A Beginner’s Guide To NYC Sample Drill

Sampling isn’t a new thing, and it surely isn’t new to hip-hop. In the 90s, during what some would consider the “golden age” of hip-hop, producers were flipping the soul records they grew up with into cutting edge rap records. But as time went on and hip-hop grew, the laws surrounding the use of other artists’ music for sampling grew increasingly restrictive, and the connections and money needed to successfully clear samples partially closed that window for smaller, independent artists. As a result, some producers even made it a point to make sample-free music, reflective of the general attitude toward the arduous process and legal implications of sample-clearing.

There’s a new sound taking over New York right now, though, unconcerned with any of this. A wave of sample-based production is happening all over the city, pairing classic songs of all genres with NYC’s omnipresent drill sound – a lethal combination of hard-nosed drum patterns and soaring 808s with colorful arrays of samples, from rock songs to soul songs and everything in between. Artists are ignoring the “red tape” of sample clearance and releasing new music at breakneck speed, encouraging others to do the same. As a result, an entire world of sound is opening up; if it sounds good, it’s being created – a massively exciting development in NYC rap, and one that returns to the sample-based roots that helped create hip-hop in the first place… right in New York City, at that.

In a landscape of social media and music where so many artists and songs feel engineered specifically to become money machines, this cold-shoulder to legal red-tape and monetary concerns matters. Sampling introduces new generations to older music, encourages new fans to research where the music comes from, and all in all, creates a cross-generational connection that especially matters in a fast-moving genre like hip-hop.

In addition to the sampling history that makes the subgenre so interesting, the drill sound itself is also finding new ground among this movement. As a quick history lesson, drill originated in Chicago a little over a decade ago. Garnering massive attention with the rise of names like Chief Keef and Lil Durk, drill soon found its way over to the UK, where the style was picked up and transformed into its own distinct sound. Then, drill jumped back over the Atlantic a few years back with the emergence of a Brooklyn drill scene that housed names like Pop Smoke and Fivio Foreign. According to producer EvilGiane, “drill in Chicago and the UK was more about war and what was going on in the street – when it came to New York, some of that remained, but it shifted and became more swaggy.

Today, the Brooklyn-rooted sound is gaining new roots all over the city from artists and producers like Cash Cobain, Shawny Binladen, Big Yaya, EvilGiane, Moh Baretta, and Polo Perks, among others. And while local momentum grows by the day, some of rap’s big names are tapping in – namely with Drake showing love to EvilGiane and Cash Cobain, as well as Lil Yachty jumping on a Cash Cobain sample drill beat a few weeks back with “Cortex.”

“All the different evolutions of drill had certain target markets. Chicago drill was all the 16-18 year old kids – my grandmother was not listening to Chief Keef. But my mother is gonna hear a Luther Vandross sample in a drill song before she even hears “and this beat from Cash, not from YouTube” and immediately connect with the song. The older people might turn it off when the drill comes in, but at that point, you already listened to 30 seconds. And that’s a stream for us [laughs].” – Glyn Brown

In an attempt to capture the importance of sample drill and its place in rap history, I spoke with some of the names making it about the sound and what it means. Below is a beginner’s guide to sample drill, paired with quotes explaining its importance from a few of the leading names involved.

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Cash Cobain

Bronx-based producer Cash Cobain is an underground legend and lands among those leading the sample drill sound right now with his work alongside Shawny Binladen, Big Yaya, YTB (Yellow Tape Boys), Melly Migo, FOUR50, and others. Cobain is known for his “and this beat from Cash, not from YouTube” producer tag, which comes from frequent collaborator Big Yaya. More recently, he landed a Lil Yachty collaboration with the sample drill song “Cortex” and in the past, has received A-list cosigns from names like Drake, who was singing along in an IG live to the Cash Cobain classic, “Cartel Talk.”

LL: How did you start making soul drill?

Cash: It came to me when the drill scene first started coming out – Pop Smoke, people like that – and taking over New York. I don’t really like to join the wave or ride the wave, I like to make my own wave. And that’s always been a thing because you can tell when you’re listening to a Cash [Cobain] beat. I always loved sampling, and I remember hearing drill and thinking how I had never really heard anyone try to sing on drill beats before. The “9HUNNIT & 50 BARZ” beat was one of the first ones I sent to [Shawny Binladen] and it felt different because there was a sample on it.

After that, I made this song “Thotty Drill” that had a sample. Since then, I’ve just been throwing samples around, buggin’ out, and those sh*ts be taking off. When me and [Shawny Binladen] come together, that sh*t gonna go. It’s a cheat code, them sh*ts is automatic.

LL: Talk about how the drill wave in New York has developed over time.

Cash: Chicago started drill which influenced London drill, and London drill came back and influenced New York drill. So we’re getting back to the soul of it.

With the passing of Pop Smoke, it felt like drill kinda died down. But watch when all the new sample drill comes out, everyone is gonna jump back on the wave. This sh*t is for New York.

Glyn Brown [Cash Cobain’s Manager]: Cash is from the Bronx. The first wave of drill was a Brooklyn thing, but Cash is from the Bronx and Shawny [Binladen] and YTB are from Queens. So this new wave of drill isn’t about boroughs, this is New York strong through and through.

We definitely gotta shed light on the London scene, too, with all the grime stuff that originated there. We tapped in with n***as in London, too. We letting everyone know that this is a united thing – it’s New York strong right now but the sound is united across multiple scenes.

LL: Talk about how this new wave of sample drill artists has ignored the red tape around sampling.

Cash: In the music I make for myself, I been sampling. All my mixtapes are full of samples. Sometimes you gotta have that “I don’t even care” attitude and just put stuff out. If you do that, it opens the door for other artists to do the same thing.

Glyn: Look at Juice Wrld with “Lucid Dreams” and that “I still see your shadows in my room” sample. Because of that lawsuit, he missed out on a lot of money with that song but it opened the door and now he has even bigger hits. If you play by the rules too much you can miss out on opportunities to grow.

And you can’t deny these samples, no matter what age you are. It does something to the soul to hear a familiar sample – it doesn’t even have to be a soul sample. Giving people something familiar with that new kind of sound around it hits the soul.

LL: Talk about Drake and Lil Yachty showing love to what you’ve been doing, especially coming off the recent Lil Yachty collaboration with “Cortex.”

Cash: Drake loves this sh*t and has been loving it. He knows. Yachty is one of the realest n***as in the game. He been f*cking with the sound – Yachty really loves this sh*t.

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Shawny Binladen

Hailing from Woodhull, Queens, Shawny Binladen helped bring the sample drill sound to new heights with his 2020 project, Merry Wickmas. He’s been making music since he was 14, and was introduced to rap through his uncle, Randy “Stretch” Walker, who ran with Tupac. Now posed as one of the leading talents behind New York’s exciting new step in the evolution of drill, names like Virgil Abloh, A$AP Bari, and the OVO Sound crew have shown massive support for Queens’ own while he continues to build out this sound through snippets and music videos at breakneck speed.

LL: At what point did you start making sample drill?

We’ve been doing samples but never really focused in on it. Now I’m all the way focused on it – we took that genre and made it ours. Everybody else is worried about money and I’m just doing it for the culture – I’m not even worried about the sampling laws. If I use 100 samples, at least one of them is going to get cleared, and maybe the person who I sampled will even appreciate us bringing their song to the new generation.

At the end of the day, I made my own genre with soul drill. I’m bringing back that feeling you get from the people that paved the way for us. I’m bringing back the sh*t that people loved when they were 12 years old. It’s about giving to the people who came before us.

LL: How do you choose what samples to use?

I gotta shoutout my producers because the samples are their ideas. Mostly it’s from Cash Cobain, @EPonDaBeatt, Sliick, @2tblossom, @y3tga, a whole bunch of people. They make all types of beats but we’re getting the most feedback on the soul drill so we’re gonna run with it.

LL: Talk about some of the love you’ve received as of recent from names like Virgil Abloh, A$AP Bari, and OVO.

Me and Bari locked in – he’s definitely a genuine person, he’s like a mentor teaching me the ins and outs, too. Virgil is the same way, that’s like a big brother just dropping jewels on me. He was telling me that everything needs an update, like fashion, music, etc. and I could be that person. That sh*t made sense to me and has stuck with me ever since. Shoutout to OVO for all the love they be showing me. Shoutout Drake. Shoutout everybody. I’m just paving my way.

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Big Yaya

Big Yaya is from the Southside of Queens and is a part of YTB (Yellow Tape Boys), having grown up around several other members in the collective. He’s also the voice behind Cash Cobain’s unforgettable producer tag, “and this beat from Cash, not from YouTube,” and has separated himself from the pack with melodic, mischievous deliveries, filled with constant mentions of “grinchin’” (by Yaya’s definition, grinchin’ means “making a way for luxurious living”).

LL: At what point did you start making sample drill?

I started tapping in with soul drill after [Shawny Binladen] started doing the sample sh*t. I started really tapping with “Don’t Come For A Line.” But I’m versatile, I do everything. Rap, trap, all that.

LL: Talk about the momentum behind the sample drill sound right now.

The city is coming for our sound — the industry is taking our sound and our producers. All I’m saying is that if you wanna take the Yaya sauce, tap in. Pay homage. Buy some drink from me and come to the studio. We won’t even be on your ass if you take our sh*t, the fans gonna be on you. That’s how you know the love is real.

We got the whole city grinchin’.

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EvilGiane

One of the founding members of Surf Gang, EvilGiane is a Yonkers-born, Brooklyn-raised producer who flipped the sample drill sound in a different direction, pairing drill percussion with emo songs, rock songs, dance songs, etc. The beauty of a sample-based style of music is the individualistic flavor behind each producer and the samples they choose, which is where Giane has thrived as a forward-thinking name behind some of my favorite sample drill projects to date (PUNK GOES DRILL +** and #THISISNOTADRILL). His name is synonymous with the sound, which explains Drake, among others,  showing love to this growing style of drill.

LL: When did you first start making sample drill music?

The first sample sh*t we were doing wasn’t the soul sh*t, it was all emo and punk samples. We really started working on that near the end of last year while making PUNK GOES DRILL +**. That project wasn’t the first sample thing we did, but it was the first time we really focused in on it.

When drill was just happening in Brooklyn, it was about making hard, almost war-sounding music. We started trying to make happy drill stuff, and were taking old beats I made with 70s samples like what if we threw drill percussion on there? And once that happened, the door opened, so we started throwing Foo Fighters and other sh*t we grew up listening to on drill percussion.

LL: Talk about how this new wave of sample drill artists has ignored the red tape around sampling.

At this point, it’s more for the culture than anything. We’re trying to make music that we f*ck with and that’s also relatable to people who don’t usually f*ck with the drill genre. The sampling stuff can even make old heads f*ck with it, because they appreciate and recognize the samples we’re using. In a modern sense, it works with younger kids when we sample newer stuff that they grew up with. It works with a lot of different people. Drill in Chicago and the UK was more about war before – when it came to New York, it shifted and became more swaggy.

LL: How do you decide what samples to use?

It happens naturally just hanging with Polo [Perks] and Moh [Baretta], listening to sh*t we grew up with and sh*t that we love. There’s no real deep thought that goes into it, it just happens organically.

LL: Talk about the importance of the drill scene happening right now.

It’s like a renaissance happening right now. People in the 90s were taking soul samples and making boom bap, and we’re bringing that back and doing the same thing with drill right now.

It’s so easy to grab for everyone. You can’t be mad at a good sample. The song can be whack, but if you hit someone with a sample they grew up on, they’re immediately going to connect with it.

LL: Talk about the recent love you’ve received, especially being followed by Drake.

Drake noticed me because I sampled him in “Give Back” with Dee Aura. He hit me up saying it was crazy and from there, we just started working.

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Moh Baretta

As part of Surf Gang, Brooklyn artist Moh Baretta established himself as a must-know name in sample drill with his #THISISNOTADRILL tape, which received an equally-exciting sequel just a few weeks back. Leaping from classic Kanye samples to Spooky Black, MF Doom, and everything in between without missing a beat, Moh’s New York-tinted style makes him a naturally compelling character with a broad range of influence, opening up the possibilities of sample drill with each new release.

LL: When did you start making drill?

UP N DOWN” was my first attempt at a drill beat ever. I realized that you didn’t have get on drill beats and talk about regular drill sh*t. That’s why the tape is called #THISISNOTADRILL, because I’m rapping on drill beats but talking about stuff entirely different from most drill music out there.

LL: How do you choose what to sample?

Everybody got they own wave doing it. We all have different tastes but also f*ck with a lot of the same sh*t, so it just clicks. Like “Detox” with the Empire of the Sun sample? When that happpened, I knew it was over. I find a lot of samples on my own time and just send them to [Evil] Giane, too.

LL: Talk about the art behind sampling.

Here’s my thing; good music is always going to be recognized as good music no matter where it’s sampled from or who used it. The original artist is always going to appreciate the love if you do it the right way, and no one knows how to flip samples like [EvilGiane] because he does it in a way that really makes you appreciate the original artist. That’s why I make sure to body everything I get on so that people respect it and let me wild out. “RIP VIKTOR VAUGHN” was a Doom sample! It’s not about jacking someone else’s song – you have to add part of your mind and style to the sample to figure out how the two can work together. It’s contemporary art.

A lot of songs from back in the day are under-appreciated in my opinion, too, so I pay respect to the past and try to bring those songs back in a new form for people to appreciate. Music can also be used on some time travel sh*t. When you’re listening to the tape, it’s like you’re traveling through time hearing these different eras of music all come together, and that’s why so many people appreciate it.

LL: Talk about how the new drill scene is a New York thing, rather than being individual to one borough.

Old heads talk about bringing New York and that old school sound back. But they can’t complain because we’re paving the way right now, bringing that old style of sampling back but doing it in a way that pays respect to the past and brings the new and the old together. A lot of our fans are younger; when they hear “RIP VIKTOR VAUGHN” and then Google who that is, all of the sudden you got a new Doom fan. You got a new Doom fan, a new Moh fan, and a new fan of life. This sh*t is magic, it’s deeper than music.

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Polo Perks

Also a part of Surf Gang, Brooklyn-based artist Polo Perks most recently came forth with a project called PUNK GOES DRILL +**, merging the worlds of punk music, emo music, dance music, etc. with drill percussion. His bellowing voice and muddied deliveries mesh perfectly over such a broad range of samples, from “Mr. Brightside” to “Everlong,” cementing his name in New York’s burgeoning new scene.

LL: When did you first start making drill music?

It was really all jokes at first. I dropped a song in 2020 called “DRILL2k20*!+,” right before all the drill stuff really started cracking. I stepped away from drill for a second after that and came back with “200ACUP” and then “SomethingThatMatters.” After that, it was just organic. PUNK GOES DRILL +** was an interesting way for me to market myself.

At the end of the day, I don’t even classify what we do as drill music because it’s so different. You get something totally different out of the music we make than you do from other drill music.

LL: How do you choose what to sample?

I listen to more rock than I do rap. Spending time in Connecticut when I was a kid opened my eyes up to more rock sh*t, so we just sample the sh*t we love that we know other people will love, too. Like “Everlong” by the Foo Fighters – everyone loves that song so we knew it would go crazy. “DUPPY DRILL” samples that dance song “Crave You” that all the shorties love.

The drill stuff has been the most organic music I’ve ever made because it’s all based around music I grew up listening to. Tommytohotty and EvilGiane (two producers in Surf Gang) are into a lot of the same music, so a big part of the process was just sitting down with them and figuring out what samples we wanted to work with.

LL: Talk about how this new wave of sample drill artists has ignored the red tape around sampling.

The whole goal is to be yourself. A lot of people who see me would never think I listen to rock music, but that’s what I do. And if I didn’t genuinely love the music I sample, understand the artists behind it, and have two producers behind me who know exactly how I think, this sh*t would come off corny. I chose rock samples because it was the only way to keep myself separate from everybody else. Not only are we pushing the boundaries of drill itself, but we’re also bringing rock into the sound which takes it another step.

LL: Talk about the people who have shown love to what you and Surf Gang have been doing.

The Drake look for my brother [Evil] Giane is just confirmation that he’s doing it the right way and staying genuine. All the professional athlete cosigns from skateboarders have been crazy, too – Kevin White, Lucien Clarke, Zion Wright, Jamie Foy – I respect all the skaters that show me love because I always wanted to be someone that motivated people and drove people.

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Author’s Note:

Trying to cover an entire scene in an article, you’re bound to miss some names. While I attempted to capture some of the main characters making sample drill, there are several other artists and producers involved who I didn’t include (Tommytohotty, Dee Aura, Four50, and Big Baby, to name a few). Below are a few extra sample drill songs to check out. Much love to these artists and to everyone who participated in this article.