A remix refers to a derivative work made by combining or modifying existing media. Adam Smith in his article Emergent Remix Culture in an Anonymous Collaborative Art System describes remix as a product of process of taking elements from existing artifacts and changing or recombining these elements to create something new. In the modern society, the remixing concept is prevalent touching on the art and technology fields. Additionally, there are various examples of remixing namely folklore, sampling, graffiti, Wikipedia and film remixing. The internet has been highly effective platform for the “remixing process”-remixes of photos, songs and videos are easily shared in this platform. These remixes are made on both an amateur and professional scale with the aid of software such as Adobe Photoshop and GarageBand. Remixes have also brought forth the question of copyright laws in protecting intellectual property. This has made many pundits call for revision of these laws to embrace the remixing culture that is core to the contemporary society.
This paper will ultimately analyze the remix culture and concept by analyzing Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight” song. The song was recorded in 1979, and it is heralded as the song that popularized hip hop globally. The song had a profound influence on commercializing the then underground hip hop culture making it be ranked as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time by the Rolling Stone magazine. The song was produced by Silvia Robinson, who was the first to experiment with rap music in the mainstream music scene. The recording would go on to usher the remixing culture into the mainstream music industry through the art of sampling. Silvia Robinson managed to introduce rap music with a disco feel by sampling Chic’s “Good Times” song off the 1979 Risqué album (Blair).
Rappers Delight had an enormous impact on hip hop as an art. It managed to open up the mainstream pop music to the then underground rap music which was associated with underprivileged black young men. A lease of life was given to other hip hop cultural elements such as turntablism or DJing, graffiti, beatboxing, MCing, and breaking due to the attention the Sugarhill Gang’s single generated globally. The song is one of the notable rap pieces that transformed hip hop from a Black American underground art to a global culture.
Through sampling of the “Good Times” song by Chic for their song, Sugarhill Gang managed to cement sampling as part of the hip hop culture which has been perpetuated to date. Thanks to this contribution, the hip hop culture’s art of borrowing from previous works has gained substantial acceptance. The custom of borrowing as observed in sampling is the push behind other elements of hip hop such as mixtape creation (Zweden). Casual observers might perceive the use of samples and production of mixtapes as cut and paste plagiarism. A careful study of hip hop music such as “Rappers Delight” reveals that sampling or borrowing as only one step towards the transformation of previous works into fresh and original artistic sentiments. Drawing comparisons between the song and the sampled “Good Times” record by Chic much of the lyrical content is different. The sampling gelled the good-feel disco beat that was popular in the 70’s. This was an epitome of creativity and a breakthrough that allowed more interest and life into the sampled piece, as well as the remix itself.
Remixing as based on the “Rappers Delight” creates an avenue for the creation of a limitless creativity platform. Many artistes due to the successful breakthrough of this remix in the late 70’s can inject their creative juices into already existing works. New sounds are being developed within the hip hop genre that otherwise would have not been possible without the art of remixing. Due to remixing, old musical pieces are being resuscitated by young upcoming artists keen on maintaining the old artistry on a contemporary platform. The remixing also opens up some of these original pieces to a broader audience who tend to appreciate the lyrical or artistic genius of these legendary musicians. Through remixing many musicians such as Sugarhill gang, have succeeded in gaining a pop appeal as well as add a rap edge to relatively slower songs.
In conclusion, if it were not for the trio Big Hank, Master Gee, and Wonder Mike of the Sugarhill Gang maybe the mainstream hip hop culture of remixing would have taken a number years to be embraced (Blair). The song contributed immensely to the growth of hip hop as an art and a culture. It also helped many creative artistes through remixing to transform prior works into fresh and original artistic sentiments. Remixing has also created new opportunities for many players in the music industry such as DJs and producers who have taken upon themselves to alter songs to fit their audience in different platforms. Remixing has given some of the yester year’s songs and artistes relevance by giving them a contemporary edge, whether rap, pop, electric or dancehall effect.
Blair, Elizabeth. "'Rapper's Delight': The One-Take Hit." NPR Music 29 Dec. 2000: n. pag. Web. <http://littlegirlwithabigpen.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/hip-hop-and-remix-culture/>.
Smith, Adam M. "Emergent Remix Culture in an Anonymous Collaborative Art System." Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence 2.1 (2012): 1-8. Web.
Zweden, Sam V. "Hip-hop and Remix Culture." Little Girl With a Big Pen. World Press, 25 Sept. 2009. Web. <http://littlegirlwithabigpen.wordpress.com/2009/09/25/hip-hop-and-remix-culture/>.