Laughter is the Best Medicine

How sampling transformed music | Mark Ronson

I’m assuming everyone here has watched a TED Talk online at one time or another, right? So what I’m going to do is play this. This is the song from the TED Talks online. (Music) And I’m going to slow it down because things sound cooler when they’re slower. (Music) Ken Robinson: Good morning. How are you? Mark Applebaum: I’m going to —
Kate Stone: — mix some music. MA: I’m going to do so in a way that tells a story. Tod Machover: Something nobody’s ever heard before. KS: I have a crossfader. Julian Treasure: I call this the mixer. KS: Two D.J. decks. Chris Anderson: You turn up the
dials, the wheel starts to turn. Dan Ellsey: I have always loved music. Michael Tilson Thomas: Is it a melody
or a rhythm or a mood or an attitude? Daniel Wolpert: Feeling everything
that’s going on inside my body. Adam Ockelford: In your brain is
this amazing musical computer. MTT: Using computers and synthesizers to create
works. It’s a language that’s still evolving. And the 21st century. KR: Turn on the radio. Pop into the discotheque. You will know what this person
is doing: moving to the music. Mark Ronson: This is my favorite part. MA: You gotta have doorstops. That’s important. TM: We all love music a great deal. MTT: Anthems, dance crazes, ballads and marches. Kirby Ferguson and JT: The remix: It
is new music created from old music. Ryan Holladay: Blend seamlessly. Kathryn Schulz: And that’s how it goes. MTT: What happens when the music stops? KS: Yay! (Applause) MR: Obviously, I’ve been watching a lot of TED Talks. When I was first asked to speak at TED, I wasn’t quite sure what my angle was, at first, so yeah, I immediately started
watching tons of TED Talks, which is pretty much absolutely the worst thing that you can do because you start to go into panic mode, thinking, I haven’t mounted a successful
expedition to the North Pole yet. Neither have I provided electricity to my village through sheer ingenuity. In fact, I’ve pretty much wasted most of my life DJing in night clubs and producing pop records. But I still kept watching the videos, because I’m a masochist, and eventually, things like Michael Tilson Thomas and Tod Machover, and seeing their visceral passion talking about music, it definitely stirred something in me, and I’m a sucker for anyone talking devotedly about the power of music. And I started to write down on these little note cards every time I heard something that struck a chord in me, pardon the pun, or something that I thought I could use, and pretty soon, my studio looked like this, kind of like a John Nash, “Beautiful Mind” vibe. The other good thing about watching TED Talks, when you see a really good one, you kind of all of a sudden wish the speaker was your best friend, don’t you? Like, just for a day. They seem like a nice person. You’d take a bike ride, maybe share an ice cream. You’d certainly learn a lot. And every now and then they’d chide you, when they got frustrated that you couldn’t really keep up with half of the technical things
they’re banging on about all the time. But then they’d remember that
you’re but a mere human of ordinary, mortal intelligence that didn’t finish university, and they’d kind of forgive you, and pet you like the dog. (Laughter) Man, yeah, back to the real world, probably Sir Ken Robinson and I are not going to end up being best of friends. He lives all the way in L.A.
and I imagine is quite busy, but through the tools available to me — technology and the innate way that I approach making music — I can sort of bully our existences into a shared event, which is sort of what you saw. I can hear something that I love in a piece of media and I can co-opt it and insert myself in that narrative, or alter it, even. In a nutshell, that’s what I was trying to do with these things, but more importantly, that’s what the past 30 years of music has been. That’s the major thread. See, 30 years ago, you had the first digital samplers, and they changed everything overnight. All of a sudden, artists could sample from anything and everything that came before them, from a snare drum from the Funky Meters, to a Ron Carter bassline, the theme to “The Price Is Right.” Albums like De La Soul’s “3 Feet High and Rising” and the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique” looted from decades of recorded music to create these sonic, layered masterpieces that were basically the Sgt. Peppers of their day. And they weren’t sampling these records because they were too lazy to write their own music. They weren’t sampling these records to cash in on the familiarity of the original stuff. To be honest, it was all about sampling really obscure things, except for a few obvious exceptions like Vanilla Ice and “doo doo doo da da doo doo” that we know about. But the thing is, they were sampling those records because they heard something in that music that spoke to them that they instantly wanted to inject themselves into the narrative of that music. They heard it, they wanted to be a part of it, and all of a sudden they found themselves in possession of the technology to do so, not much unlike the way the Delta blues struck a chord with the Stones
and the Beatles and Clapton, and they felt the need to co-opt that music for the tools of their day. You know, in music we take something that we love and we build on it. I’d like to play a song for you. (Music: “La Di Da Di” by Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick) That’s “La Di Da Di” and it’s the fifth-most sampled song of all time. It’s been sampled 547 times. It was made in 1984 by these two legends of hip-hop, Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh, and the Ray-Ban and Jheri curl look is so strong. I do hope that comes back soon. Anyway, this predated the sampling era. There were no samples in this record, although I did look up on the Internet last night, I mean several months ago, that “La Di Da Di” means, it’s an old Cockney expression from the late 1800s in England, so maybe a remix with Mrs. Patmore from “Downton Abbey” coming soon, or that’s for another day. Doug E. Fresh was the human beat box. Slick Rick is the voice you hear on the record, and because of Slick Rick’s sing-songy, super-catchy vocals, it provides endless sound bites and samples for future pop records. That was 1984. This is me in 1984, in case you were wondering how I was doing, thank you for asking. It’s Throwback Thursday already. I was involved in a heavy love affair with the music of Duran Duran, as you can probably tell from my outfit. I was in the middle. And the simplest way that I knew how to co-opt myself into that experience of wanting to be in that song somehow was to just get a band together
of fellow nine-year-olds and play “Wild Boys” at the school talent show. So that’s what we did, and long story short, we were booed off the stage, and if you ever have a chance to live your life escaping hearing the sound of an auditorium full of second- and third-graders booing, I would highly recommend it. It’s not really fun. But it didn’t really matter, because what I wanted somehow was to just be in the history
of that song for a minute. I didn’t care who liked it. I just loved it, and I thought
I could put myself in there. Over the next 10 years, “La Di Da Di” continues to be sampled by countless records, ending up on massive hits like
“Here Comes the Hotstepper” and “I Wanna Sex You Up.” Snoop Doggy Dogg covers this song on his debut album “Doggystyle”
and calls it “Lodi Dodi.” Copyright lawyers are having
a field day at this point. And then you fast forward to 1997, and the Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie, reinterprets “La Di Da Di” on his number one hit called “Hypnotize,” which I will play a little bit of and I will play you a little bit of the Slick Rick to show you where they got it from. (Music: “Hypnotize” by The Notorious B.I.G.) So Biggie was killed weeks before that song made it to number one, in one of the great tragedies of the hip-hop era, but he would have been 13 years old and very much alive when
“La Di Da Di” first came out, and as a young boy growing up in Brooklyn, it’s hard not to think that that song probably held some fond memories for him. But the way he interpreted it, as you hear, is completely his own. He flips it, makes it, there’s nothing pastiche whatsoever about it. It’s thoroughly modern Biggie. I had to make that joke in this room, because you would be the only people
that I’d ever have a chance of getting it. And so, it’s a groaner. (Laughter) Elsewhere in the pop and rap world, we’re going a little bit sample-crazy. We’re getting away from the obscure
samples that we were doing, and all of a sudden everyone’s taking these massive ’80s tunes like Bowie, “Let’s Dance,” and all these disco records,
and just rapping on them. These records don’t really age that well. You don’t hear them now, because they borrowed from an era that was too steeped in its own connotation. You can’t just hijack nostalgia wholesale. It leaves the listener feeling sickly. You have to take an element of those things and then bring something fresh and new to it, which was something that I learned when I was working with the late, amazing Amy Winehouse on her album “Back to Black.” A lot of fuss was made about the sonic of the album that myself and Salaam Remi, the other producer, achieved, how we captured this long-lost sound, but without the very, very 21st-century personality and firebrand that was Amy Winehouse and her lyrics about rehab and Roger Moore and even a mention of Slick Rick, the whole thing would have run the risk of being very pastiche, to be honest. Imagine any other singer from that era over it singing the same old lyrics. It runs a risk of being completely bland. I mean, there was no doubt that Amy and I and Salaam all had this love for this gospel, soul and blues and jazz that was evident listening to
the musical arrangements. She brought the ingredients that made it urgent and of the time. So if we come all the way up to the present day now, the cultural tour de force that is Miley Cyrus, she reinterprets “La Di Da Di” completely for her generation, and we’ll take a listen to the Slick Rick part and then see how she sort of flipped it. (Music: “La Di Da Di” by Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh) (Music: “We Can’t Stop” by Miley Cyrus) So Miley Cyrus, who wasn’t even born yet
when “La Di Da Di” was made, and neither were any of the co-writers on the song, has found this song that somehow etched its way into the collective
consciousness of pop music, and now, with its timeless playfulness of the original, has kind of translated to a whole new generation who will probably co-opt it as their own. Since the dawn of the sampling era, there’s been endless debate about the validity of music that contains samples. You know, the Grammy committee says that if your song contains some kind of pre-written or pre-existing music, you’re ineligible for song of the year. Rockists, who are racist but only about rock music, constantly use the argument to — That’s a real word. That is a real word. They constantly use the argument to devalue rap and modern pop, and these arguments completely miss the point, because the dam has burst. We live in the post-sampling era. We take the things that we love and we build on them. That’s just how it goes. And when we really add
something significant and original and we merge our musical journey with this, then we have a chance to be a part of the evolution of that music that we love and be linked with it once it
becomes something new again. So I would like to do one more piece that I put together for you tonight, and it takes place with two pretty inspiring TED performances that I’ve seen. One of them is the piano player Derek Paravicini, who happens to be a blind, autistic genius at the piano, and Emmanuel Jal, who is an ex-child soldier from the South Sudan, who is a spoken word poet and rapper. And once again I found a way to annoyingly me-me-me myself into the musical history of these songs, but I can’t help it, because they’re these things that I love, and I want to mess around with them. So I hope you enjoy this. Here we go. Let’s hear that TED sound again, right? (Music) Thank you very much. Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “How sampling transformed music | Mark Ronson

  1. In my opinion this is what Lana Del Rey does so well. If it's Neil Young or The Grateful Dead or who knows who else, she takes the old and makes it very new.

  2. (13:16) "rockists" are now racists? thanks for ruining yet another collective cultural pastime by introducing politics. granted, that seems to be the only blatant political slight, but because terms like that have been so unbelievably overused as a way to shut down ideas before even hearing them, calling someone a "racist" now means absolutely NOTHING! i'm sorry if i sound cynical in my opinion, but it's due to decades of people in the media—as well as Hollywood—using the same kind of dishonest and deceitful tactics to impugn the motives and character of anyone who dares to speak against them or say something they have unilaterally deemed "offensive" and therefore forbidden. my apologies if i'm misinterpreting the meaning of what he said, but i really don't think i am. other than that, though, i actually think his presentation was quite good.

  3. I couldn't watch more than a few minutes of this. 90% of the type of current pop music is crap and unfortunately his work is not in the other 10%.

  4. I used to be much more conservative on people using material created by others to make their own art. But in the end, technique is only a tool in creation. It is the end product that really matters.

  5. For me Ronson creates soul less cold sounds for his artists, Amy Winehouse would've sounded much better being produced by the likes of Phil Spectre and George Martin, I think I could've done a better job quite frankly.

  6. More kind of a entertainment & self-promotion event than a knowledge sharing talk… Cool and fun to watch though.

  7. Scratching has never done anything for me and sampling for the most part is confined to very popular if somewhat older music, which doesn't seem to be pushing the music (that uses it) anywhere but more into what's already familiar which is not synonymous with forward to my way of thinking. For instance, far as I can tell Hip hoppers don't sample jazz or blues or country or classical so on and so forth, you might say there's something kind of incestuous about the practice.

  8. How does this have over 2K+ down votes? He is a master at his craft and shared insight into his career and passion and how it's evolved. I don't get some people.

  9. Ronson is such a fake – and a parasite. Any real artist knows when a Ronson-type struts into the studio… the temperature drops and you had better check your wallet and anything that's not nailed down, otherwise it's stolen. He's massively over-hyped a very small amount of talent … so can only guess he has "freinds and family" that gave him the lift. Pathetic.

  10. LA DEE DA DEE ……The OG Language of …The Time of Jesus "LE"….They heard something and prayed …as most music we adore and love comes from Heaven…they do inspire us …For Real It means something as they spoke in a singing way thats almost exactly like in this song….It's Jesus Real Name and Christ's togather is the word "DA" and when together Alive is a DEE which is Christ's Name again ….It's exact……I'm in this song somewhere …lol ask if it was Divinely Inspired…I'll Bet you It Was Indeed ! Blessings From ….Michael "O"

  11. I love the thought of sampling

    But my favorite thing is people who leave partially finished songs (demos / LoFi stuff) in bulk on projects, to be used and sampled later.

    Someone needs to sample Union View by Skullbank btw

  12. There is no question that having an ear and/or eye for quality and then “co-opting” a bit of it involves a “talent” of sorts, but this is FAR FAR away from the kind of talent it took to actually write & record the original. Crate diggers & grave robbing samplers will NEVER be the creative equals of real musicians.

  13. But you don't add anything significant. it's crap. Call me a rockist, call me an idiot, but listening to a guy speak over a few random stabbed chords and thinking it's musically valid and worthy of comparison with old greats, we've fallen a long, long way.Sampling and looping are killing music, not making it. If it's music at all it's music for musical cretins. I did like Amy Winehouse though.

  14. Very good talk. I’m also glad he addressed the rockist/racist thing as well. The sneering, superior attitude of these types always carried that whiff of racism.

  15. Sampling killed music dead , his "ted talk music " "better slower" music – crap

    Real.instruments are too difficult for him

  16. "It's about inserting yourself into the narrative of a song while also pushing that story forward."


    Sample all you want, as long as you MONETARILY compensate the source from which the sample was taken from. Too often, zero compensation (not even a "thanks") given to the original source owner(s). It's sad and lazy and rude and selfish.

  17. Oh Yeah. Music has come such a long way since the 80's.
    The radio is rife with all the great songs of today.
    Music reading, writing and performing today, with few exceptions, is crap.

  18. It would be nice to cover the history better. To go from Sugar Hill, to BS, the Miley? Not the Talk I was hoping for…

  19. He is talking to mostly bold and grey pensioners so dont be surprised there is very poor reception of his talk and no clapping. They are too old to admire this `whatever it is for them'.

  20. This is what happens when you tell your kids you can't do wrong. This guy basically embarrassed himself, but people are good, and they at least wanted to clap. You can't compare this trash with the likes of Light My Fire, Bohemian Rhapsody, Hotel California, or Stairway To Heaven. You just can't.

  21. The way the tracks stop and play a new one is super ugly… i get he must be on a rush with time but it doesn’t take that much to just use smooth transitions and ends

  22. "How sampling transformed music" explained by someone who cannot produce a proper sampling track. There are literally tons of germans, israelis and asians who have better credentials in sampling than this chode.

  23. Mark ronson has never had to work a day in his life. Privileged white London elitists have no place in hip hop, they shouldn’t be allowed to hijack hip hop culture like what happened with Jazz. They should have DJ switch or some other talented DJ who has actually got some pro skill on the cut. This guy is mediocre.

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