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Envelope Music Producers Roundtable: Sampling from the past versus composing in the present

The question of original melodies versus sampled ones is a debate no pop producer is immune to.

At last month’s Grammy roundtable, Times pop music critic Ann Powers quizzed three hitmakers responsible for Grammy-nominated songs (Alex da Kid, Ari Levine of the production trio the Smeezingtons, and RedOne) by Eminem, B.o.B., Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga, among others on how they strike a balance between borrowing melodies and ideas from old songs and crafting tunes from scratch.

“I think everything we do is almost borrowed from the past,” said Nadir Khayat, the Moroccan-born producer known as RedOne, one of the most in-demand producers in the world. “Just talking about myself, I grew up in a family with a lot of music and a lot of influences. Everything I’m doing in music, I’m trying to get that feeling back of when I was a kid.”

Though Khayat is best known for his work with his muse, Lady Gaga, he scored a massive hit when he used Lionel Richie’s 1983 party classic, "All Night Long (All Night)," as the foundation for Enrique Iglesias’ Pitbull-assisted "I Like It." The club banger hit No. 1 on both Billboard’s Latin Pop and Hot Dance Club charts and logged more than 3 million downloads.

In the clip above, the three producers discuss the art of sampling and if they feel it’s possible to go too far.

Check back daily until the Grammy Awards on Feb. 13 to see more of this conversation on pop music.

— Gerrick D. Kennedy

Recent and related:

Envelope Music Producers Roundtable: Does genre matter anymore?

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