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The sampling Yeezus! - EMP Blog Week 3

Kanye West needs no introduction. He is a 21 Grammy Awards winner and one of the best-selling hip-hop artists in the world with more than 32 million album sales and 100 million digital downloads. Three of his albums have been included and ranked on Rolling Stone's 2012 update of the "500 Greatest Albums of All Time" list. He debuted in the early-to-mid 2000s with his album "The college dropout" to critical acclaim. West subsequently dominated the hip-hop scene in the following years with the release of his similarly praised albums "Late Registration" and "Graduation". These albums saw West diverge from the then-dominant gangster persona in hip hop in favour of more diverse, topical lyrical subjects including higher education, materialism, self-consciousness, minimum-wage labour, institutional prejudice, family, sexuality, and his personal struggles in the music industry.

Although in recent years, West has been the subject of a lot of controversies for his on-stage and off-stage behaviour, but this does not change the fact that he is one of the most influential musical artists in the world.

Rolling Stone in an article credited West with transforming hip hop's mainstream, "establishing a style of introspective yet glossy rap and called him "as interesting and complicated a pop star as the 2000s produced—a rapper who mastered, upped and moved beyond the hip-hop game, a producer who created a signature sound and then abandoned it to his imitators, a flashy, free-spending sybarite with insightful things to say about college, culture and economics, an egomaniac with more than enough artistic firepower to back it up."

Over the years, Kanye has been experimenting with a lot of different sound production techniques which is evident from his ever evolving music but the technique that his music is often associated with and something that he is known to be masterful at is Sampling.

Sampling in a nutshell is, taking a sample or a portion of a piece of recording or music, altering it and then using it as an instrument or a sound recording in another piece of music or recording.

Sampling was never uncommon in hip-hop. Back in the day, many producers and DJs like Kurtis Blow, Run DMC and Beastie Boys, etc. were known to have sampled old records and other field recordings and incorporating them into their own music. Old school hip hop DJs experimented with manipulating vinyl on two turntables and an audio mixer. However, what sets Kanye West apart from his predecessors is his art of discovering and extraction of samples from territories unknown to hip hop music and making them blend with his own music as if they’d always belonged there. By manipulating tempo, chopping and stretching, samples are like putty in his hands. He has sampled artists like Daft Punk and Aphex Twin.

Early in his career, West pioneered a style of production dubbed "chipmunk soul” which utilized pitched-up vocal samples, usually from soul and R&B songs, along with his own drums and instrumentation. West uses four primary pieces for sampling, sequencing and recording duties: An Ensoniq ASR-10 keyboard, an Akai MPC2000 MIDI Production Center, a Roland VS-1880 24-bit Digital Studio Workstation and a Gemini PT-1000 II turntable.

One of West’s trademarks, besides classic ’70s soul loops, is ample use of speed. Almost every other track on “The College Dropout” features a sped-up vocal sample, be it Dinah Washington on “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” or Chaka Khan on “Through the Wire.”

Check out Kanye's use of the MPC sampler in the video below.

Also check out his track "Blame Game" which samples the piano from Aphex Twin's "Avril 14th" (links below)

Aphex Twin - Avril 14th

Kanye West - Blame Game


The College Dropout (2017). Retrieved 26 February 2017, from

Sampling (music) (2017). Retrieved 26 February 2017, from

Kanye West (2017). Retrieved 26 February 2017, from

Hip hop production (2017). Retrieved 26 February 2017, from

Jones, L. (2017). "Kanye's 'Yeezus' - Why His Sampling Still Sets Him Apart - NME". Retrieved 26 February 2017, from

Hip hop production (2017). Retrieved 26 February 2017, from

Kanye West – This is how he does it (2017). Retrieved 26 February 2017, from

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