Pop Art and Sampling In Pop art, reproduction and repetition are the main aspects that distinguish it from other art movements. Andy Warhol's "Marilyn" is a perfect example of reproduction of image already familiar to the audience, and is repeated once, four times, or twenty times. Pop art takes from commercial art and makes it the elite art as well. That is why Pop art is so special, because it can be distinguished by the mainstream, not just the elite art world. Reproductions provide references to the original work, which sometimes these references, in the hands of Pop Art, are ironic or have something to say about the modern world. Rap and Hip-Hop music are very similar to pop art and post-modernism in that there are many samples of previously recorded beats. Many contend that no beat is original since the beginnings of music. The same goes in pop art where the compositional elements are found objects. If no art is original in the fact that their compositional elements have no originality and have already been used, then what makes a work different than something similar to it, and is that original? This is a very popular question throughout the rap culture because of the overwhelming use of samples throughout rap songs, even to the extent of sampling the beat as well as the chorus and then rapping over it. There needs to be a way to define originality and the purpose of using found objects or rhythms. Samples or found objects are used in many different ways and for many different purposes, so this gives us options on how to view the work. We need to look at the way the sample or found object is used, and if the use gets the purpose across. Artists and musicians are creative and original in the way that they use the found object or sample. Art has moved from the being critiqued by the elite to being enjoyed by the minorities. Lawrence Alloway writes, "It is in this situation that we need to consider the arts of the mass media. It is impossible to see them clearly within a code of aesthetics associated with minorities with pastoral and upper-class ideas because mass art is urban and democratic" (Harrison, P. 701). As mass art and mass media come into the hands of the everyday person, then they will see these ideas differently than the "art world" does. It is because of this change in community that art has changed so much. Especially in the music side of the arts, hip-hop beats were found in many rock and blues songs that kept evolving until they were so well recognized by the general public that rappers use the beat as their canvas, something of which they can put their own approach on. What mass media and mass art does, is give the artists a common ground to work from, which the bottom line is commonality. Originality is may not necessarily be the goal of the art. The focus is on a common ground, but their still must be some originality in how the artist uses the common ground that he/she stands on. When an artists copies a proven style, then they normally are not making a very good piece of work because they are not original in their own style and use of what is around them. Especially in the United States, money has become so much a part of the art process that people are concerned with what will sell, and more importantly, what will sell to a lot of people rather than to a select few. Rappers, more and more, are popping up trying to copy a style that has made some other rappers rich, but do not bring their own originality to the rap-world. Again, good art or rap music is going to have to be based on the new and original ways the artist uses the common ground. A great example to look at is the use of the Spinners' "Sadie" in 2PAC's "Dear Mama". First, let's examine the original, "Sadie." "Sadie" was a song about all the black mothers that tried hard to raise their kids well while still being oppressed and not letting it show. It was a thank you song to mothers everywhere that tried their hardest in less than perfect situations. 2PAC used an interpolation of the chorus and changed a few words, but the melody was the same. Instead of saying Sadie, 2PAC said "Lady." Already, many of us remember the original song and what a great song it was. Also, the title of 2PAC's song "Dear Mama" also gives us an indication that the song probably has the same or similar subject matter, which it does. As 2PAC talks about growing up with little or no money, and the rough times he and his mother endured, 2PAC says that there is no way that he can repay his mother. 2PAC's plan is "To show you that I understand, you are appreciated." As 2PAC realizes, there are emotions that go very deep in the original song "Sadie" and 2PAC brings them out in describing the indestructible love he received from his mother, and the fact that he uses "Sadie" shows that there is a lot of emotion involved in this song. If a listener was just to hear the chorus, then they too would be able to remember the original song, and how it might have touched them in some way, and the ability of 2PAC to bring the song into the 90's with lyrics that a new generation might be able to relate to. He admits that "when things went wrong we blamed mama." But even though he didn't see eye to eye with his mother then, the fact that she was always there for him, even in prison, his mother "always was the black queen" to him. Again, 2PAC recognizes the stress that he caused but realizes that the appreciation that he mentions in the song can help to show that he understands, and will allow many more young individuals to have the same feelings and thoughts that 2PAC's generation saw in the Spinners "Sadie." Since I could go on talking about the lyrics forever, I will pause and talk about the way that the interpolation was used.
The beat used by 2PAC, by itself is not recognizable, but the melody of the chorus is. Most of the song is original, and there are no real samples in the song. The use of the recognizable "term" is to arouse feelings of love and memories of times that can only be enjoyed by the relationship of a mother and her sibling. Consciously, or unconsciously, the listener remembers these feelings that were first brought out by the song "Sadie." As a song for his mother, 2PAC realizes that his mother will also remember these feelings and understand that the same feelings are meant to be felt towards her. This is another way he shows his mother that he understands. 2PAC understands the emotions and the respect and love that go along with "Sadie" and uses them to create the same meaning for his song. The interpolation is inviting the listener to remember how they felt when they listen to "Sadie" and to see how it relates to their own experience. Using his own beats, 2PAC creates his own feel, and keeping that beat steady even through the chorus, 2PAC is using his originality. This is an example of a good use of the found object, or recognizable term. The recognizable term is only used to enhance the already solid beat and vocals. The chorus does make the song, and being taken from a song that has so much meaning inside of it, makes the meaning transfer from the original to the new. The new style is to take the beat and rhythm as is found in the original song, such as Public Enemy and Puff Daddy. These are not as original and are not as good as the way 2PAC uses his samples. Not that using the sample is bad, but it is now a style that is recognized and is being done by lots of people; thus there is no more originality in it. The repetition aspect of pop art also applies to hip-hop music. Even though the sample might not be played 10 times in a row. It is repeated because in many music styles, there are phrases that are repeated throughout the musical piece. As a chorus, the repetition might happen four times throughout the song, which still hammers the rhythm into the audience. Normally, most listeners walk away singing the chorus of a song rather than any other piece of it. The chorus of a song has to be catchy and often easily recognizable by the audience. As in 2PAC's "Dear Mama" the chorus is already recognized because it is interpolated, and is easy for the audience to remember. When the chorus is repeated, the audience already knows what is coming and so they are able to sing along. This makes the song more enjoyable for the audience. In hip-hop music, audience participation is a major part of the music. When the rapper asks everyone to raise their hands, he/she gets a response from the audience and feeds off of the energy. In the same respect, the audience wants to feel as if they are apart of the music as well, and so they need the rapper to allow them to get involved. Choruses are one way to signalize audience participation. The choruses are usually kept simple so that anyone can sing along and so the listener doesn't have to think as much. If the rapper can feel the audience, then he puts on a better show, and if the audience feels the rapper, the they give off more energy. If the rapper feels he/she is getting a lot of energy from the audience, then the chorus will be repeated even more. The repetition is something that works very well in hip-hop music. Since 2PAC uses an already known chorus, the audience is hooked from the get-go. This is a good use of repetition, even though some of the words may be changed, the melody is the same and it is the same basic overall chorus. This again proves that the song is a good one, and uses some of the same basic principles of pop art. There are many different styles of pop art, as well as many different styles of hip-hop music, and it is up to the artist to prove that he/she is original enough and uses the common ground well enough to create good art. I have focused in on only a couple of aspects of pop art, but since it is the art of the mass media, I chose the two most profound. I also believe that 2PAC is the best choice to represent the hip-hop world since he is one of the very few rappers that have actually been trained or educated in the arts. 2PAC, a classically trained actor, understands the basic concept of the arts and of what makes art good art. The mass media changes the role of art in our lives and it was only a matter of time before an art form really hit the inner streets and even country settings that were before excluded from the artistic society. Recognition and repetition are the two most prolific techniques used in society today. Advertisements are full of objects easily recognized and they are repeated often, and many times too often. In stores, signs of a sale are very recognizable and there are usually many of them. Society has changed and art has now changed to reflect the society, and so as society dictates the subject of the art, it is up to the artist to make it good. It takes a lot to make good art, but there will always be people that argue over whether a piece of art is good or not. This is also the subject of many pop art pieces, but whether you like something or not, the recognition and repetition will always be there in this mass media culture.