The Library of Congress is launching an open-source archive of hip-hop samples dating back more than a century

Citizen DJ is the brainchild of Brian Foo, a 2020 Innovator-in-Residence Program at the U.S. Library of Congress. The goal of the project is simple: to provide free audio and video samples to encourage creativity through remixing. Or, in Foo's words:

  1. Cultivate the creation of new and transformative music using free-to-use audio and video materials from the Library.
  2. Connect the general public with culturally significant, underutilized, and free-to-use audio and video collections available from the Library.
  3. Engage communities, such as secondary school students and amateur musicians, that may have a strong relationship with hip hop music, but little to no existing relationship with the Library or the Library's materials.
  4. Provide the general public (in particular, those with little to no formal research training) with the tools and resources to navigate the United States copyright system in the context of sample-based music creation.
  5. Contribute to human-computer interaction research and best practices for search and discovery of large audio and video collections.

As for why, specifically, to take a DJ/hip-hop approach to this kind of project?

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 and access free-to-use 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.

Citizen DJ is still in the beta-testing phase, but you can download and play around with the initial sample set and leave some feedback (and/or sweet jams).

Library of Congress Launches Open-Source Hip-Hop Sampling Tool [Wren Graves / Consequence of Sound]

Citizen DJ [Brian Foo / Library of Congress]

Image: esküvő dj keverő / Wikimedia Commons (CC 4.0)