Will You '90s Babies Shut Up and Admit Rap Was 100 Times Better in the '90s?

Sample-based hip-hop spawned an entire culture of celebrating old, obscure or forgotten artists

Nerds will be nerds, and the obscure, forgotten and underrated will always have their champions in the annals of music history. But hip-hop transformed the resuscitation of old artists into an entire wing of its musical museum.

In the late '80s, there was a run on James Brown loops, and you couldn't walk down a New York City street block without hearing his sped-up vocals shouting at you from a tenement window or passing car. Producers wanted to do more; samples became collages, and then the samples were distorted, basslines were filtered, and artists began digging. At one point, a major hip-hop crew was even called "D.I.T.C."—Diggin' In The Crates. Searching for records to use as sample sources became a way to further the creative direction of the genre and cast off the shackles of JB's breakbeats.

Q-Tip sampled Roy Ayers, Large Professor sampled Donald Byrd and the music of R&B, jazz and soul musicians again filled the airwaves and tape decks. Sometimes, older artists saw more money from the use of their samples than they did the originals. Sure, some rappers, from Puffy to Coolio, just re-imagined old hits for an audience that were too young for them the first time through. But plenty of producers were also playing with those breaks, re-inventing them and clipping distinct portions, rendering them unrecognizable. This tradition would wax and wane in popularity in hip-hop more widely, but once it started, it took on a life of its own.

Stay Connected with
Complex Music
blog comments powered by Disqus