Sample This

There are moments that change the world after years of research, precise calculation and unceasing discipline striving towards a goal. And then there are the wonderful stories of unexpected consequences arising our of creative chaos, happenstance and being in the right place at the right time. The tale of Sample This is definitely in the latter category. Not since Fish Story have I watched a film about a more influential song. That was fiction (I believe) but this tale of the man behind the Incredible Bongo Band's cover of Apache credits that single cut with the birth of what today we call hip-hop. That may be somewhat stretching things - but it's clearly a seriously impact full set of music, having been sampled on a regular basis for going on thirty years. Perhaps more amazing than this (to me) unknown hub of mash-up culture is that Sample This manages to sprawl in multiple random directions yet still present a satisfying and entertaining result that I can easily recommend checking out. The film opens theatrically and on VOD Friday 9/13.

Improbably narrated by KISS front man Gene Simmons the story starts at the assassination of Robert Kennedy which marks the departure of Michael Viner from politics into the music business. A business opportunist who seemed to have the rare skill of not meddling with the artistic process Viner goes on to produce a range of work from novelty albums to involvement with the soundtrack of The Thing with Two Heads. Long story short - he puts together some of the day's best session musicians as the Incredible Bongo Band. The album didn't amount to much commercially. But in the Bronx a DJ culture discovered the album and in particular the track Apache. Containing parts that were uniquely awesome for the realtime remixing DJ Herc was doing - and the song was reborn. Through countless remixes the song's DNA remains firmly enshrined in the musical argot of hip-hop.

The film itself is sort of all over the place telling really three stories. First, that of Michael Viner who seemed to have earned a broad range of admirers with his pluck. Second, that of the unheralded session musicians who come in each day to make someone else famous - often across more musical genres than I can name. Finally, it holds up the mix and match musical underpinnings of hip hop that can be missed if one overfocuses on the vocal part of the equation. Demonstrating how great artists "steal" for the betterment of society Sample This serves as a powerful if subtle reminder how overly restrictive intellectual property laws hinder innovation more than they may help in many many cases. Or at least that's how I saw it. Either way - Sample This is eye opening and fun to watch. Whichever angle appeals to you I recommend checking out this peppy little history and economics lessons at first opportunity. 'nuff said.

1 comment:

Elijah Campbell said...

Thank you for sharing tthis