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Making Beats

The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop

Joseph G. Schloss

Publication Year: 2013

Despite having created one of the most important musical cultures of the last fifty years, hip-hop composers who use digital sampling are rarely taken seriously as artists. But hip-hop deejays and producers have collectively developed an artistic system that features a complex aesthetic, a detailed array of social protocols, a rigorous set of ethical expectations and a rich historical consciousness.

Based on ten years of research among hip-hop producers, Making Beats is the first work of scholarship to explore the goals, methods and values of this surprisingly insular community. Focusing on a variety of subjects--from hip-hop artists' pedagogical methods to the Afro-diasporic roots of the sampling process to the social significance of "digging" for rare records--Joseph G. Schloss examines the way hip-hop artists have managed to create a form of expression that reflects their creative aspirations, moral beliefs, political values and cultural realities.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Series: Music Culture


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 2-9


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pp. ix-11

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pp. xi-15

First and foremost, I would like to thank the producers, deejays, MCs, and others who worked with me on this project. The term “consultant” is sometimes used as a semantic gambit to avoid the negative implications of the word “informant,” but in this case those who worked with me were consultants in...

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-24

Some people make beats. They use digital technology to take sounds from old records and organize them into new patterns, into hip-hop. They do it for fun and money and because their friends think it’s cool. They do it because they find it artistically and personally fulfilling. They do it because they can’t rap. They do it to show o= their record collections. Sometimes they don’t know why they...

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2 “It’s about Playing Records”: History

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pp. 25-62

In this chapter, I will discuss some of the developments that have led to current hip-hop sampling practice, beginning with a brief history of hip-hop sampling itself. Having done this, I will discuss the process by which individuals become hip-hop producers. A major influence on both of these processes has been the close historical and social relationship between deejaying (manipulation...

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3 “It Just Doesn’t Sound Authentic”: Live Instrumentation versus Hip-Hop Purism

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pp. 63-78

Much has been written about the concept of authenticity within the hip-hop world. But due to both the prominence of the MC in hip-hop music and the dominance of lyric-oriented hip-hop scholarship, virtually all discussions of authenticity, explicit or implicit, concern the relationships between lyrics and reality and how the complexities of this relationship might be fruitfully theorized..

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4 Materials and Inspiration: Digging in the Crates

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pp. 79-100

Sampling—the digital recording and manipulation of sound that forms the foundation of hip-hop production—requires source material. In order to sample, there must be something to sample from. For sample-based hip-hop producers, the source is usually vinyl records. In this chapter, I will describe the process of “digging in the crates”—searching for rare records—and discuss its significance...

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5 Sampling Ethics

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pp. 101-134

One major influence on the artistic practice of hip-hop producers is their general adherence to a defined set of professional ethics. In this chapter, I will explore the major themes of this ethical system, in order to set the stage for questions regarding the producers’ philosophical outlook and aesthetic approach. I will...

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6 Elements of Style: Aesthetics of Hip-Hop Composition

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pp. 135-168

In the preceding four chapters, I discussed the necessary preconditions for a producer to create a sample-based hip-hop beat: developing a general sense of hip-hop’s technique, form, and musical values (chapter 2), making the decision to use digital sampling rather than other means (chapter 3), gathering material and ideas through digging in the crates (chapter 4), and identifying...

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7 The Outer Circle: From Samplers to Ears

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pp. 169-194

Although I have spent the majority of this book discussing the socialcircle of sample-based hip-hop producers as a discrete community, thepeople who make beats do not live a cloistered existence. In this chapterI will address the larger social world in which the hip-hop producer oper-ates: that of individuals who, for artistic, social, and economic reasons,...

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8 Conclusions

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pp. 195-198

hop producers make no apologies for sampling. In fact, as I have tried to demonstrate, they consistently show great pride and commitment to their approach in myriad ways. This, I argue, is primarily due to the complementary influences of social and aesthetic forces in the community of sample-based hip-hop producers. As the community preserves the aesthetic, so the aesthetic preserves the...


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pp. 199-208


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pp. 209-216

Interviews by Author

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pp. 217-220


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pp. 221-236


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pp. 222-225

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About the Author

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pp. 226-241

Joseph G. Schloss is a lecturer in music at Tufts University. He was the recipient of the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Charles Seeger Prize in 2000, and his writing has...

E-ISBN-13: 9780819574220
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819566959

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Music Culture