* Press the play button in the video below to hear the audio. Turn the captions on or scroll down to read along.
The song you’re listening to is titled The Score. It was penned and performed by rap trio, Fugees. They took their band name from the word refugees, a derogatory term that commonly referred to Haitian-Americans – two of which comprise the group.
Oppressed people, marginalized communities and the pioneers of Hip-Hop culture, in particular, have a rich history in remixing and sampling. That is, finding new interpretation, new ways of seeing, and new uses. Recontextualizing: Words, as evidenced by the invention of slang or the reappropriation of demeaning language. And also famously, music.
In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion (or sample, as it were) of one sound and resituating it as an instrument or loop in an entirely different song. It’s an art that’s been happening as far back as the sixties, in genres as obscure as minimalism or psychedelic rock. But it was not until the birth of Hip-Hop in the mid-seventies and early eighties that it became more widely known and practiced.
Artists who first adopted sampling commonly and naturally found inspiration from the vinyl collection of their parents: jazz, rhythm and blues, or classic rock. All of it was fair game. As the times progressed, people looked even closer and closer to home – so to speak – in order to locate these sonic gems. As a nod and as a demonstration of genuine artistic respect, DJ’s and MC’s started borrowing from the works of their peers. Even going as far as to sample the samples themselves. To also lift drum beats. And to collect lyrical snippets from fellow rappers.
As the genre and its artists continued to grow in sophistication, they eventually sought out samples where no one had ever thought to look. Within themselves. This song right here that we’re listening to right now – to my knowledge – is one of the first, if not the outright first-ever, to sample from the very album in which it appeared. It’s radical in that it’s a shout out to oneself.
Today, I work as a trainer, a coach, and a consultant. I am a teacher, essentially, and also an avid student for life. As such, like the founders of rap music, I am on a constant search for information to sample. Wisdom. To inherit. To draw upon. To add to my toolkit. And I work to deliver this valuable learning to my many communities. The most important lesson of all – as the Fugees have beautifully modeled for us – is rather than waiting for someone else to grant you acknowledgement, to grant you reason to celebrate, to even grant you freedom… Remember to listen to your own inner-knowing, to recognize your own power, and to give yourself due props in life and in your line of work.
And that, my friends, is The Score.