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date: 16 May 2021

Abstract and Keywords

To make headway in a commercial landscape dominated by sample-based production, instrumental hip hop band The Roots employed strategies that made their first five albums (1993–1999) sound more and more like hip hop made with vinyl-based samples. Such strategies included repurposing musical material from breakbeats, EQing their recordings to sound vinyl-based, self-sampling, adding scratching sounds by a vocal percussionist or DJ, and judiciously using actual samples from preexisting recordings. Though the band was once adherent to an “organic” approach, which involved using only traditional instruments and recording without a click track, they eventually adopted these approaches to allow them to participate in an aesthetic that characterized hip hop of their day. By discovering ways to perform hip hop with instruments, they not only overcame the legacy of so-called disco rap but also signaled a new stage in hip hop’s musical dialogue between humanity and technology.

Keywords: The Roots, instrumental hip hop, disco rap, sampling, orality, authenticity, remediation

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