Kanye West: King of the Sample

Kanye West is a highly controversial figure, but at the same time, highly intellectual. Regardless of what you think of him, there is no denying his creativity, whilst his ability to sample a song from any given era and turn it into a worldwide phenomenon is nothing short of incredible.

In terms of his sensational sampling, we first look at his debut album ‘College Dropout’, the album that announced Kanye West as an artist to the world. It was the introduction to Kanye’s method of merging tiny sections of niche songs and turning them into art. ‘Jesus Walks’ a prime example of this, Kanye sampled ‘Walk With Me’ by The ARC Choir, and ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ by Lou Donaldson, and the rest is history. However, as per the title, it was also our introduction to Kanye’s overinflated ego.

‘College Dropout’ also featured another moment of genius in the form of his single: ‘Through The Wire’. In this instance, he sampled Chaka Khan’s ‘Through the Fire’, and Outkast’s ‘Player’s Ball’. To provide some context as to why this was so clever, just after signing his first record deal, Kanye was in a life-threatening car crash that left his jaw wired shut and his face needing surgery. Rather than letting this get him down, his response? Use Chaka Khan’s ‘Through the Fire’ and turn it into ‘Through the Wire’ rapping through a wired shut mouth. Incredible.

As for his single ‘Diamonds From Sierra Leone’, he sampled the iconic James Bond track by Shirley Bassey ‘Diamonds Are Forever’. In extraordinary Kanye fashion, the Chicago born rapper didn’t actually know Sierra Leone was a country when he produced this single.

Perhaps one of his most famous ‘mainstream’ songs, we look to ‘Stronger’ sampled from Daft Punk’s ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’. His album ‘Graduation’ was a strange electronic phase, but there is no denying this is one of his most famous songs ever. During the production of ‘Stronger’, Kanye was fed up with the drums in the original after spending ages working around them in production. Rather hilariously, A-Trak played the acapella version one day in the studio, and Kanye said fuming: “You mean to tell me there was a fucking acapella this whole time.”

When it comes to Kanye’s single ‘Heartless’, it was sampled from ‘Ammonia Avenue’ by The Alan Parsons Project. The beat was initially made for Jay-Z, but Ye heard it and said he was keeping it for himself. When his producer exclaimed that he wasn’t even working on an album, Kanye replied: “I am now.”

It’s important to remember that this isn’t all Kanye, by any means. He’s had an unbelievable amount of assistance from Mike Dean and No I.D amongst others. But as for Kanye West anecdotes, and Kanye West sampling, there are so many stories to tell, and you can’t take away Kanye West’s influence around this style of music. He is one of those people where you find it nearly impossible to look away from because whatever he does next is going to be entertaining. A self-proclaimed creative genius, although many happen to agree.

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Ben Broyd

Ben Broyd

I write about music, amongst other things. Hope you enjoy.