Hip-hop and rap music have a long and rich history of creatively sampling other genres and artists, utilising the sounds in new ways to add yet another dimension to a burgeoning musical movement. The realm of rap and hip-hop has made an art of sampling, digging back through the archives of history to find unique gems to add another layer to their songs in what provides an almost poetic glimpse of the future while acknowledging the past.
One of the beauties of sampling music, no matter the genre, is the ability to make one song blend into another. There’s an argument to be made that collecting a sample from a track admired by the artist creates something much more profound, transforming it into an entirely new form and paying tribute in the process. And that’s often the case when hip-hop artists turn to the sphere of alternative or rock music.
There’s one song in particular that people often fail to recognise as a sample on first listen and, remarkably, it is actually one of the most popular tracks of the 2010s. We’re looking at none other than Lupe Fiasco’s ‘The Show Goes On’. The track is one of those nostalgic efforts that transports the listener back to a specific time in their lives and, given that it was awarded a monumental amount of radio play, ‘The Show Goes On’ cemented its place as a contemporary classic.
One of the reasons why the song is so incredibly catchy is that the melody shares a relationship Modest Mouse’s supremely popular effort ‘Float On’, so much so that Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse even has a writing credit on the song. When listening closely, you can also hear the guitar riff sped up and added to the intro of ‘The Show Goes On’ for good measure—a small detail that adds even more sparkle to the song.
But it seems that this wasn’t Lupe Fiasco’s only rock inspiration in the song. Of the process, he said: “I was literally told for ‘The Show Goes On’ that I shouldn’t rap too deep. I shouldn’t be too lyrical. It just needs to be something easy on the eyes. Like a record company telling Picasso that we don’t need these abstract interpretations of life, where people have to sit down and look at it and break it down. It was better to paint the Upper West Side lady and her poodle so everyone could look at it right away and understand what was going on. I felt like I was painting poodles. It’s why in the first line of ‘The Show Goes On’ I paraphrase Johnny Rotten at the Sex Pistols’ final show: ‘Have you ever had the feeling that you were being cheated’.”
Regardless, Fiasco definitely found a way to exercise his creativity on the track, all while using a great sample to make yet another catchy song that’ll no doubt stick around in the cultural consciousness.