The Foundation Of Hip Hop

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March 1, 2021

We at Felton Music Hall are big hip hop music fans. Most of us were growing up with 80’s & 90’s rap music blasting in our bedrooms, reverberating in our headphones, we were dancing to it while being playing in school yards and bobbed our heads to it as it blared out of our car windows. With the amount of amazing hip hop music that came out during the late 80’s & early 90’s, it is safe to call that era a “golden age of music.” I believe it’s a time we’ll likely never see again in the genre, due mainly to the unique freedom taken within it. Like jazz in the 1950’s, rock-n-roll in the late 60’s & early 70’s, post punk in the 80’s, indie rock in the early 2000’s, hip hop in the “golden era” was a moment in time that was bursting at the seams with creativity & cultural expression. As music videos rose to prominence, the images coming into our living rooms became many people’s first look authentic black culture. The words spoken on hip hop songs highlighted pressing social issues that were effecting urban community. And the music used to create hip hop – “the sample” – allowed artists a new & unique way to express themselves. On top of that, it gave the listeners of hip hop a unique window into the music that came before them & gave attention to many overlooked musicians of the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s. I can honestly say, that with out hip hop music, I like wouldn’t know the names Bob James, Ann Peebles, William Bell & Mtume.

The great producers like Dr. Dre, DJ Premier, Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Pete Rock sampled different beats, riffs & patters from a large array of sources, and it was this expansive way of sampling that helped pave the way for a new breed of artist. Here you didn’t need to know how to pluck a guitar or blow a horn, but you simply needed an impeccable ear. These masterminds weren’t just taking samples from old soul, funk, jazz & rock songs, but acts like Wu Tang Clan & MF Doom were taking clips from old kung-fu movies & cartoon shows and adding these clips into their songs that created eccentric sonic worlds that were truly unprecedented. The Beastie Boys’ iconic 1989 album Paul’s Boutique used over 200 individual samples alone. The last song on the record, “Shadrach”, had over 24 samples in one song. It was a fascinating time in the evolution of music, in large part because there weren’t many rules or regulations yet about what hip-hop artists could & couldn’t do with a sample. There was freedom, and this freedom led to expression.

Most producers during this time took the “use first, worry later” approach. This wasn’t with out its problems though. Bestie Boys are still paying for their homage to 70’s funk, De La Soul’s music still can’t be found on streaming services due to legal battles & Biz Markie faced massive financial troubles in the 90’s. But this didn’t stop hip hop artists from sampling old records. Due to the colossal amount of hip hop songs being put out during this time, copyright lawyers simply couldn’t keep up with the volume of songs being put out. With all that being said, the 80’s & 90’s were renowned for not only the unique sampling used, but also remembered for showcasing some of the greatest “forgotten classics” of the past.

Below we have compiled our first volume of 20 songs that were famously sampled by popular hip hop songs called: The Foundations Of Hip Hop. What we love so much about hip hop is not just the powerful words or the head banging beats, but we love hip hop’s ability to take you on a musical journey through time. It is inside hip hop music you can discover new worlds of jazz & funk, get introduced to new movies & hear powerful orators that would otherwise be unknown. It’s an incredible ride. So take a moment and come with us as we look back on a couple of our favorite songs that helped create some of the best hip hop tracks of all time.

What are your favorite songs sampled by hip hop?