The Sinnerman Is Just Trying to Get By

A lot of the sites I read pretty regularly have been doing posts about samples recently. Scholar over at Souled On has been featuring tons of samples (scroll down), Marty at Music Selections has posted some good ones, and of course there’s the always solid Sample Wednesday on Palms Out Sounds. Even the personalized internet radio station that I listen to at work got into the act, playing The Isley Brothers’ “Between the Sheets” (the sample used in “Big Poppa”) for me earlier today. But I’ve been wanting to do a post about one of my favorite samples for a while, and from the pictures at the top (and maybe the *ahem* clever title), you might have guessed which one I mean.

I’d heard both “Sinnerman” by Nina Simone and “Get By” by Talib Kweli (produced by Kanye West) tons of times each before it clicked that one was the sample in the other. And once it did click, I starting appreciating “Get By” a lot more. At the very basic level, samples are just a beat that sounds good with the lyrics. But samples, at their absolute best, are both reverential and referential. It’s like a filmmaker including a film he/she admires in his/her own film: An illustration of the artist’s influences and a tribute to those influences. The sample complements the lyrics and adds to the depth of their content. This is especially true of “Get By” using “Sinnerman.”

The lyrics to “Sinnerman” (which you can read here) are about a sinner struggling for spiritual redemption, and while “Get By” is more about personal redemption (read the lyrics here), it translates pretty well. Take a listen:

Nina Simone – Sinnerman (Buy Simone music)

Talib Kweli – Get By (Buy It)

posted by Adam

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One response to “The Sinnerman Is Just Trying to Get By

  1. Thanks for the shout, Adam. Two of my absolute favorite artists—can’t go wrong with that for a sample post.

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