Image by Alex John Beck
While we await the arrival of Vampire Weekend’s fourth album, let’s take a look at one of the most popular songs from their last LP Modern Vampires of the City: “Step.” A beautiful tune with haunting choral vocals, startling lyrics, and a piano accompaniment reminiscent of Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” “Step” is hailed as a prime example of Vampire Weekend’s musical genius. However, “Step” would not be possible without heavy sampling of the song “Step To My Girl” by 90’s rap group Souls of Mischief. While “Step To My Girl” is an old-school rap song with a quick beat and fast rhymes, a cursory listen reveals the obvious similarities. Vampire Weekend borrow several lyrics such as “back back way back I used to…,” the first lyrics of both songs, and “every time I see you in the world you always step to my girl.” Vampire Weekend also draw melodic influences from the Souls of Mischief original. Aside from similar melodies on the aforementioned line “every time I see you in the world you always step to my girl,” the chorus of “Step” is borrowed from the backing saxophone melody in “Step To My Girl.”
What makes this sampling even more interesting is that several of the parts of “Step To My Girl” that Vampire Weekend sampled are samples themselves. The line “every time I see you in the world you always step to my girl,” is a sample from the song “Who’s That Girl” by YZ. The backing saxophone melody is sampled from a Grover Washington Jr. song called “Aubrey,” which itself is a cover of the song “Aubrey” by 70’s soft-rock band Bread. Hearing the same melody in vastly different contexts is fascinating, and following its evolution puts a whole new spin on each of these songs.
The complex sampling history of “Step” adds a new element to the song. The way that Vampire Weekend manage to incorporate influences from 90’s hip-hop, jazz, and 70’s soft rock and still end up sounding like Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” is incredible. “Step” is a great use of sampling, and is, indeed, an example of Vampire Weekend’s musical genius.