A Lesson In Collaborative Sampling--Kanye and Bon Iver

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Unexpected collaborators and friends Kanye West and Bon Iver remind us that in a world of beatmaking and digital production, holed up in your bedroom, the best music is a group project.

West, who has referred to himself as an “architect of music,” is the king of sampling. Tracks from Gold Digger to Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1 & 2 to Blood On The Leaves all center around songs from a wide variety of genres. Many of West’s choruses and titles are derivative of his samples, and they play as large of a part in his music as his beats or rapping.

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Some of the icons Kanye has sampled include Ray Charles, Nina Simone, and Pastor T. L. Barrett, among many others.

Justin Vernon’s project Bon Iver began as sad, acoustic folk. His album For Emma, Forever Ago is stripped-down and nature-inspired—clearly a time before his collaborations with and menteeship from Kanye.

After Vernon released his Blood Bank EP, Kanye took a liking to the versatile artist and flew him out to a studio in Hawaii to work on Fantasy. Bon Iver is featured on tracks Monster and Dark Fantasy, and Kanye heavily samples Vernon’s song Woods in Lost in the World.

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Bon Iver’s 2016 album 22, A Million is notably Kanye-influenced—soaked in autotune and unique sounds, created from a mix of live and electronic instruments fractured into harmonies created digitally.

The big impact Kanye left, though, was the use of sampling. In 22, A Million Vernon samples Stevie Nick’s Wild Heart, Mahalia Jackson’s How I Got Over, and Cold Grits’ It’s Your Thing, among others.

Today, the two perform live together and continue to collaborate. Their individual approaches to creating blend effortlessly, and they each bring something new to the table—making innovative music.

Kanye has called Bon Iver his favorite living artist.

Some good tools for music collaboration, both remotely and right next to each other, include Avid Cloud Collaboration for Pro Tools, Pibox Music, and Soundtrap.

You can find a longer list of apps that let you work with others here.

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