The backbone of modern Hip-Hop music took a creative turn in the mid-1980s with the introduction of sampling, which is the act of using snippets of original compositions to formulate a backing track. Improving upon the breakbeat trend of the 1970s, the sampling of R&B, funk, soul, rock and jazz artists transformed Hip-Hop’s entire soundscape and remains a vital piece of its core today.

Given the limits of early sampling machines, producers had precious few seconds to snag a drum kick, snare or musical loop to create their works. Most samples then and now revolve around a choice part of a track looped in a four-bar measure count.

In current times, and with the legal issues surrounding the proper use of original music in sampling, producers have gotten far more creative in masking the sources of their sounds with chops and layering. Still, the foundation remains that if a song has funk, grit and can be morphed into a loop – that remains the consistent bottom line.

With the wealth of music available on wax, online and otherwise to the “crate diggers” out there, there is an almost infinite well of samples for the world’s taking. However, there are some artists who, for a variety of reasons, attracted the ears and head nods of aspiring beat-makers worldwide. From James Brown, to Curtis Mayfield and even Aretha Franklin, each of these artists are just as vital to Hip-Hop as they are to their respective audiences.

Check out the most-sampled musical artists in Hip-Hop history on the following pages.

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