Celebrating Grime In All Its DIY Sampling Greatness

Words: Jesse Bernard
Photography: Ewen Spencer

While sampling wasn’t as instrumental to the progression and development of grime compared to that of hip-hop, it’s had its place in culture that consists of dubplates, freestyles, and remixes. But where its importance lies is in the lineage that sampling in grime has created over the years. Nowadays, most grime samples come in the form of remixes and dubplates, where MCs pay homage to previous work directly. Stormzy, for example, became a national icon off the back of using the classic XTC riddim “Functions On The Low” (shout-out Jeffrey Boakye for clearing up its history in his book Hold Tight), and part of the reason why that was the case—at least among older grime fans—was the nostalgia Stormzy’s “Shut Up” freestyle evoked.

Sampling may actually be far more important in the grime scene than sites like WhoSampled will ever reveal. Without any particular rules or regulations, sampling can often either be recognised as an acknowledgement of appreciation, or respect. At other times, it’s an opportunity for an emcee to flex and boast about their lyrical superiority over a riddim created by an opponent, particularly in a live setting. In this respect, it makes chronicling and documenting sampling in grime more difficult—at least if the internet didn’t exist. And while this shows that sampling may not be widely recognised in grime because for so long, many of the songs weren’t recognised as official, studio-recorded tracks, there are still a number of cuts worth remembering and celebrating.


The Movement — “Used To Be”

“Used To Be”—a standout track on Wretch 32’s 2006-released project, Learn From My Mixtape, featuring The Movement members Scorcher, Ghetts and Mercston—appears here simply because I was impressed with myself after spotting the sample back in 2007. It wouldn’t have been possible without being a huge fan of Brandy’s Full Moon album, where the vocal sample was lifted from “Love Wouldn’t Count Me Out”—a severely slow ballad compared to “Used To Be”.

Listen to Brandy’s “Love Wouldn’t Count Me Out”.

AJ Tracey — “Wifey Riddim”

Before AJ became the name that he currently is, his “Wifey Riddim” was a welcome addition to the canon of R&G tracks that have made the sound so endearing over the years. Back in the era where R&B samples were chopped up for grime tracks, it was difficult to execute it in a way that made the modern iteration unique in its own right without relying too heavily on the sample to carry the song. Kandi’s ‘“Don’t Think I’m Not” isn’t instantly recognisable due to the way the sample is chopped, but it’s one that’s fitting for an R&G riddim.

Listen to Kandi’s “Don’t Think I’m Not”.

Kano — “Reload It”

There’s something bittersweet about the fact that one of grime’s most classic instrumentals, “Reload It”, was made by Diplo. However, where the sample in the song was found tells of Diplo’s culture-jumping throughout his career. On “Reload It”, he takes a sample from Indian singer-songwriter Asha Puthli’s “I Dig Love” and it’s still one of the finest grime instrumentals, despite the only grime thing about it being the BPM—which may not even be 140. Diplo might not be everyone’s cup of tea but with productions like these, it would be interesting to hear more from him on an underground tip.

Listen to Asha Puthli’s “I Dig Love”.

D Double E — “Streetfighter Riddim”

Video game samples in grime have to be treated with precision. The wrong loop could be what makes a song go from being timeless to cheesy. There’s no doubt that few MCs could deliver the necessary energy and bars for a track named after a ‘90s video game such as D Double E, but it’s also Swerve’s magic touch on the boards that helped to turn the sample into a grime classic. This in itself makes “Streetfighter Riddim” an absolute shoe-in.

Listen to the Street Fighter II soundtrack.

Kano — “Signs In Life”

Throughout his career, Kano has given nods to the music of older generations that paved the way before him. On London Town track “Fightin’ The Nation”, he sampled Junior Murvin’s “Police and Thieves”, while on his debut he looked toward Sanchez for inspiration on “Signs In Life”. Although, this time, it’s the lyrics that he samples and interpolates. Which is often why Kano has always felt like an MC beyond his years; there’s a wisdom that’s heard in his lyrics, even despite being only 20 when his debut dropped in 2005.

Listen to Sanchez’s “Never Dis Di Man”.

Ruff Sqwad — “Together” f/ Wiley

I can’t stress the importance of sampling in grime during its early days—not too dissimilar to its importance in hip-hop. Most grime fans at the time may have recognised Ruff Sqwad’s sample of The Police’s “Message In A Bottle” in 2005, but few could’ve seen a future where it would find its place in grime’s hall-of-fame classics. Thematically and sonically, the sample shouldn’t work but “Together” is an example of the innovation and acute ear for sounds grime producers displayed.

Listen to The Police’s “Message In A Bottle”.

Ghetts & Rude Kid — “One Take”

It makes sense that in this point time, MCs are sampling grime tracks from a decade ago—everything is just cyclical. However, there’s something particularly special about grime’s most dynamic character, Ghetts, and the sampling of Wiley’s “Igloo” and “Wot Do U Call It?”. Taking that one bar and looping it over on “One Take” was sublime work from Rude Kid, especially when this was the time people were celebrating grime’s ‘resurgence’, as it was a stark reminder of the culture’s origins.

Listen to Wiley’s “Igloo” and “Wot Do U Call It?”.

Posted on October 09, 2018