Here’s a fun (and copyright observant) musical toy for anyone who’s ever wanted to get their inner De La Soul on, but who didn’t want to spend a lot of time digging through old stacks of vinyl—or getting sued out of existence for an unauthorized sample. Titled Citizen DJ, the project is a creation of Library Of Congress innovator-in-residence Brian Foo, allowing users to trawl the Library’s vast resources of copyright-free audio material in order to make their own sounds and beats. Although the program is only in a preview form at the moment, the basics are all there: Curated selections from the Library’s collections, a set of drum beats to apply them to, and tools to remix and use the half-second or so clips as artists see fit.
The idea—as outlined in Foo’s in-depth explanation of the project—is to create a new resource for the creation of collage hip-hop, an art form closely associated with “golden age” hip-hop albums like De La Soul’s 3 Feet High & Rising and Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet. Although prominent in the ’80s and early ’90s, collage hip-hop (and sampling culture in general) took massive hits in subsequent years, as courts ruled that all samples, no matter how small, required a paid license in order to be used. Obviously, that’s not an issue with the library’s troves of sounds, and so Citizen DJ allows would-be impresarios to mix and hunt to their hearts’ content.
Per Consequence Of Sound, the full-service version of the project will launch this summer, but for now, the preview version is still a pretty neat thing to play with, allowing you to create all sorts of cool noises out of old-timey songs and archival footage.