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How many times have you listened to a song, usually a hip hop song, and wondered what song or songs were sampled to create it? Or heard a song for the first time that sounded very familiar, despite having never heard it before, because it was built around another song that you just can’t place? Shazam is of no help in those circumstances. It’s only going to tell you the name of the song being played, not the pieces of other songs that were used to create it. There’s only one thing to do in those circumstances– Call the Sample Spotters!

Okay, you can’t actually call them. But you can visit them on Facebook. You can even join them if you have a talent and passion for unearthing the arcane samples that are used to create hip hop tracks.

The Sample Spotters group was created in 2016 by Omar Lopez, initially as an a way to replicate the chat about samples, and the identification of samples, he’d enjoyed on a site called The Breaks. That site had sort of died down, so he put together a Facebook group to take its place. He had no idea it would blow up as it did, and after minimal promotion the site grew to its present-day size of nearly 20,000 users.

Group members post links to songs containing samples they hope others can help them identify, as well as songs whose samples they have cracked themselves. They are extremely good at what they do. You may be familiar with the site Who Sampled, but you may not know that a large number of the samples identified there were originally discovered by the Sample Spotters group.

It’s rare that the artists whose work is being dissected take notice, or if they do they don’t let it be known, but there have been two notable exceptions. In one case, a producer (who will remain nameless) reached out to the group and asked them to take down a post identifying a record he’d sampled. It seems he hadn’t cleared the sample, and didn’t want to face the legal repercussions if the sampled artist found out. The Sample Spotters aren’t out to get anyone in trouble, and the post was quietly deleted.

On another occasion, the famous hip hop producer Easy Mo Bee contacted the group and told them they had misidentified the sample he’d used. It wasn’t what they thought it was! Needless to say, that post was also removed, and cubhats were worn all around the group that day.

When asked about some of the more difficult samples the group has spotted, Omar told me, “Agallah – Man of the House was a search which ended up with us finding an incredibly obscure soul 45 from an either unreleased or lost blaxploitation film that there was almost no information for online.” It turned out to be a song originally written for Michael Jackson, but one he never sang. Instead, Motown turned it over to an unknown label, to be sung by an unknown kid. The record only recently surface, long after the sample had been spotted. The fruits of that labor can be seen in this old post from the group.

Another great search involved KMD, MF Doom, and Ernie and Bert from Sesame Street. That quest was so epic that it ended up being the topic of an online article!

The group keeps an ever-changing Most Wanted list of 20 samples they are most keen to unearth. When a user cracks a song on the list, he’s allowed to choose its replacement. The current list of 20 songs can be found here. Perhaps YOU can ID one?? You’ll have to join the group to see it, but if you are crate-digger, sample head, producer, or even just a hip hop fan, you will probably find it quite interesting. Be sure to say hi to Omar if you join. Tell him Heavy Hits sent you!

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