We look at five great classical music samples from the likes of Slum Village, Nas and Big Pun.
Classical music: stuffy old people (mostly from France, Germany or Russia) from a million years ago playing violins, pianos and horns. For the ignorant, that’s probably what the genre is perceived as because that’s pretty much what the media shows. It needn’t be that way; classical music has transcended dramatically since the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical (which is an actual era that gives the whole genre its name) and Romantic periods. Now, classical music is played by musicians in the Americas, Asia and Africa and has been for a very long time. But the most enchanting part of it all is how it has moved into the modern era through other realms of music. Electronic covers of classical pieces became quite famous during the 70s, the most notable examples being Wendy Carlos’ A Clockwork Orange soundtrack and Isao Tomita’s Snowflakes Are Dancing. Today, we will be having a look at five great classical music samples and we suggest you check out the sampled tracks and the originals.
1. Slum Village’s Climax (Girl Shit) sample of Isao Tomita’s Clair De Lune
These aren’t in any order but without doubt, this is my favourite classical music sample ever. I can’t begin to imagine what was going through Dilla’s head when he found the sample and starting working on it. Whatever “The Zone” is, he was its mayor for those few hours. It’s actually a sample of a cover of Claude Debussy’s most famous song Clair De Lune but the way it was flipped and filtered is fantastic. As stated earlier, Isao Tomita’s cover came from his 197 album Snowflakes Are Dancing and provided plenty of other samples with his unique take on classical compositions mixed with his brand of “space music”.
2. Nas’ Represent sample of Lee Erwin’s The Thief of Bagdad
One of many classics from Nas’ debut Illmatic, DJ Premier took to a 1940s film Thief of Bagdad for this sample. The composer in question, Lee Erwin, was a theater organist who composed scores for more than 70 silent films and helped to revive an interest in silent films during the 1970s. It was another great flip from another legendary producer and it was even covered by Will Sessions for Elzhi’s Elmatic (which I secretly prefer).
3. Big Pun’s Dream Shatterer sample of Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries
The problem with some of the more well known classical songs is that they can be run into the ground by the media when dramatic music is needed. Ride of the Valkyries definitely conveys that sense of frightening power -- after all, it’s about a group of women ride on horseback deciding which soldiers die in battle and which live. But I really enjoyed its use on the late Big Pun’s Dream Shatterer, taken from his debut album Capital Punishment. The crescendo of the strings coupled with the hard drum beat gives an already powerful song even more of a kick.
4. Canibus’ 2000 B.C. (Before Can-I-Bus) sample of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor II -- Dies Irae
Before “Padgate“, Canibus dropped some of the illest rhymes of the late 90s/early 00s and on 2000 B.C. (Before Can-I-Bus), he really kicked things off. Producers Ty Fyffe and Laze flipped Mozart’s Requiem into something haunting with Canibus adding his own flavour of hard hitting lyricism. Whether he was reading off a pad or spitting straight off the dome, I don’t know.
5. Mikey D & the LA Posse’s Beethoven Scratch sample of Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5
One of the most overused pieces of classical music known to man, which is a shame really because only the first movement gets the attention (there are two other movements). Nothing wrong with the quality, just the quantity with which it has been used for almost anything remotely linked with drama. With that in mind, it has also been sampled in a myriad of songs, most of which have done very little with the intro apart from lay some drums over it. It can work well but after a while, it can sound quite stale. What I like about Mikey D & the LA Posse’s Beethoven Scratch is that it wasn’t played through as a loop but instead it acted as an accompaniment to the other melodic sample, with some great scratching from DJ Pooh.