Hip-hop producers rely on several specific formulas to create sample-based hip-hop. Developed with a combination of analysis and ethnography, this typology of sampling is a systematic terminological and conceptual approach to this repertoire. There are three main types of samples: structural samples, surface samples, and lyric samples. Each of these types has a distinct function in a sample-based track: structural samples create the rhythmic foundation, surface samples overlay or decorate the foundation, and lyric samples provide words or phrases of text.
The typology offers a consistent approach to identifying the sounds in sample-based music, allowing recognition of historical trends and generalization about musical style. For example, hip-hop producers have sampled lyrics from Public Enemy’s 1987 “Bring the Noise” over 100 times, and those samples show striking similarities both in the material sampled (Flavor Flav’s “yeah, boy” and Chuck D’s “bass” are favorites) and how the sampled sounds are treated in new tracks. The typology is a way to differentiate producers’ treatments of sampled sounds. Additionally, the typology is a tool for distinguishing the musical styles of artists. Released within a year of each other, Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet and the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique each contain over 100 samples. The typology offers a way to describe the groups’ sampling styles. Further, while hip-hop artists and scholars agree that sampling changed after the 1991 lawsuit involving Biz Markie’s “Alone Again,” until now, there has been no way to quantify these changes. The typology is a concrete way to demonstrate how hip-hop groups such as The Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Public Enemy, Salt ’n’ Pepa, and A Tribe Called Quest modified their approaches to sampling when samples became difficult to license. Ultimately, a typology is a systematic analytical approach to the genre of sample-based hip-hop.