Guardian piece on Massive Attack sample sources

This piece in the Guardian is a thoughtful perspective on the artistic aspects of sampling: An unofficial compilation of tracks sampled by Massive Attack showcases the group’s aesthetic through the songs that informed it – and provides fans with the thrill of discovering the originals

Sampling is weird. We’re so used to it, it’s been such a commonplace part of pop music for so long (since the late 1980s), that it’s easy to lose sight of what a peculiar thing it is. … To take a chunk of living time – which is what a sample is – and chain it into a loop isn’t just appropriation, it’s a form of enslavement.

No, it’s healthy culture in a free society.

A lot of musicians bitch about about how people who sample them shape their voice into a form they didn’t intend. They don’t want their song used in a commercial for Hitler, for example. (“Not just for breakfast anymore!”) But it’s contributing to reuse and appropriation that give the song meaning. The value of music is in how it’s used. Music on a pedestal is useless.


The original guardian piece has this YouTube video of Billy Cobham’s band performing a song which I know through the Massive Attack sample:

Cobham was a jazz fusion player. He’s a fine drummer but his writing and his band gross me out. In the Massive Attack reuse 20 years later, though, I loved his thing. The moral of the story is that the musician is never fully in control of the stuff that makes his work valuable. Billy Cobham thought his writing and band were part of the package, but really they were just a tax you had to pay to hear his drumming. People who sampled him knew that, even though he didn’t, and they fixed the problem in a way that he never could have.