Having previously charted hip-hop artists by their vocabularies (and compared those vocabularies to Shakespeare and Moby Dick), Matt Daniels is back with another project that looks to recontextualize hip-hop. This time around he’s tackling the art of sampling, which repurposes existing songs into brand new ones. On his new site Sample Stitch, Daniels proves sampling is far more complicated than just cutting and pasting. Take for instance Jay-Z and Kayne West’s “Otis,” which not only samples an extended portion of Otis Redding’s “Try A Little Tenderness,” but also builds its whole beat from tiny portions of the song chopped up and rearranged.
To demonstrate how the process works, Sample Stitch transforms any computer keyboard into a mini recording studio. By breaking down hip-hop tracks into their sampled components and linking each of those components to a specific key on the keyboard, the site lets users replicate the experience of building a song from scratch. In fact, it’s remarkably similar to the process West actually uses in the studio.
There are three song options to play around with, incuding the aforementioned “Otis” as well as J Dilla’s “Don’t Cry” (which samples The Escorts “I Can’t Stand To See You Cry”) and 9th Wonder’s “Impressknowssoul!!!!” (which samples The Impressions’ “Sunshine”). There’s more information below the main keyboard page about each of these songs and how they use sampling.
Once users select a song they can start messing around with its individual components by pressing keys on their keyboard and then hitting the “Record” button to save their work. The site also provides snippets from the finished Kayne, J Dilla, and 9th Wonder tracks so users can try to replicate those beats and/or add to them.
Broken down like this, it’s easy to see how complicated sampling actually is, especially because—as Daniels notes—real life producers also have to do the work of finding the individual components in the first place—they don’t come prearranged on a keyboard. Those looking to educate themselves on sampling and/or waste time at work can access Sample Stitch here.