Esteemed producer and DJ Mark Ronson presented a spirited and emotional defence of sampling in records during a recent TED Talk, in which he makes the case for sampling as a significant art form in and of itself, responds to its critics, and proclaims that we now “live in a post-sampling era.”
Ronson used 1985’s La Di Da Di by the legendary Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh to guide his talk, explaining how the song has been sampled over 500 times, including famous interpretations by The Notorious B.I.G. in Hypnotize and, more recently, by Miley Cyrus in her 2013 hit We Can’t Stop.
“See, thirty years ago you had the first digital samplers, and they changed everything overnight. All of a sudden, artists could sample from anything and everything that came before them. From a snare drum from the Funky Meters, to a Ron Carter bass line, to the theme from The Price is Right.”
A running theme during his presentation — which opened with Ronson performing a TED Talk mega-mix, featuring samples of 15 previous TED Talks — was framing sampling in the context of previous movements in popular music, comparing albums like 3 Feet High and Rising by De La Soul to Sgt Pepper’s, and the early discovery of sampling to bands like The Rolling Stones discovering blues.
“And they weren’t sampling these records because they were too lazy to write their own music. They weren’t sampling these records to cash in on the familiarity of the original stuff… They were sampling those records because they heard something in that music that spoke to them,” he said.
Watch: Mark Ronson Talk at TED2014 Conference – How Sampling Transformed Music