Bam Bam (song)

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"Bam Bam"
Single by Sister Nancy
from the album One, Two
StudioChannel One Studios
GenreReggae, dancehall
LabelTechniques Records
Producer(s)Winston Riley
Sister Nancy singles chronology
"One Two"
"Bam Bam"
"Transport Connection"

"Bam Bam" is a song by Jamaican dancehall recording artist Sister Nancy. The song's chorus was inspired by the 1966 song of the same name, by The Maytals and Byron Lee and the Dragonaires.[1][2] The song's instrumental samples the 1974 song "Stalag 17", by Ansell Collins, a well known riddim, alternatively known as a backing track used repeatedly.[3][4] The song has been labeled as a "well-known reggae anthem" by BBC and a "classic" by The Observer.[5][6]

In 2016, Billboard called the song "a strong contender for the title of most sampled reggae song of all time."[2] When asked her opinion of the many songs that have used her voice over the years, she responded: "I don’t know if I hear all of them. They sample it so much times but none of them is my favorite. The reason why I say that is they know how to contact me. They know I live in the U.S. and nobody try to contact me to do it in person. They always sample the tune. If they had contacted me and I would do it for them live then I would have a favorite."[2]

In 2014, Sister Nancy's daughter pointed out that the song was playing on the TV in a Reebok commercial and thus she finally decided seek legal advice and guidance on properly obtaining rights to her own music. For 32 years, Sister Nancy did not receive any royalties for her song. At the end of the settlement she was unable to receive compensation for all 32 years of unpaid royalties, however, she did receive compensation for the last 10 years and then obtained 50% of the rights to her song “Bam Bam”.[7]

In 2015, the song topped the iTunes Reggae Chart.[8]

Sampling in and outside of the diaspora: legal rights and power structures[edit]

Preserving the authenticity of original works is a part of ensuring justice for musical artists. Concerns of cultural appropriation and unauthentic copies when using sampled materials are inherent to this discussion. Within Jamaica, Sister Nancy produced this song, "Bam Bam", while using other Jamaican artist influences and original works. When artists from outside of the Afrodiaspora sample a song from within the diaspora, the deracination through emphasis on global citizenship leads to whitening and the appropriation of culture and racial identity by white people and profiting from such appropriation. Jamaican music is very intentional and differs sonically and aesthetically from American music with similar characteristics.[9] While sampling never replicates an original song exactly, it is "usually conceptualized in dichotomous terms: either an older organic and authentic form of musical expression representing a community has been destroyed by the new technologies, or ethnicity melts away in this synthesized global melange.[10] Within a nation that shares a distinct culture, fewer arguments can be made about sampling and appropriation. Among Afrodiasporic citizens, there is a superficial, yet present, layer of permissibility for sampling without direct accreditation as cultures are not being stolen for personal gain.

There are differences between Jamaican copyright laws and copyright laws within the United States, both at the time of "Bam Bam"'s production in the 1970s and today. Legally, the primary issue of sampling surrounds "infringing on another’s rights if they only take a small part of a copyrighted work and incorporate it into their own work” The Sound Recording Rights act of 1971 in America "prohibits duplication of ‘the actual sound fixed in the [copyrighted] recording’ well as individually recorded sounds". Copyright acts throughout American history have never explicitly stated that a work covered by copyright must be the "original", legalizing sampling in a sense. The 1970 act also insures the creation of "intellectual works if they are properly rewarded". Reward, at base level includes attribution or accreditation to the original artist by the sampling artist. Manipulation of the song or the sound is necessary in order to qualify as a new and separate work within the regulations of copyright laws.[11]

Digitalization permits this manipulation of the original work and has a cyclical relationship with copyright laws. Digitalization led to the ability to sample a song which produced the need to form copyright laws that protect the sampled work. The United States experienced digitalization before Jamaica which made it easier for American artists to sample a song without providing "reward" to the original artist. Reggae, a primary Jamaican genre, has economic power outside of Jamaica. Jamaican music is a form of "national and cultural identity". Doctoral research has discovered that there was little or no copyright enforcement in Jamaica, namely in the 1970s. This led to the prolific nature of music and sampled music.

Sister Nancy, when seeking compensation in 2014, realized the magnitude of her song and the diasporic cultural voice. While she appreciated the artists who sampled her work,[12] still without "reward" or accreditation, she expressed alarm when multinational corporations used her work in advertising without receiving compensation herself.[13]

Early influences[edit]

The Jamaican sampling culture has provided an inclusive space in which artists are able to repurpose one sound over and over again to share a cultural identity and indulge in a sort of “Call and Response” practice rooted in African oral traditions. These artists are called by one song or its artist to respond with their own versions and all are consequently brought together in an antiphonetic musical dialogue. Sister Nancy's Bam Bam is no exception to this musical dialogue.

The popular phrase “bam bam” was introduced into the music scene first in 1966 by a reggae band called Toots and the Maytals. The catchy hypnotic phrase, bam bam, led to its longevity that surpassed the popularity of roots reggae and was incorporated into the resurging dancehall genre, where many dancehall vocalists (or deejays) would use the lyrics and/or the popular phrase.

Mike Steyels states that Sister Nancy's immediate inspiration to sing the popular phrase was “hearing Yellowman and Fathead record their own version of ‘Bam Bam’ over the ‘Taxi Riddim’ in another studio just weeks before her own recording”.[14] Sister Nancy, however, sampled the Toots and the Maytals's Bam Bam over the Stalag riddim instead, a popular reggae riddim which came to prominence in the 1970s. The Stalag riddim was first introduced in a reggae song called “Stalag 17,” written and performed by Ansell Collins and released by Winston Riley's Techniques record label in 1973.

International success[edit]

Sister Nancy was unaware of "Bam Bam"'s success outside of Jamaica until she moved to the United States in 1996.

After Sister Nancy released her One, Two album, she recalls never hearing "'Bam Bam' play one time in Jamaica".[15] However, her producer traveled all over the world during the recording of her album and after it was released. He knew how popular "Bam Bam" had gotten, yet he "never wanted [Sister Nancy] to know".[15] Once Sister Nancy heard her song in Belly (film), she realized the impact and popularity of her song. It also dawned on her that she has not been credited or given royalties for the past 16 years since the song had been released. Sister Nancy tried to contact and set up a meeting with her producer, but he never showed or tried to meet with her. She believed he avoided her all this time and kept her in the dark because he knew she would ask him for money.[15] This was not uncommon at this time as many producer and recording companies kept fees and royalties away from black artists if their song was sampled or used by other artists or media.[16]

Sampling outside the Afrodiaspora[edit]

"Bam Bam" has been sampled nearly one hundred times, in different media alike, making it, arguably, one of the most sampled reggae songs ever.[17] A number of artists across different genres and outside the Afrodiaspora have sampled this song, yet gave no credit to Sister Nancy. This could lead to possible instances of cultural appropriation or ploys to make their music more "authentic."

One of the most famous electronic songs that sampled "Bam Bam," and is sometimes referred to as a remix of Sister Nancy's song, is "Waterman" by Olav Basoski featuring Michie One, released in 2005. In the song, there is frequent use of the "Bam Bam" riddim in addition to use of Sister Nancy's own vocals. Yet, she is not credited in this song. Electronic music is an originally black genre that infuses many other rhythmic genres, one of those being Dancehall. The use of Sister Nancy's vocals and a music video[18] which features mainly black bodies could be seen as a way for Basoski to authenticate his music as true to the roots of the genre. Yet, the discredit of Sister Nancy erases the reggae roots of the song and erases the culture behind the music. This makes it easier for the riddim to become a trend and for another artist to get credit over Sister Nancy.

Notable samples[edit] lists over 99 songs that sampled "Bam Bam", as performed by Sister Nancy.[17][2]

In 2015, "Bam Bam", was interpolated by Kat DeLuna for her song, "Bum Bum".[19] In 2016, American musician Kanye West sampled "Bam Bam", for his song "Famous", from The Life of Pablo.[20] Beginning in 2016, singer Beyoncé began using a sample of "Bam Bam" interpolated with her live performance of "Hold Up" from her album Lemonade.[21] In 2017, "Bam Bam" was used by Jay-Z, for his song "Bam", from the album 4:44.[22]

The Basement (1994) – C.L Smooth & Pete Rock[edit]

C.L. Smooth and Pete Rock were one of the first black American artists to sample the song in their own song, "The Basement." Although it is not Jamaican dancehall genre, you can still hear the sampling of Sister Nancy's beat in the song. Although "Bam, Bam," was a Jamaican song, Heavy D, the cousin of Pete Rock, was from Jamaica and could've been a reason why Smooth and Rock, who grew up in New York, heard the song and sampled it. When the beat drops seventeen seconds into the song, you can hear the riddim of "Bam, Bam." Even though the artists didn't directly take the words from Sister Nancy, she still wasn't given credit for her music.

Lost Ones (1998) – Lauryn Hill[edit]

On her album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill sampled Sister Nancy in her song, "Lost Ones." Like many of the artists before her, she doesn't take the lyrics from Sister Nancy, but the riddim is present during the refrain of the song.[23] After the second verse and chorus, she sings to the riddim of the song, but with different lyrics. Like other rappers from the past, she did not give Sister Nancy credit for sampling her riddim.

Bomb (2011) – Chris Brown ft. Wiz Khalifa[edit]

In this song by Chris Brown, he puts his own twist on Sister Nancy's song. There are multiple aspects of "Bam, Bam," that he samples—he integrates the riddim and turns it into his own beat. It sounds like he has autotuned Sister Nancy's voice in order to make it sound more modern. The aspect of the song that he plays with is the usage of lyrics. While Sister Nancy's track clearly says "bam," Chris Brown played with the pronunciation by saying "bomb" and putting his own twist on it. This song is a representation of how sampling can change overtime as it crosses throughout the country and the meaning can change.

Famous (2016) – Kanye West ft. Rihanna[edit]

Perhaps the most famous version of sampling music was on Kanye West's song, "Famous." While some of the other songs that she was featured in used her riddim, this song directly used her voice. During the bridge, Sister Nancy's voice is used along with Swizz Beatz' ad-libs. While it is definitely her voice, it is clear that her voice has been auto-tuned as the pitch of her voice is different and her voice has an echo. Sister Nancy has been very vocal about the fact that she has missed out on a lot of money as a result of not receiving credit, but thought it was a positive that Kanye West used it:

“When I heard [West] do it I just thought: ‘Well, that’s good for me.’ Whatever way he takes it, it’s very good for me because it keeps me moving. Do you know what I’m saying? It keeps me working." -Sister Nancy in an interview with NME[24]

Bam (2017) – Jay-Z[edit]

In his 13th studio album, 4:44, rapper Jay-Z sampled Sister Nancy's "Bam, Bam," in his song, "Bam." Jay-Z actually traveled to Jamaica to record the music video for his song, "Bam." While on his visit, Jay-Z stopped by and met Sister Nancy, who is featured in the video. He spent three days with her and despite her brief cameo in the music video, she isn't mentioned as a featured artist. In an interview earlier this year, Sister Nancy said that it was, "a blessing," that Jay-Z sampled her song.

In other media[edit]

In 1998, "Bam Bam" was featured in the Hype Williams film Belly. In 2014, "Bam Bam" was featured in the Seth Rogen/Evan Goldberg film The Interview.[25] The song was also featured in the EA's skateboarding video game Skate.


  1. ^ "Sister Nancy's 'Bam Bam' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b c d Sister Nancy & Producer Winston Riley's Son Talk 'Bam Bam' Sample on Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo', Billboard, 2016-02-16
  3. ^ "The 30-Year Journey of Sister Nancy, Jamaica's First Female Dancehall Star". Genius. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  4. ^ "Sister Nancy's 'Bam Bam' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  5. ^ Warren, Emma (2007-08-12). "Bobby Kray, Tales From a Skinny White Boy". The Observer. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  6. ^ Small, Elle J (2007-08-31). "Bobby Kray - Tales From A Skinny White Boy". BBC. Retrieved 2008-07-15.
  7. ^ HOT 97 (17 May 2017). "Sister Nancy Speaks On Her Beginnings & Opens Up On Reggae/Dancehall Today". Retrieved 15 July 2017 – via YouTube.
  8. ^ "Bam Bam tops iTunes charts", Jamaica Observer, 17 January 2015. Retrieved 18 January 2015
  9. ^ Veal, Michael (2007). Dub: Soundscapes and Shattered Songs in Jamaican Reggae. Wesleyan University Press. p. 258.
  10. ^ Zuberi, Nabeel. Sounds English: Transnational Popular Music. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. p. 132.
  11. ^ Houle, Jeffery (Winter 1992). "Digital Audio Sampling, Copyright Law and the American Music Industry: Piracy or Just a Bad Rap". Loyola Law Review. 37: 879–902.
  12. ^ "Sister Nancy & Producer Winston Riley's Son Talk 'Bam Bam' Sample on Kanye West's 'The Life of Pablo'". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  13. ^ "Ain't No Stopping Sister Nancy Now". The FADER. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  14. ^ Steyels, Mike. “The History of Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam Goes Way Before Jay-Z’s Album.” June 30, 2017
  15. ^ a b c Kochhar, Nazuk. "Ain't No Stopping Sister Nancy Now". The Fader. The Fader, Inc. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  16. ^ Schlueter, Roger. "White singers paid the fees, but black singers didn't get the money". Belleville News - Democrat. Belleville News - Democrat. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  17. ^ a b "Bam Bam by Sister Nancy on WhoSampled". WhoSampled. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  18. ^ Basoski, Olav. "Olav Basoski ft. Michie One - Waterman (Official Music Video) [HD]". YouTube. YouTube. Retrieved 3 December 2018.
  19. ^ "Kat Deluna - Bum Bum Feat. Trey Songz". Hot New Hip Hop. March 30, 2015. Retrieved May 26, 2015.
  20. ^ "Kanye West feat. Rihanna and Swizz Beatz's 'Famous' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  21. ^ "10 Things You Might Have Missed From Beyoncé's Show-Stopping Coachella Set". HuffPost UK. 2018-04-16. Retrieved 2018-11-05.
  22. ^ "Jay-Z feat. Damian Marley's 'Bam' - Discover the Sample Source". WhoSampled. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
  23. ^ Lauryn Hill – Lost Ones, retrieved 2018-12-13
  24. ^ Moore, Sam (2018-03-13). "Sister Nancy says it's a "blessing" to have been sampled by both Kanye West and Jay-Z". NME. Retrieved 2018-12-13.
  25. ^ Campbell, Howard (2014) "Nancy's Interview Pays Off", Jamaica Observer, 31 December 2014. Retrieved 1 January 2015

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