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  • September 2012
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Sometimes, I Get a Bad Feeling: A Sample Journey from Etta James to Flo Rida

The other day, I was headed out to Pianos ‘N Stuff to pick up some items for last night’s The Labs @ CLP launch party. I hopped in my carshare, turned on the radio, and was greeted by the opening bars of this dope electro-disco track, “Cry (Just A Little),” that I like by the Dutch group Bingo Players.

Then the unthinkable happened, the worst nightmare of any European club house producer: Flo Rida started rapping, for his new song, which is uniquely titled “I Cry.”

People getting upset over sampling is certainly nothing new, and possibly the music equivalent of yelling “get off my lawn,” but regardless of whether I enjoy Flo Rida’s bouncy club raps (I kind of do, especially the song featured on Step Up 3D), I wonder: at what point does Flo Rida veer into rap karaoke territory? We can take a look at the journey from Etta James song to Flo Rida radio hit to decide for ourselves.

To begin, we should first take a listen to this 60s soul song from the legendary jazz & soul vocalist Etta James:

Sound familiar? It should, so you probably know where we’re heading. It reentered dance floors in 1991, from this 90s house song by the England house production trio Doi-Oing:

A decade later (and after a few, less striking uses of sampling that song), in 2006, the electronic hip hop soul producer Pretty Lights transformed it to fit into a chill, almost trip-hoppy track.

Fast forward to 2011, and the Swedish DJ/producer Avicii created one of the most obnoxiously-infectious “big room” club house songs of the entire year with his track “Levels” (in fact, it became such a joke for DJs to have fans clamoring for that song at clubs, that the request “play Levels” became a Dillon Francis Twitter meme).

Then, of course, HERE COMES FLO RIDA:

The cool part about sampling is seeing an artist transform bits and pieces into an entirely new work, but how different do Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling” and Avicii’s “Levels” feel to you? Do you believe the interplay between lyricist and producer is important, or do you not mind that performers like Flo Rida and Pitbull essentially party rap over European producers’ songs? For the last few years, we’ve seen soul samples, electronic producers, and rappers mining each other in shorter and shorter cycles, but is it sustainable? If you are interested in taking a journey into where that evolution has taken us so far and where it might be going, you can read this book:

And if you are ever interested in charting your own sample journey, check out sites like whosampled.com and the-breaks.com.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Main

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