Rap, the musical element of hip hop culture, has depended on the recorded past to shape its birth, present and, potentially, its future. Founded on a sample-based methodology, the style’s perceived authenticity and sonic impact are largely attributed to the use of phonographic records, and the unique conditions offered by composition within a sampling context. Yet, while the dependence on pre-existing recordings challenges traditional notions of authorship, it also results in unavoidable legal and financial implications for sampling composers who, increasingly, seek alternative ways to infuse the sample-based method with authentic content. But what are the challenges inherent in attempting to compose new material—inspired by traditional forms—while adhering to rap’s unique sonic rationale, aesthetics and methodology? How does composing within a stylistic frame rooted in the past (i.e. the Blues) differ under the pursuit of contemporary sonics and methodological preferences (i.e. hip hop’s sample-based process)? And what are the dynamics of this inter-stylistic synthesis? The article argues that in pursuing specific, stylistically determined sonic objectives, sample-based production facilitates an interactive typology of unique conditions for the composition, appropriation, and divergence of traditional musical forms, incubating era-defying genres that leverage the dynamics of this interaction. The musicological inquiry uses (auto)ethnography reflecting on professional creative practice, in order to investigate compositional problematics specific to the applied blues-hop context, theorize on the nature of inter-stylistic composition, and consider the effects of electronic mediation on genre transformation and stylistic morphing.
Sonic Necessity and Compositional Invention in #BluesHop: Composing the Blues for Sample-Based Hip Hop
Michail Exarchos (aka Stereo Mike) is a hip hop musicologist and award-winning rap artist (MTV Best Greek Act 2008), with nominations for seven national video music awards and an MTV Europe Music Award. He is the course leader for recording, mixing and production at London College of Music (University of West London), and his publications include articles for Popular Music, Bloomsbury, Routledge, and the Journal of Popular Music Education. His self-produced album Xli3h has been included in the 30 Best Greek Hip-Hop albums of all time.
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Michail Exarchos (aka Stereo Mike); Sonic Necessity and Compositional Invention in #BluesHop: Composing the Blues for Sample-Based Hip Hop. Journal of Popular Music Studies 27 August 2020; 32 (3): 99–119. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2020.32.3.99
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