Remix Culture: America’s Melting Pot of Music

todayJuly 20, 2023 35 1 5

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By Natalia Velazquez

Music Journalist

Have you ever been listening to a song and recognized a certain beat, guitar riff, or even background vocals? If you said yes, you have most likely just listened to a song that was influenced by remix culture!


Remix culture is heavily present within American music, being seen across multiple genres. Remixing is the idea of artists taking inspiration from others’ work and taking a small portion of a song to transform it into something original. These small portions of songs are what is called a “sample.” The uses of samples can be traced back into the 70’s, and this is heavily attributed to the hip hop community in the Bronx, New York where DJs would play funk and soul records while MCs would rap over them.


Some of my favorite uses of sampling another artists music are:

  • Kendrick Lamar sampled “Silver Soul” by Beach House on his track “Money Trees.”
  • Notorious B.I.G sampled “Juicy Fruit” by Mtume on his track “Juicy.”
  • Pitbull and Christina Aguilara sampled “Take on Me” by A-HA on their track “Feel This Moment.”


However, artists have moved beyond just sampling songs, but will even implement sound bites from movies, shows or speeches. This action really integrates two major worlds of pop culture in a perfect way that an average viewer and listener could appreciate.


My favorite uses of sampling scenes from movies, shows, or speeches are as follows:

  • Mac Miller’s use of Robin Williams’ dialogue from Good Will Hunting in his song “Soulmate.”
  • Cole’s integration of George W. Bush’s 2002 “Fool Me Once” speech he made in Tennessee on Cole’s track “No Role Modelz.”
  • MF Doom’s sampling of the Spiderman (1982) episode titled “Canon of Doom” in the album .Food.


Sampling has been seen in almost every major album release for the past several decades, and although it has become such a norm in the industry, there is still much debate surrounding the practice. A lot of new or young artists face much backlash from their use of samples and remixes, as they are not “being original.”


For instance, 20 year old singer-songwriter Olivia Rodrigo faced an abundance of controversy for her sampling usage in her freshman album Sour. Rodrigo’s song, “Good 4 U” became very popular however she faced a lot of backlash because it sounded too similar to Paramore’s “Misery Business.” She eventually added Paramore as a credit for her song.  She then was accused of stealing an iconic guitar riff from Elvis Costello’s song  “Pump it Up” on her song “Brutal”. Twitter users criticized Rodrigo and labeled her as a plagiarizer, however when brought to Costello’s attention, he responded “this is fine by me.” Costello elaborates and explains: “It’s how rock and roll works. You take the broken pieces of another thrill and make a brand new toy.”


Although Costello came to Rodrigo’s rescue in this situation, that is not always the case. There has been a surge in copyright lawsuits the past year, resulting in many beloved artists being sued millions of dollars for use of certain beats, samples, or even that two songs simply sound “too similar.” Some of the artists include, Ed Sheeran for his songs “Shape of You” and “Thinking Out Loud”, Katy Perry for her song “Dark Horse,” Lana Del Rey for her song “Get Free” and even Led Zeppelin had to fight against a copyright accusation for their iconic song “Stairway to Heaven.”


As much as I understand the need for accreditation of one’s work, I think it’s important that we see that modern music is a mixture of several decades’ worth of artistry. It should be expected that just like in other forms of art, such as painting or sculpture, there will be noticeable influences from history. I like to think that the music we enjoy today is a melting pot presenting the best of our past, it is an accumulation of these amazing influences and art that have just been adapted to modern times.

Written by: kadencemakenna

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