in the 90s, sampling triumphed in rap and electro

in the 90s, sampling triumphed in rap and electro
in the 90s, sampling triumphed in rap and electro

THE TOP 100 OF THE 1990S – Simple pumping or fine recreation? Sampling reached peaks during the decade. Like the French MC Solaar or the American Moby who use it in their timeless hits.

In “Play” (1999), Moby borrows several of his samples from the catalog of American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax.

In “Play” (1999), Moby borrows several of his samples from the catalog of American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. Photo Fryderyk Gabowicz/Picture alliance via Getty Images

By Erwan Perron

Published on May 9, 2024 at 4:00 p.m.

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QWhen I suggested that we retain Playby the American Richard Melville Hall, aka Moby, in our top 100 best albums of the 1990s, some protests and nasty jokes arose around the table. “Ah! no, not Moby » seemed to be the general feeling. Even if my dear colleagues have never formulated it like this, this record, emblematic in 1999 of the intrusion of house music into the pop world, and which has necessarily aged a little, is still unconsciously perceived by a part of the public and the critics as the work of a vile “thief”.

In fact, and without this taking away from the undiminished pleasure I feel in listening to it, it is in many ways! Moby draws most of his vocal and instrumental samples from the catalog of the American ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax (1915-2002), particularly in his compilation Sounds of the South: A Musical Journey from the Georgia Sea Islands to the Mississippi Delta, released in 1993. On Honey, he couples the warm, scratchy voice of blues singer Bessie Jones (1902-1984) with haunting piano loops. On the very dancing Find My Baby, at the end of the chorus he scratches that of the negro spiritual tenor Roland “Boy Blue” Hayes (1887 -1976)…

Pumping – even cultural appropriation – or homage? Simple plunder made possible by the appearance of a new technology (sampling) or intense and saving reviviscence and recreation? I opt for the second answer each time, driven by a certain spirit of revenge… Because throughout the 1990s I was fed up with these remarks like “rappers are not musicians, they are content to plunder other people’s music” or “house is boom-boom without a budget, disco but without real instrumentalists. »

Of course, one may not be interested in Gangsta’s Paradise by rapper Coolio, which sold nearly six million singles upon its release in 1995. An unstoppable hit, although a little “easy”. Since its sung refrain and its melodic line are borrowed from Pastime Paradise, song written and composed by Stevie Wonder on the album Songs in the Key of Life (1976). But today, who will deny that Get out of here , whose rhythm is based on a finely sculpted sample of the title The Message, of the English Cymande, is something other than a simple copying? On the microphone, Solaar impresses thanks to his elastic delivery and his supple and chiseled writing, made of funny alliterations and poetic images. Not to mention the fact that this French hit will have allowed the eight Londoners of Cymande to make themselves known to a wider audience…

Today, although still used, sampling has largely gone out of fashion – also for reasons of royalties and practices: rights holders ask for ever larger sums and new research software makes the use of sampling difficult. without authorization. Are many of us nostalgic for this blessed period of the 1990s and sampling? In the fall, Moby will properly celebrate twenty-five years of Play by giving five European concerts: in Düsseldorf, London, Antwerp, Berlin and Paris. Don’t look for a place, it’s been full for a long time. I reserved mine.

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