Library of Congress Launches Open-Source Hip-Hop Sampling Tool

The Library of Congress’ Record Collection, image via Library of Congress

Producers will have access to the library’s vast audio collection, which dates back more than a hundred years!

The Library of Congress, led by current “innovator in residence” Brian Foo, is launching an open-source hip-hop sample tool called Citizen DJ. A preview is currently available, and the full service will launch this summer.

Users will have access to a massive audio collection that dates back over a hundred years, almost to the invention of the phonograph. According to the L.O.C., there will be three ways to access these sound files: an interface for searching by sound and metadata; a simple music-creation app that easily allows the collection to be remixed with hip-hop beats; and various “sample packs” full of thousands of clips from particular collections.

While Citizen DJ will be available for use in other musical genres, Brain Foo’s intention was to bring back the golden age of hip-hop sampling. A data visualization artist at the American Museum of Natural History, Foo pines for the “collage-based” music of the ’80s and ’90s, before lawsuits led to “excessive restrictions on how audio could be sampled.” He said, “today, collage-based hip hop as it existed in the golden age is largely a lost (or at best, a prohibitively expensive) artform. I believe if there was a simple way to discover, access, and use public domain audio and video material for music making, a new generation of hip hop artists and producers can maximize their creativity, invent new sounds, and connect listeners to materials, cultures, and sonic history that might otherwise be hidden from public ears.”

You can help the Library of Congress beta-test Citizen DJ by spending about 15 minutes playing around with the preview.

Like so many of us, the Library of Congress has been on a hip-hop kick recently. Last year, JAY-Z ‘s The Blueprint was entered into the archive and this year it was followed by Dr. Dre’s The Chronic.