Todays hip hop scene has undergone a bit of a makeover. “Gangster” rap of a darker tone is still prevalent in some music mediums, but a smarter, backpacker, skater, hipster-esq sound (pioneered by artists such as Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West) has crept swiftly to the forefront. As apposed to the brutal punchlines and thumping beats that were the norm, now we hear a heavier focus on clever, intrinsic lyricism. Of course, every album (in the mainstream at least) has to have that “radio hit” to get a push in sales but, even then, the “b-side” to most of these albums seems to take a more cerebral stance most times.
On another note, sampling has become a heavy constant amidst today’s music as well. Most probably think Kanye immediately when thinking of sampling for hip hop but, truthfully, its been going on for a lot longer than that.
Now, with the transition in tone in hip hop, I’ve noticed that the medium from which producers sample has vastly widened. I’ve heard samples from Anime (Freeway’s latest track “Real Sh**” samples Appleseed’s opening song by Basement Jaxx) and video games as well. In this article, I’ll speak on the latter.
One example of hip hop sampling gaming is Charles Hamilton’s track “November 10”. In it, he samples the “Marble Zone” theme from Sonic The Hedgehog. He doesn’t flip it very intricately, merely adding a few pieces of percussion to it so its quickly recognizable as when the song starts. Hamilton is a poor example, though, simply because he’s taken the Sonic persona it incorporated it into his own shamelessly. Thus, making it no surprise to hear gaming influence his music.
A better example (which personally caught me off guard) is Wiz Khalifa. Granted, Wiz doesn’t produce his own music. Yet, it was still surprising to hear an artist portraying a image somewhat “harder” than Hamilton spit over a track sampling Chrono Trigger. His song “Never Been” is creatively pieced together over “Schala’s Theme” and it impresses. Even “Never Been II” sampled Chrono Trigger, this time using “Secret of the Forest”. Part II had Rick Ross (WHOOP) offering his own verse and, deep down, my inner gamer displayed a self-righteous smirk while listening to a supposed “gangster” rapper flow of a song sampling a japanese rpg.
The landscape of hip hop has changed and, so far, its been for the better. Not limiting sampling to older hip hop, jazz, etc will keep the genre bringing fresh sounds and unique approaches. Hopefully more artists will begin to push the envelope and blend entertainment mediums with their music, exposing a the younger generation to even more things to watch or listen to.