“Life I Live” is a testament to the power of sampling and how creativity can breathe new life into anything.
Firstly “Life I Live” should be doing huge numbers, everyone involved delivers their respective contributions with a flair and confidence that can’t be downplayed. Producer GW in particular has to get a shout for flipping Drake’s “Champagne Poetry” into something uniquely UK whilst retaining a level of a global appeal. The young emcees, JG and LZee, deliver uncompromising verses that don’t fall into Drill’s typical subject matter but the content still suits the production. It’s a shame this one isn’t on streaming platforms as it could definitely run up the numbers but it seems to have been an issue over sample clearance which brings me onto the wider topic of sampling.
Sampling is at the core of Rap and all of its subgenres respectively because it’s a practice that builds on the ideas that came before it providing both notes of nostalgia as well as fresh vibrance. “Life I Live” is the perfect example of this, it samples and references Drake’s “Champagne Poetry” in the production and in both the lyrics and cover artwork. “Champagne Poetry” is not original in that it takes its sample from Masego’s 2017 track “Navajo”. “Navajo” equally makes use of sample work with it making use of the 1972 track “Michelle” from The Singer’s Unlimited Jazz vocal group’s A Capella album. Whilst that is the journey of the sample as we know it, it’s not the complete journey as “Michelle” was originally sung by The Beatles in 1965 and The Singer’s Unlimited were covering that track on their 1972 album.
In that brief look at the history of the sample of “Life I Live” what we’re actually seeing is the 57 year journey of innovation of one original song and its legacy. That is the power of sampling, being able to draw on the power of history and bringing it to new audiences in a way that feels most familiar to them. At no point in the track’s journey does any one song try to completely imitate each other and the strength of that is that we now have a musical phrase that is familiar to an incredibly wide range of audiences and different parts of the globe. Sampling is one of the most common things in our musical landscape and I think because it’s so common it’s importance can be overlooked when it really shouldn’t. Sampling is the culture, and provides a rich historical tapestry to delve into beyond the hits we hear today.