Uncovering Classic Drum and Bass Samples

Articles // Thu 15 Sep 2022 - 14:06pm

Previously, in uncovering the stories behind our favourite genres, we dove into the keystone of house and techno, the Roland TR909.

While this unassuming grey box propelled the two biggest dance genres into what they are today, one other not-so-well-kept secret is a far wider reaching innovation in music. 

Sampling

Spreading well beyond dance music, sampling is best known for its use in rap and hip hop production, with music legends like J Dilla creating masterpieces and pioneering whole new rhythmic styles working alongside his AKAI MPC. His album Donuts is essential listening to see the pinnacle use of sampling outside of dance music.

With learning more and more about dance music, there are certain sounds that keep catching my ear. Hunting for the samples behind these sounds was a surprising journey to one goldmine track that utilised all of the earworms I’d been eagerly digging for.

Samples in dance music range from vocals and abstract sounds, adding detail and interest to their drum groove foundation. No genre highlights the use of samples in dance better than jungle, with the breakbeats and clever sample chops at the genre’s core.

Amen Brother

No breakbeat is more infamous than the ‘Amen break’. Harking from The Winston’s instrumental soul track Amen Brother, this beat has been sampled by everyone from N.W.A to Oasis; the 16-beat break has been cut up and remixed in every way imaginable.

The crisp but open-sounding drum beat proved the perfect starting point for many jungle tracks, including our honeypot, DJ Gunshot’s ‘Wheel It Up‘.

Wheel It Up and its VIP Wheel ‘N’ Deal are two of the earliest uses of all the samples I was looking for; finally opening the door to the other three samples on this list.

Brukwine!

I first heard this sample, like so many ravers, in Double 99’s infamous Ripgrove. The now 25-year-old house classic arrests your attention at its drop with a slowed down and heavily affected call to arms.

Originating in dancehall ‘Brukwine’ (literal translation: break into dance) is a call to arms by the MC for all ravers to cut loose and move to the sounds from the select.

The particular sample used throughout dance music stems from Top Cat and Project One’s Request the Style, with the whole longer call to arms being recalled at the start of DJ Gunshot’s formative jungle tracks. This instantly recognisable vocal cut is arguably the most iconic in dance music.

Piercing through the vocal at the start of Wheel It Up, your ears are arrested by a sound sampled across so many jungle and UK garage tracks, it is ingrained into the ears of any fan of the genres.

The Dub Siren Test Tone

Originating from bare-bones synthesisers used by sound system selectas and engineers, dub sirens were used in the dance to heighten the energy of tracks, and allow for some live input to the music.

These boxes often had simple controls to chance wave types and control speed and pitch. Beni Dub produces a perfect example of the siren, with the test tone demonstrated at 2:08

Often run through the delays and reverbs that characterised early dub, these sounds paved the way for the spectrum of risers and sirens used across dance music today. On the hunt for these samples, I stumbled across many forums debating the source of this sound on different tracks.

Some purists swore by making the sound from scratch, but many more fingers pointed toward most artists sampling the exact tone from Wheel It Up. The magic of that classic cut is the perfect sound to catch the attention of listeners and heighten energies in the dance.

Thinking deeper

Even after finding the first three samples, one sound remained elusive; a high-pitched vocal chop, that appeared far too often to be this hard to pin down. With no clear words or length of sample to work from, this took a lot of digging and wrong turns to uncover.

The shrill “ah ha” sound in the sample when buried in a mix sounded almost like a chop from Wildchild‘s Renegade Master, with digging naively starting here. HI-LO‘s Renegade Mastah really helped to double down on this wrong turn, with both the sample I needed and the Renegade Mastah vocal layered together.

Right in my face

In reality, the sample had been staring me in the face the whole time. Listed as the fourth sample in Wheel It Up on WhoSampled, Think (About it)by Lyn Collins harboured the goods I was looking for. 

Only when scrolling through the most popular samples of all time on WhoSampled did I find the ‘Think break‘, with the James Brown-produced track second to only Amen Brother in number of sample credits.

The sample in question was a 1-bar drum break, with a shout from the band that twisted to the “ah ha” when pitched up to 160bpm. Finding this sample was simultaneously a complete breakthrough and a massive slap in the face.

Finally completing the grail list of samples I set out to collect, the ‘Think break‘ stands as an absolute icon in jungle and wider music use. YouTuber and producer, Kasger, does an incredible job of highlighting the manipulation of the sample and its use in liquid DnB.

Though I struggled to find this immensely popular sample, it appears I wasn’t alone. After unearthing it, I discovered many forum posts from fans of drum and bass desperately trying to hunt the breakdown – all lost in similar rabbit holes to me.

Special credit for all the information I found has to go to the people behind WhoSampled, the website is an incredible place to find all the samples behind your favourite tracks – as the Wikipedia for the artform, there’s no matching it.

To help get your ear into the samples, here’s a track I produced to highlight how they can be applied to jungle.

Oh, and an extra playlist of goods to dive into featuring the samples.