SAMPLED examines the skeletal production of a contemporary rap, R&B, hip-hop or pop song — Where did the loop, sample, or chopped up vocal providing the backbone originate? SAMPLED gives you the history, the context, and the insight.

This week, we’re breaking down the sample from one of the best songs from Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience, “Let The Groove Get In”:

The first time you hear “Let The Groove Get In,” it sounds like JT’s take on a Gloria Estefan song. Despite the brass stabs, danceable rhythms, and ancillary percussion, this song’s sample origins are African and not Latin American.

Between 1973 and 1975, sound engineer Kathleen Johnson traveled to Upper Volta (now known as Burkina Faso), as part of the Nonesuch Records Explorer Series, to document the cultural music of the African nation. Burkina Faso is made up of over a hundred thousand square miles of savannah plains in the heart of West Africa, and its people are as diverse as the land is vast. At the time of Kathleen Johnson’s expedition, the nation boasted over six million people, divided into over fifty different ethnic groups, each with their own languages.

Johnson sought to capture a cross-section of the music from Upper Volta’s three distinct cultural regions: the pressure drumming of the Voltaic area, the lutes and fiddles used by the nomadic groups of the Sahel region, and the solo-singing of inhabitants of the Mandé area. Rhythms of the Grasslands: Music of Upper Volta, Volume II is a compilation of field recordings that Johnson compiled during her trips to all three regions of Upper Volta.

“Alhamdulillaahi” can be translated to “Praise God,” and features an instrument called a “nyua-be,” which is effectively a cross between a harp and a lute. The nyua-be is complemented with some solo singing, and cylindrical drumming, making “Alhamdulillaahi” a fairly accurate representation of the cultural music of Upper Volta in the 1970s.

“Alhamdulillaahi” was recently sampled by Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, and J-Roc, on “Let The Groove Get In,” an eight minute epic from The 20/20 Experience:

So, have we made up our minds about The 20/20 Experience yet? Are we ready to admit that it’s better than Channel Orange? If you disagree, don’t flip over a table out of anger just yet. The 20/20 Experience is definitely more of a grower than a shower, and if you’re not feeling it now, give it a few more spins in a week or so. Then put the table back where you found it.

On “Let The Groove Get In,” JT, Timbo, and J-Roc chop a section from the beginning of “Alhamdulillaahi,” increase the pitch, and speed it up for their intro, and bringing it back for the song’s many bridges. Justin even cribs his chorus from misheard lyrics in “Alhamdulillaahi,” making this one of the coolest sample flips of the year. All things considered, you’ve gotta wonder if RCA Records will be sending a royalty cheque to Burkina Faso.

Last night, Justin Timberlake performed “Let The Groove Get In” with a little help from the Roots and the Tennessee Kids. Check it out below:

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