Thursday, January 21, 2010

Copyright Criminals

Copyright Criminals is a new documentary from Independent Lens. Like a charging rhino they attack the issue of sampling head on. They cover the history of sampling as well as the legalities involved in the art form.

The first sampler I remember was a huge machine called the Fairlight, this thing was as big as a stove. You would select a sound you want and it would play it back, I think the bit rate was 44.1. It was awesome. In 1985 that is.

Akai attacked the art of sampling a couple of years later with the Akai S -900 I think it was called. Also on the market was the sp-12 and then the sp-1200, this is when hip-hop production of the 90's and late 80's began to take form.

The master of the sp-1200 was WBLS deejay and producer Marley Marl. Hands down, everyone that came after Marley learned their craft from him. His shit was incredible. The first production he did utilising a sample was MC Shan's "Marley's Scratch". Marley used the kick and snare from RUN-DMC's 'Sucker MC's". Every production Marley did thereafter was off the wall. Marley would take a 3.5 second sample or a 5.5 second sample from something like "Hard to Handle" or "You Lost That Lovin' Feelin' and kill it. He added 808 kicks and snares and reprogrammed the drums, he was like God to us back then.

If Marley was God to us, then the production team of Hank Shocklee, Eric Sadler, Keith Shocklee and Chuck D were as awesome as a Black Hole to us. What they did, to this day, is the most incredible shit. The way they layered sounds on top of sounds was ....invincible.

Their use of James Brown's band the JB's in particular the funk drumming of Clyde Stubblefield was not of this world. I'll never forget the very first time I heard "Rebel Without a Pause", I fell off of my bed with my mouth wide open and in stone cold silence.

Chuck sounded like a prophet broadcasting from some underground bomb shelter somewhere. "Yes, the rhythm the rebel..."

Maybe the best opening for a rap record.

The only thing Copyright Criminals lacks is coverage of Ultimate Breaks and Super Disco Brakes, the records that were the foundation for late 80's and early 90's hip-hop recordings.
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