What do artists like Dr.Dre, Public Enemy, N.W.A, De La Soul, Moby, Britney Spears, Kenny G, Sinéad O'Connor, and Ed Sheeran all have in common? What is it about them that, despite their differences across genres and time periods, makes them similar? The answer is that they all sample the same break beat.
Sampling is where a music artist takes a small segment from another artist’s work, either a beat or set of lyrics, and alters the recorded piece’s tempo, pitch, or repeats it in conjunction with other samples. Sampling became an important cornerstone of hip-hop, electronic, dance, and pop music. In the case of the artists listed, each used a drum sample off of James Brown’s 1970 song, “Funky Drummer”. The drum beat has been sampled so many times in music, and across so many genres that it has become one of the most sampled break beats in all music. So far, James Brown’s drum sample has been remixed, recut, and reimagined a total of 1,420 times.
What is so incredible about a song’s use of sampling is that it tells a story to the listener about the artist. Samples tell us of an artist’s inspirations and where they draw their creative influence. With “Funky Drummer”, the stories told by these artists tell us how we are able to be inspired from the same place. It shows that artists are very much like you and I. They listen to and appreciate music as much as any one else. "Funky Drummer" in particular, though, is a reminder that music, movies, and books have the same effect on all of us – they don't just entertain, they inspire.
The Austin Public Library is a great place to listen to and discover new music that has unique takes and iterations on the "Funky Drummer" break beat. If you are interested in finding your own version of "Funky Drummer", the Austin Public Library's genealogy database, Ancestry Library Edition, is available to help track down and learn about your family origins. The Austin Public Library also has an array of research databases and academic journals that can help you take a deep dive into any other subject under the sun. Do you need help using a database? Fear not, as our Reference Librarians are ready and able to help. The Ask A Librarian feature can help connect you to a Reference Librarian who can help you.