Ethics of music sampling, specifically rap.

Essay by felix01011College, UndergraduateA+, August 2003

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In music, sampling refers to the act of taking a portion of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument in a new recording. This is done with a sampler, which can either be a piece of hardware, or a computer program on a digital computer (Fryer 58). Just like a rock/pop song uses a guitar, a paino, and other instruments to add to the singing; a rap song sometimes uses sampling as a form of an instrument to add a beat to the singing. Some people argue that sampling is a crime and should be illegal because it's taking someone else's music and selling it off as your own. Others believe that no one lives in complete isolation and therefore everyone and everything is influenced by some former experience in his/her life, therefore sampling should be legal since it's no different. These controversies lead to many law suites and trials, where both sides won and lost.

Even today, it still hasn't been decided if music sampling should be legal, therefore I will argue both sides of this argument.

The ethics of sampling debate usually defends sampling by stating the fact that "borrowing" from other pieces of music happens all the time, and has happened for thousands of years. This concept is pretty well known and accepted in all sorts of music; but when it actually happens in a manner as direct as literally recording the original source of inspiration such as done in sampling, suddenly it's a different matter.

If one listens to the beginning of the album called "Brightness Falls" by rappers David Sylvian and Robert Fripp and then listens to "Foxy Lady" by Jimmy Hendrix, the listener would be making an enormous understatement if he/she said there was small some distinction between the two songs. The...