blend seamlessly, and each of their samples were cut and pasted to sound completely distinct from the original samples. Combining 60's tunes from James Brown, Marva Whitney, and the Commodores among others, the diverse mixes in Public Enemy songs showed some serious contextual knowledge of the fusion between Motown and hip hop which pioneered such a huge movement that resonated within the genre.




DJ Shadow - "Midnight In A Perfect World"

DJ Shadow is truly a one of a kind within the realm of instrumental hip hop, the genre of which he has both pioneered and mastered. His record collection exceeds 60,000, and every track he has ever produced is comprised solely of samples from various records and no self-produced sounds. Endtroducing... is a beautifully ambient and spacey album, and really exemplifies just how broad of a range one can have when incorporating mashups into their work, so much in fact that it made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the first album to be composed entirely of sampled sound. Truly groundbreaking.




Old Gray - "Instrumental"

This is a very cool interpretation and selection of a wild, compelling sound sample which adds so much to the tone and mood of instrumental music. The sample included is excerpted from a movie called Network, with a monologue from a character named Howard Beale. The spoken word excerpt certainly adds a degree of intensity and intent behind the two minute long instrumental song compared to the other instrumental spoken word pieces they have.




La Dispute - "Five"

While not a sound sampling per se, La Dispute put out two really cool albums in which they create instrumental backdrops to fit the character of various poems of an array of authors which their lead vocalist does spoken word renditions of. Easily some of the coolest stuff they've put out, and since we're on a Bukowski train already, here's a song which incorporates an entire medley of his poetry to create a really cool, innovative "sampling" of works.




Das Racist - "You Oughta Know"

This is a very interesting take on a Billy Joel Sample. Brooklynites Das Racist have set the stage with their bantering rap which is both heavily charged with big and unconventional ideas and a sense of disillusionment in addition to a sense of humor deeply embedded within their music. I never would have imagined any Billy Joel songs making for such a good baseline in a hip hop beat, but Das Racist somehow found a way to make it happen. The chorus is especially funny, it's just like, "did they seriously just do that?" and yes, they did.




Kendrick Lamar - "Hood Politics"

Aside from producing one of the most important hip hop records of the past decade if not longer, Kendrick Lamar's sampling selections include some shout outs that would make the average indie-head proud. Aside from the Beach House sample in "Money Tree," Sufjan Stevens vocals and guitar are utilized as samples in "Hood Politics" to create a somber and melancholic beat that is sure to please. It may be more on the subtle side, but the Sufjan vibe is certainly there, and adds quite an element of eerie-ness to the song.


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