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The Art Of Sampling: Stolen, Not Copied

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The Art Of Sampling: Stolen, Not Copied

Music

The Art Of Sampling: Stolen, Not Copied

The Art Of Sampling: Stolen, Not Copied

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The 1984 hit "La Di Da Di," by rappers Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, has become one of the most sampled songs of all time. Music producer Mark Ronson talks with Guy Raz, host of NPR's TED Radio Hour.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This song, it's one of the most sampled songs of all-time. It's been borrowed by hundreds of artists. Guy Raz at the TED Radio Hour has this look at the track and what it reveals about originality in music.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) Doug E. Fresh and his partner...

GUY RAZ, BYLINE: In 1984, the rappers Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick released this song. And we heard about the story behind it from Mark Ronson, who's produced records for Amy Winehouse...

MARK RONSON: Yeah. Lily Allen, Paul McCartney's last album. I found the game name dropping. I'm trying to grab onto the things people might have heard of. I just sound like I'm name dropping. I'm just trying to grab onto the things people might've heard of.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) Ah, yeah.

RAZ: Anyway, the song is called "La Di Da Di."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) La di da di.

RAZ: And back in the early 1990s, if you were a DJ in New York, like Mark was, it was a staple of your set.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) La di da di, we like to party. We don't cause trouble. We don't bother nobody. We're just some men that's on the mic.

RONSON: It's literally like Chapter 1 of the hip-hop DJ Bible. And it's an incredible song because it's just a beatbox and a rap over it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) But that's true. That's why we never have no beef.

RAZ: But what makes "La Di Da Di" more than just a really good rap song is that it's full of these little, lyrical jams that in the world of hip-hop just stick.

RONSON: All these little, like, tick-tock you don't stop.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) Tick-tock you don't stop.

RONSON: And we go a little something like this, hit it. All those soundbites that have become, like...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE COMES THE HOT STEPPER")

INI KAMOZE: (Singing) Hit it. Na nananana nananana nanana...

RAZ: And that hit it - just that moment - it's been sampled in hundreds of songs from...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HERE COMES THE HOT STEPPER")

INA KAMOZE: (Singing) Hit it. Na nananana nananana nanana...

RAZ: Ini Kamoze in 1995.

RONSON: They used the hit hit.

RAZ: Way back to the Beastie Boys in 1986.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HOLD IT NOW, HIT IT")

BEASTIE BOYS: (Singing) Hit it.

RONSON: They used the hit it.

RAZ: And it's not just that one line.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) OK, party people in the house.

RAZ: That 'party people in the house,' sampled by Beyonce and Kanye West on this track.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTY")

KAYNE WEST: (Singing) You a bad girl, and your friends bad, too.

RAZ: Even Miley Cyrus.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) La di da di, we like to party. We don't cause trouble. We don't bother nobody.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE CAN'T STOP)

MILEY CYRUS: (Singing) La da di da di, we like to party. Dancing with molly.

RAZ: So as T.S. Eliot said, good artists copy, but great artists steal. And that's never been easier.

RONSON: When I see young producers today, like kids who are 19, 20, they stay up all night just sampling straight from YouTube. But it does make for some incredible, exciting art. And it does mean that some little kid sitting in his basement in Ohio with a laptop could be making some of the most interesting music around.

RAZ: And actually that T.S. Eliot quote, he might have ripped that off from Picasso. But no one's really sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LA DI DA DI")

SLICK RICK AND DOUG E. FRESH: (Singing) La di da di, we like to party. We don't cause trouble.

SIMON: Guy Raz, host of the TED Radio Hour. More ideas about what's truly original on that program this weekend. This is NPR News.

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