The one skill that made Kanye famous in the recording studio

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The one skill that made Kanye famous in the recording studio

By William Phelps

Kanye abandoned album DONDA and, controversial Aside from, the album is another lesson in the producer’s long-standing relationship with sampling.

A digital audio workstation, called a DAW, where producers cut and edit their tracks. (stock image) © 123rf / sfrecords

Kanye West recently released his new album, which is another sample-fueled addition to his discography. Once again he returns to the top of the Billboard 200 Albums Chart.

Like any success story, Kanye rests on the shoulders of giants, because without the pioneers of music production and experimental styles, there would be no sampling.

No sampling is equal to no Ye.

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This practice has a long history, from the development of experimental genres like “concrete music” in mid-century France, to the improvement of sampling technology in the 1960s and 1970s.

Using a sample was much more complicated. It meant recording something to tape, then literally cutting it and pasting it where you wanted it to sound.

By the time you get to Kanye, the technologies of music production have changed a lot. He created much of his debut album in his bedroom, using a Roland VS-1680.

But no matter the time or the technology, the idea is unchanged. Take any sound, as is or reworked, then add it to the song you’re producing. Boom, sampling in brief.

How does Kanye West use the technique?

A modern mixer for production work.  (stored image)

A modern mixer for production work. (stock image) © 123RF / charnsitr

Producers like Kanye can make sampling an art form. Ye uses samples to add emotion to a track.

When he adds samples of vocal recordings, West brings more emotion, authenticity and emphasis to his tracks. But it’s not just songs that he samples.

Kanye is renowned for grabbing slices of a track, looping it, re-editing it, and adding effects to create the foundation for a song.

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Other samples are edited and sprinkled on his song, like a seasoning, making the meal a real treat for the ears. These slices of audio spice can transport you, bringing a deeper meaning to the song in which they are used.

At other times, building a track with samples is just setting up the song as a big punchline.

The carefully curated intro and build of Kanye’s 2018 track, Lift Yourself, is taken from the 1973 song Liberty by the band Amnesty.

Kanye’s first sampling signature was upping the tempo over sampled clips, and in Lift yourself he makes Amnesty’s Eight Men sound like a group of female choirs.

Next comes the hard-hitting 808, falling deeper before Kanye delivers “those bars.” This is one of the most exquisite uses of a sample in the producer’s bag of tricks, and makes the punchline even more absurd.

Where have Kanye and other samplers left their mark on the industry?

Headphones, headphones or speakers, just get that music in your ears.  (stored image)

Headphones, headphones or speakers, just get that music in your ears. (image stored) © 123rf.com/anawat

Sampling can be a meditative process or, as seen in a 2007 YouTube clip of Kanye in the studio. It’s a dance party for a

One thing Kanye and other producers have done with their samples is turn listening to music into an Easter egg hunt. There are creators and websites to find out where a sample came from and where it was used.

If you allow yourself, you can descend into the rabbit hole of music history by following the samples.

A good example of this is Kanye’s collaborative work with Kid Cudi to make the Kids See Ghosts album. It is the history of music on the left and on the right, with nods to some of the greatest, like Louis Prima, whose brassy voice is chopped on the 4th Dimension track.

Another big mark left by Kanye West in the music industry is the legal side of the game. He is infamous for sampling and then releasing songs without first securing the rights to the “borrowed” material. The producer / rapper has had to pursue several lawsuits for unauthorized use of the work of other artists. His new album Donda could be the most recent example.

From the gospel singer Bri Babineaux, her voice was unwittingly used on Lord I Need You, and she let fans know on Instagram that she wished she had known before the album is out.

The rule of thumb is that samples always come from someone else. As tacky as they can be when it comes to copyright, samples are an essential part of music production. Especially for Ye.

Whether legally or musically, Kanye West and his ever-evolving sampling style have left their mark on the industry.

Cover photo: 123rf / sfrecords

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