Posted by: djjerrynice | March 19, 2008

Don’t Be Mad(lib)

By Zeck Wreck aka Jerry Nice

I was strolling through the internets this morning (as I ususally do before diving into my workload), when I came across a very interesting article over at Hip-Hop is Read:

Sample Sets: Hurting Hip-Hop?

The basis of this article (as the title suggests) deals with sample sets and if they are damaging to the art of cratedigging in hip-hop production.  Namely, Madlib (the Beat Konducta himself) seems to have some sort of gripe with these types of listings.

Now I’m not going to get too deep into the article itself, but as a dedicated cratedigger, I thought I should share my point of view on this…

Here’s the deal.  Hip-hop is not what it once was (SURPRISE!).  The dedication to digging for beats and looking for rare samples just isn’t the same.  In the early 90’s, the more abstract and original your samples were, the more credibility you had as a hip-hop producer (i.e. Diamond D, Pete Rock, etc..).  And for the most part, this golden era mentality made sharing sample sets nearly unheard of.

I would like to think of a guy like Madlib (and Stones Throw for that matter) as being a direct descendent of this hip-hop golden age.  As far as sampling goes, a majority of his production (if not all) is sample-heavy, and he probably prides himself very much on these cratedigging abilities. 

That being said, I understand his stance on this matter…Especially with a classic (yeah, I said it) like Madvillainy, which may be his best work yet.  From this standpoint, I can see where he gets a little aggy when the internet gets ahold of his work.  Madlib is a golden era producer by nature, and this is probably the main reason for all the commotion on his end.  It’s a sense of pride that many internet heads (and hip-hop fans) can’t grasp, especially when someone like Madlib has dedicated himself 100% to the music. 

Not only that, but think about all the people who have ripped his music online already…

But like I said before, hip-hop is not what it once was.  Where all production used to be based on rare samples, now a majority of the current top-dogs (i.e. Neptunes, Timbaland, etc..) don’t even use samples to their advantage.  Today, it’s all about being synth-heavy with some booty bass to back it up (for dem clubs).. 

Since this is the day and age we live in, it is more important than ever to  make the art of digging still relevant.  This is why sample sets (like the one for Madvillainy) should be encouaraged…Not only does it regenerate excitement about previous albums, but it also showcases the  abilities of each individual producer.  Most importantly, it makes beat digging relevent again in a time where it could be considered a lost art. 

I do understand Madlib’s point of view and can sympathize, but I also see the importance of sample sets.  Where it’s hard for the record collector in me to admit this, I still realize that the times have changed.  Now more than ever, we need to back these kind of collections, in hopes of keeping true hip-hop alive.

Big-ups to Ivan at Hip-Hop Is Read and Kevin Nottinham of This Is Hip Hop..

Related Links:

Midnight Marauders Original Samples

Ready To Die Original Samples

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx & Liquid Swords Original Samples

American Gangster Original Samples



  1. well said….I’ve been on a midnight marauders kick ever since the sample set was posted here. I love them, but understand the logic behind why someone like madlib may be reluctant to share.

  2. Please correct me if I’m wrong… but it seems odd to me for someone who makes art with samples to make a zealous proprietary claim on the original source of his inspiration.

    It’s like a painter (Monet) bellyaching about an amateur digital photographer/blogger who publishes pics of the waterlilies at Giverny that Monet painted. Maybe the landowner who owns the water lilies can complain of the photographer’s trespass, but Monet can’t complain about the amateur photographer who wants to show the world how beautiful the real lilies are in their best photo quality (even though he only knew about it from Monet’s painting!)


  3. I think that the reason why these sample sets are so popular is that people who have listened to these rap albums (often exhaustively) want to dig deeper into the record. Often after listening to the sample set, a rap record can be heard in a whole new light.

    I wish I could hear more of Madlib’s reasoning for taking issue with sample sets. I mean, once a record is sampled, unless it’s a drum break or something, it is essentially not available for reuse. Remember that in Hip Hop, biting is forbidden. I think fans of Madlib understand that more than anyone. It’s not like people are gonna use these sample sets to make thier own beats.

    Another thing that I like about sample sets is that they help novice producers see how experts like Madlib, RZA, and Premier construct beats.

    I’ll end this (overly long) comment by saying that I have the utmost respect for Madlib and all of the producers that have appeared in the sample sets I’ve linked to on this blog. I also have equal respect for the original sampled artists that have appeared in the sets. If anyone is hurt by publishing sample sets online, it is the original artists, and the record stores that sell and resell their works.

    Oh yeah, and kudos to Mr. Jerry Nice on the write up. Well said…

  4. In reading some of the comments on the original post at HHIR, I noticed that a lot of people were saying that it Madlib might want them removed becuase he is afraid of being sued.

    He couldn’t possibly clear all the samples he uses, so he hopes to keep the majority of them on the DL. This gives his request a little more weight in my book.

    Still though, this information is already out on the web. Even if it isn’t in audio form. You can find the sample lists on places like (an awesome sight for those that don’t know), Wikipedia and Discogs (another really cool site).

    G from GRANDGOOD has some good thoughts on the matter

    click here to check it out

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