WNXP is debuting a new weekly series called Free Samples. Sampling has always been a part of hip-hop creativity and culture; people borrow from the classics to create new work, and pay homage and situate themselves in stylistic lineages in the process. In that spirit, we’ve asked an array of Black music-makers, who’ve done a lot to define the sound of Nashville, to speak about the musical sources, influences and experiences, the predecessors, peers and collaborators that have enriched their work. Whether they’re talking about literal sampling or using that as a metaphor, they’re going to help us hear meaningful connections and give credit where it’s due.
Houston Kendrick, a former Nashville Artist of the Month, reflected on and rhapsodized about sampling a scene from a foundational documentary on his debut mixtape:
“My name is Houston Kendrick. I’m an R&B artist based out of Nashville, Tennessee. And in 2018, I dropped a mixtape called Pink. On that album, there was a song called ‘Persona’ wherein I sampled audio from ‘Paris Is Burning,’ which is an iconic film about the Black and Hispanic ballroom scene in New York City in the early nineties. The scene I specifically reference was a scene of Brooke and Carmen Xtravaganza walking along a beach discussing, I believe it was Brooke’s transition, all of her operations and her process of self-actualizing her womanhood. The way she talked about the freedom that she felt, it was just so jubilant. It was so innocent. It was so untainted by the harsh reality of what it means to live a trans existence, especially at that time. It was so inspiring to me, and it perfectly encapsulated what I wanted that song to represent. It was just breaking of chains and stepping into exactly who you are without shame. And as a Black, queer person living in the South, I feel there is so much that you are made to feel ashamed of. And watching this beautiful trans woman be so expressive and so joyful about who she was, it just felt so important to include.”
The Shindellas, a trio whose refined vocal interplay and polished presentation carries on an underappreciated musical tradition, pointed to The Pointer Sisters as predecessors:
“Hi, I’m Kasi.
And I’m Tamara.
And we are The Shindellas
And we absolutely love The Pointer Sisters. I mean, we mentioned them in nearly every interview as a part of our Mount Rushmore of girl groups.
It’s for the way they fearlessly blend their influences to create a sound all their own, the way each member brought and brings their own unique magic and vocal quality that makes every song so special. I mean, they are iconic.
They are. And one of our favorites of theirs is actually one of their live performances of ‘Steam Heat.’ It is so soulful and it’s so jazzy and it’s so much fun that people don’t realize how musically intricate it actually is. And I think you really see their influence on us in the freedom of our performances and hear that same intricacy in songs like ‘Lullaby’ or the intro to ‘Costume.’
Yes. And honestly, if you listen to our debut album Hits That Stick Like Grits, you will hear that adventurous musicality and vocal playfulness all over the place. We are stans!”