How Māori and Pasifika artists are continuing the tradition of sampling by using music from a shared childhood
Contemporary music has indulged in a pastiche imitation of traditional hip-hop sampling. Much like Te Ao Māori and the Pacific world, hip-hop treasures the past, and the art of sampling is one such example. Sampling, a digital process in which pre-recorded sounds are incorporated into the sonic fabric of a new song, has been a practice and tradition within hip-hop since its formation in 1973. Hip-hopers would sample either obscure sounds to create something original that had never been heard or the music that they heard growing up. Albums like De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising and DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing looted from decades of recorded music to create sonically layered masterpieces made up of obscure samples. Producers like Madlib and J Dilla would seek out obscure records to sample from while others like The Notorious B.I.G. provide us with a prominent example of childhood sampling on his track ‘Hypnotize’. Biggie’s samples reuses the lyrics and rhythm of ‘La Di Da Di’ by Slick Rick in the chorus of ‘Hypnotize’ that accentuates his ability as a lyricist while also evolving the sound into something different and original.
Sampling has since made its way into the pop and capitalist music world. Record labels and producers now use the act of sampling to cash in on nostalgia. Records like ‘Mr Clean’ and ‘Betty (Get Money)’ by Yung Gravy or ‘Wild Thoughts’ by DJ Khalid are great examples of this. While incredibly catchy (I am guilty of liking these tracks), nothing new is added and the resulting product is cheap, pastiche, and bland. To sample in a way that’s honest and creative, you have to add something new, something fresh. When we add or evolve something within a sample that is significant and original, we merge our musical journey with the original piece of music. We take the things that we love, and we build on them allowing us as artists to become a part of the evolution of the music we love. These sounds become extensions of ourselves.
Artists sample music because they hear something in that music that speaks to them, so much so that they want to inject themselves into the narrative of that music, and nowadays we find ourselves surrounded by technology that makes it easy for us to do so. In an era of pastiche sampling, Māori and Pacific youth now find themselves returning to this hip hop tradition by sampling the music of a shared Polynesian childhood, linking their work to esteemed songs of our past.
UK Drill has shown a heavy use of samples to evoke the same emotions as they did when they heard it as kids. Hip hop is a young man’s game, and the music these kids choose to sample is becoming more and more contemporary. A1 x J1 sample ‘The Nights’ by Avicii on their track ‘Coming for You’; Tion Wayne samples the La Roux track ‘In For The Kill’ on his track ‘IFTK’, and Liilz samples The Wanted track ‘Glad You Came’ on his track ‘Glad U Came’. There are endless examples but the key
Inspired by the Drill scenes of Chicago and South London, Polynesian artists from Western Sydney have reprocessed this blueprint to originate a sound unique to this side of the Pacific. Australian group ONEFOUR is credited with the creation of Aussie Drill. ONEFOUR share space with UK Driller Headie One on the track ‘Ain’t it Different’, a track that samples ‘Butterfly’ by Crazy Town. It is no coincidence that these boys chose to remix a track that got to #4 on the Australian charts and #2 on the NZ Charts when it came out in 2000. A track that would’ve been released during their formative years.
Perhaps my favourite example of nostalgic sampling in a way that is true to the craft, is on the track ‘6 to The World’ by Aussie Drill collective HP Boyz. The crew sampled Greggory Abbots ‘Shake You Down’, a track that is famous amongst Māori and Pacific Islanders and might as well be New Zealand’s national anthem. The track featured on Wicked Waiatas Vol 1. and is synonymous with garage parties. It’s the first time ‘Shake You Down’ had been sampled in 17 years.
Across the Tasman, New Zealand has its own examples of more contemporary sampling. Church & AP sample Adeaze’s ‘Memory Lane’ on the track ‘Church On A Sunday’ and made it all the more nostalgic with lyrics that discuss shared experiences amongst 2000s Polynesians.
The subculture of Sirening also provides examples of sampling more contemporary music, albeit in a very raw way. The corresponding genre of Siren Jamz has led many Pacific youth sampling songs like Usher’s ‘My Boo’, ‘#Beautiful’ by Mariah Carey, and TLCs ‘No Scrubs’. Because Sirening is still an emerging subculture that is still evolving in the way people express it, the aptitude and ability for these artists to sample with skill is still developing. A good example are the remixes made by NZs very own IWA.PROD. Tracks like ‘Yp 2Pac Kingston’ mix UB40’s ‘Kingston Town’ and overlaps 2Pac’s verse from ‘Hit ‘Em Up’ as well as verses from Australian drill rappers.
In a landscape of social media and music where so many artists and songs feel engineered specifically to become money machines, there is something genuine in the sampling done by these young Polynesian artists, and it’s something that can only be understood if you are also Māori or Polynesian. The remix culture that exists within the Siren scene is covert, partly to preserve a beat trading ethos and partly to avoid the copyright issues prevalent within modern sampling.
For me, the intersections between hip hop music and Polynesian ways of knowing are so clear. Sampling allows us to connect the history of music, weaving familiar sounds in new ways, and becoming part of an ever-evolving musical tapestry. Something that can also be said about concepts such as whakapapa. It is something these young brown artists relate to, weaving their pasts with their presents, whether they know it or not.
Lauryn Hill once said that “My art exists because it has a will to exist, like hip-hop, sampling is anti-bourgeois and a form of protest against oppressive structures” and that couldn’t be more applicable to the structures in place within Aotearoa. That goes for healthcare and justice systems, tertiary education institutions, employment, and housing. So, it is no surprise to me that Māori and Pasifika participate in this movements,
Music evokes so many feelings in us, memories, nostalgia, things that are connected to our past. Songs really are like a form of time travel. These young Polynesians join the musical history of the songs that had been formative for them alongside everyone else who had been connected with it. To sample and change the genre of a piece of music and deliver it in a new, innovative way is as creative and innovative as it gets. I encourage you to listen to some of the music mentioned in this article and experience the musical journey of these songs’ formative and nostalgic tracks.