A few weeks ago Noisey had an article about new producers who scour YouTube and web sites to get samples. It talked about the popularity of internet record digging, that is getting music to sample on the internet, and how a lot of producers today are doing that, rather then the original way with found vinyl records. That article and a conversation with Skeme Richards and a few other diggers got us thinking about it and prompted us to do this piece today. Vinyl record sales may be at an all time high right now, but is technology killing the sample game that the forefathers of the art laid down in the beginning? Flea Market Funk investigates.
Back in the day, before Paul’s Boutique set the precedence, before the Biz got sued for “Alone Again, Naturally”, you had to have a vast digger’s knowledge on what was sampled. You either got down and dirty with the face mask, gloves, and baby wipes or had some help (which was earned people) that was passed down from an older DJ or digger. Or by sheer luck, you stumbled upon the record out in the field. There wasn’t a manual at the time that told you who sampled what…..yet. DJs covered up or mislabeled their records to throw others off. Your vinyl was your weapon, and if the enemy got it, he could use it against you. There was always Ultimate Breaks and Beats, but you never knew who used the sample, they never gave that away. The tradition of finding out on your own was still in effect. A whole slew of record series started to pop up, from Dusty Fingers (which did not reveal who used the sample), to Diggin’, and The _________ Collections that actually told you who used what for which tune. This prompted a pushback by producers like Preemo and a few others, who even lashed out at Serato when it first came out. It seems that Serato has been embraced by them now, but is still a hot bed of controversy among the record community. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “I’ve earned Serato”, I’d have quite a few bills in my pocket. However, that’s a different topic all together. When the internet era began, newsgroups and e-mail lists gave way to dedicated sites and blogs that talked about these rare records. Some offered downloads. Some wrote dedicated posts about these rare digs, which brought e-digging (I hate that word) to life. We’ve broke down samples here at Flea Market Funk in our Anatomy of A Sample series at times, not to ruin the sample, but to pay homage to both tracks and the producer. We’d like to think it as contributing to the history of our music. While some may say we are contributing to the problem, we’d like to think otherwise. Some internet communities like Soul Strut and Waxidermy offered extensive knowledge from producers, diggers, DJs, and more. The attitude was mixed on these boards, but Soul Strut had a .gif that said “Take that shit to TheBreaks.com”, referring to the Rap FAQ site and sample data base. If you asked a member about samples, most likely that’s the answer you got. Samples were still sacred at that point. I remember walking into Turntable Lab in here in NYC pre-internet record site blow up and telling them about The Holy Book of Hip Hop I just bought off of some guy. I was interested in samples, and for $20 almost 15 years ago a bible of samples and sampled artists arrived at my door. I was curious just like anyone else.
“My record player doesn’t even work anymore. The fact I haven’t fixed it speaks volumes of how much more simple and rewarding the blog digging has been for me.”- Blockhead, producer
In today’s world, things are much simpler. You want a track, go to the internet. Between soulseek and a myriad of other sharing platforms, dedicated blogs and sites, and YouTube, your digging is a lot easier. If I wanted to get a copy of Salt’s “Hung Up”, I could download it right now and have it in less than 2 minutes. Hell, I can even order a bootleg of the original and edit with extra drums as well. It would be about $4480 less than the original 45. E bay will get you your record (at a price) conveniently and usually quickly. As technology gets better and better, and acquiring music is easier and easier, it seems like the sample and vinyl purists are fewer and fewer these days. It’s no secret that many producers sample off of MP3s or VCR tapes and the like. It’s what they do with it, the layering and coupling that with real digging for records to sample in the field that makes these special few stand out in the bunch. However, this new “want it now” generation may just be discovering vinyl, but that’s an after thought when trying to sample. Technology is cutting out the middleman, i.e. hard work, and getting records quickly that may have taken people decades to acquire through old fashion digging. While we do use Serato here and also spin vinyl, this part of the technology is not something we worry about. It’s the each one, teach one mentality, the hard work of getting up at the crack of dawn in inclement weather, the traveling to far away places, and the sheer effort we diggers put in that’s dashed by one click of the mouse. Sure the supply of records may be on the decline, but doesn’t it make it that much sweeter when you pull something big out? I saw a fellow digger recently pull out a rare African record (The Funkees) for a dollar, so gold is still out in the field for sure. It’s just a question if this generation wants to put in the effort and do it the old fashioned way. We here at Flea Market Funk still want to dig. It’s in our blood, and once you get it, no technology can take that feeling away. I’ve never downloaded a song and called my fellow digger and said: “look at the rare MP3 I just got”. You know why? It’s impossible. You can’t hold an MP3. Our two cents today people, feel free to discuss.