Making beats: the art of sample-based hip hop
Schloss, Joseph Glenn
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Since its birth two decades ago in New York's African-American and Latino communities, hip-hop music (also known as "rap") has become the most popular musical genre in the United States. Structurally, hip-hop blends two relatively discrete endeavors: rhythmic poetry ("rapping"), and musical accompaniments in which brief segments of found sound (or "samples") are arranged into larger musical collages (known as "beats"). While much has been written about rapping, the "beats"---and the tightly knit community that produces them---have often been overlooked. Based on extensive ethnographic fieldwork, Making Beats explores the ways in which the non-vocal elements of recorded hip-hop are conceived by producers, and how these conceptualizations are informed by a variety of social, practical, and artistic concerns.After a brief historical overview of the development of hip-hop music in general and sampling in particular, I proceed to the social and aesthetic issues that concern hip-hop producers. These issues include why a musician would choose to use digital sampling rather than live instrumentation, the social significance of collecting rare records to sample, and the so-called "producer's ethics" which monitor the ways in which sampling may be used. Finally, I address the actual process of creating sample-based music, including the aesthetic that drives it, how technology facilitates the continued existence of this aesthetic, how legal and moral issues are resolved, and the practical steps that must be taken to produce a finished product.
- Ethnomusicology