Bring That Beat Back: How Sampling Built Hip-Hop

Univ. of Minnesota. Apr. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781517906283. pap. $22.95. MUSIC
Music journalist and hip-hop enthusiast Patrin has plunged deep into this proud urban art form’s history, tracing its evolution from a DJ-driven party soundtrack to something like multimedia sound collage but with a beat. He orchestrates this development over four parts, each centered on a style-defining DJ: pioneer break beat spinner Grandmaster Flash, quirky sample master Prince Paul, West Coast g-funk star Dr. Dre, and crate-digging connoisseur and preservationist Madlib. Dozens of other players major and minor add to the noise, with nearly every noteworthy crew getting a shout. Meanwhile, several underlying modulations are revealed: Turntable skills are edged out by sampling technology, MCs demand more of the spotlight from DJs, and regional rivalries become beefs—sometimes exploding into violence, as witnessed in the East vs. West wars of the late 1990s. Patrin conveys the drama of successive generations of musicians all questing for new ways to tap into the thing that makes hip-hop’s language unique—moments sourced from music’s past that somehow point the way forward, expressing both nostalgia and renewal in equal measure.
VERDICT Though occasionally dense with details, this work comprises meticulous discographic research and nuanced descriptions of songs evoking each artist’s raw creativity. Aficionados will rejoice.

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