Strange Sampling

TitleStrange Sampling: Nina Simone and Her Hip-Hop Children
Publication TypeArticle
Year of Publication2014
AuthorTillet, Salamishah
Newspaper/MagazineAmerican Quarterly
PublisherJohns Hopkins University Press
Publication LanguageEnglish
KeywordsHiphop, jazz, Sampling

This essay examines how contemporary hip-hop artists, as diverse as Cassidy, Common, Lauryn Hill, Talib Kweli, and Kanye West, invoke Nina Simone as both a heuristic and musical material that recalls a particularly radical moment of American culture and simultaneously undergoes transformation as they cite her in response to the aesthetic and political forces of their times. Through their songs, Simone emerges as both a compelling singer and a cultural signifier, a virtuoso and political visionary, whose sampled voice, pianism, and performative strategy enable these artists to access a version of “sonic black radicalism”—Simone’s daring reinvention of musical categories, which, animated by the radical politics of the 1960s, created a new musical vision of blackness and model of sonic experimentation and performance strategies for a new generation of hip-hop artists and listeners to follow.