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  • I'm assuming everyone here has watched

  • a TED Talk online at one time or another, right?

  • So what I'm going to do is play this.

  • This is the song from the TED Talks online.

  • (Music)

  • And I'm going to slow it down

  • because things sound cooler when they're slower.

  • (Music)

  • Ken Robinson: Good morning. How are you?

  • Mark Applebaum: I'm going to -- Kate Stone: -- mix some music.

  • MA: I'm going to do so in a way that tells a story.

  • Tod Machover: Something nobody's ever heard before.

  • KS: I have a crossfader.

  • Julian Treasure: I call this the mixer.

  • KS: Two D.J. decks.

  • Chris Anderson: You turn up the dials, the wheel starts to turn.

  • Dan Ellsey: I have always loved music.

  • Michael Tilson Thomas: Is it a melody or a rhythm or a mood or an attitude?

  • Daniel Wolpert: Feeling everything that's going on inside my body.

  • Adam Ockelford: In your brain is this amazing musical computer.

  • MTT: Using computers and synthesizers to create works. It's a language that's still evolving.

  • And the 21st century.

  • KR: Turn on the radio. Pop into the discotheque.

  • You will know what this person is doing: moving to the music.

  • Mark Ronson: This is my favorite part.

  • MA: You gotta have doorstops. That's important.

  • TM: We all love music a great deal.

  • MTT: Anthems, dance crazes, ballads and marches.

  • Kirby Ferguson and JT: The remix: It is new music created from old music.

  • Ryan Holladay: Blend seamlessly.

  • Kathryn Schulz: And that's how it goes.

  • MTT: What happens when the music stops?

  • KS: Yay!

  • (Applause)

  • MR: Obviously, I've been watching a lot of TED Talks.

  • When I was first asked to speak at TED,

  • I wasn't quite sure what my angle was, at first,

  • so yeah, I immediately started watching tons of TED Talks,

  • which is pretty much absolutely

  • the worst thing that you can do

  • because you start to go into panic mode, thinking,

  • I haven't mounted a successful expedition to the North Pole yet.

  • Neither have I provided electricity

  • to my village through sheer ingenuity.

  • In fact, I've pretty much wasted most of my life

  • DJing in night clubs

  • and producing pop records.

  • But I still kept watching the videos,

  • because I'm a masochist,

  • and eventually, things like Michael Tilson Thomas

  • and Tod Machover, and seeing

  • their visceral passion talking about music,

  • it definitely stirred something in me,

  • and I'm a sucker for anyone talking devotedly

  • about the power of music.

  • And I started to write down on these little note cards

  • every time I heard something

  • that struck a chord in me, pardon the pun,

  • or something that I thought I could use,

  • and pretty soon, my studio looked like this,

  • kind of like a John Nash, "Beautiful Mind" vibe.

  • The other good thing about watching TED Talks,

  • when you see a really good one,

  • you kind of all of a sudden wish the speaker

  • was your best friend, don't you? Like, just for a day.

  • They seem like a nice person.

  • You'd take a bike ride, maybe share an ice cream.

  • You'd certainly learn a lot.

  • And every now and then they'd chide you,

  • when they got frustrated that you couldn't really

  • keep up with half of the technical things they're banging on about all the time.

  • But then they'd remember that you're but a mere human

  • of ordinary, mortal intelligence

  • that didn't finish university,

  • and they'd kind of forgive you,

  • and pet you like the dog.

  • (Laughter)

  • Man, yeah, back to the real world,

  • probably Sir Ken Robinson and I

  • are not going to end up being best of friends.

  • He lives all the way in L.A. and I imagine is quite busy,

  • but through the tools available to me -- technology

  • and the innate way that I approach making music --

  • I can sort of bully our existences

  • into a shared event,

  • which is sort of what you saw.

  • I can hear something that I love in a piece of media

  • and I can co-opt it

  • and insert myself in that narrative,

  • or alter it, even.

  • In a nutshell, that's what I was trying to do

  • with these things, but more importantly,

  • that's what the past 30 years of music has been.

  • That's the major thread.

  • See, 30 years ago, you had the first digital samplers,

  • and they changed everything overnight.

  • All of a sudden, artists could sample

  • from anything and everything that came before them,

  • from a snare drum from the Funky Meters,

  • to a Ron Carter bassline,

  • the theme to "The Price Is Right."

  • Albums like De La Soul's "3 Feet High and Rising"

  • and the Beastie Boys' "Paul's Boutique"

  • looted from decades of recorded music

  • to create these sonic, layered masterpieces

  • that were basically the Sgt. Peppers of their day.

  • And they weren't sampling these records

  • because they were too lazy to write their own music.

  • They weren't sampling these records to cash in on

  • the familiarity of the original stuff.

  • To be honest, it was all about sampling

  • really obscure things,

  • except for a few obvious exceptions

  • like Vanilla Ice and "doo doo doo da da doo doo"

  • that we know about.

  • But the thing is,

  • they were sampling those records

  • because they heard something in that music

  • that spoke to them

  • that they instantly wanted to inject themselves

  • into the narrative of that music.

  • They heard it, they wanted to be a part of it,

  • and all of a sudden they found themselves

  • in possession of the technology to do so,

  • not much unlike the way the Delta blues

  • struck a chord with the Stones and the Beatles and Clapton,

  • and they felt the need to co-opt that music

  • for the tools of their day.

  • You know, in music we take something that we love

  • and we build on it.

  • I'd like to play a song for you.

  • (Music: "La Di Da Di" by Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick)

  • That's "La Di Da Di" and it's the fifth-most sampled

  • song of all time.

  • It's been sampled 547 times.

  • It was made in 1984 by these two legends of hip-hop,

  • Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh,

  • and the Ray-Ban and Jheri curl look is so strong.

  • I do hope that comes back soon.

  • Anyway, this predated the sampling era.

  • There were no samples in this record,

  • although I did look up on the Internet last night,

  • I mean several months ago,

  • that "La Di Da Di" means, it's an old

  • Cockney expression from the late 1800s in England,

  • so maybe a remix with Mrs. Patmore

  • from "Downton Abbey" coming soon,

  • or that's for another day.

  • Doug E. Fresh was the human beat box.

  • Slick Rick is the voice you hear on the record,

  • and because of Slick Rick's sing-songy,

  • super-catchy vocals, it provides endless sound bites

  • and samples for future pop records.

  • That was 1984.

  • This is me in 1984, in case you were wondering

  • how I was doing, thank you for asking.

  • It's Throwback Thursday already.

  • I was involved in a heavy love affair

  • with the music of Duran Duran,

  • as you can probably tell from my outfit.

  • I was in the middle.

  • And the simplest way that I knew

  • how to co-opt myself into that experience

  • of wanting to be in that song somehow

  • was to just get a band together of fellow nine-year-olds

  • and play "Wild Boys" at the school talent show.

  • So that's what we did, and long story short,

  • we were booed off the stage,

  • and if you ever have a chance to live your life

  • escaping hearing the sound of an auditorium

  • full of second- and third-graders booing,

  • I would highly recommend it. It's not really fun.

  • But it didn't really matter,

  • because what I wanted somehow

  • was to just be in the history of that song for a minute.

  • I didn't care who liked it.

  • I just loved it, and I thought I could put myself in there.

  • Over the next 10 years, "La Di Da Di"

  • continues to be sampled by countless records,

  • ending up on massive hits like "Here Comes the Hotstepper"

  • and "I Wanna Sex You Up."

  • Snoop Doggy Dogg covers this song

  • on his debut album "Doggystyle" and calls it "Lodi Dodi."

  • Copyright lawyers are having a field day at this point.

  • And then you fast forward to 1997,

  • and the Notorious B.I.G., or Biggie,

  • reinterprets "La Di Da Di"

  • on his number one hit called "Hypnotize,"

  • which I will play a little bit of

  • and I will play you a little bit of the Slick Rick

  • to show you where they got it from.

  • (Music: "Hypnotize" by The Notorious B.I.G.)

  • So Biggie was killed

  • weeks before that song made it to number one,

  • in one of the great tragedies of the hip-hop era,

  • but he would have been 13 years old

  • and very much alive when "La Di Da Di" first came out,

  • and as a young boy

  • growing up in Brooklyn,

  • it's hard not to think that that song probably held

  • some fond memories for him.

  • But the way he interpreted it, as you hear,

  • is completely his own.

  • He flips it, makes it,

  • there's nothing pastiche whatsoever about it.

  • It's thoroughly modern Biggie.

  • I had to make that joke in this room,

  • because you would be the only people that I'd ever have a chance of getting it.

  • And so, it's a groaner. (Laughter)

  • Elsewhere in the pop and rap world,

  • we're going a little bit sample-crazy.

  • We're getting away from the obscure samples that we were doing,

  • and all of a sudden everyone's taking

  • these massive '80s tunes like Bowie, "Let's Dance,"

  • and all these disco records, and just rapping on them.

  • These records don't really age that well.

  • You don't hear them now, because they borrowed

  • from an era that was too steeped

  • in its own connotation.

  • You can't just hijack nostalgia wholesale.

  • It leaves the listener feeling sickly.

  • You have to take an element of those things

  • and then bring something fresh and new to it,

  • which was something that I learned

  • when I was working with the late,

  • amazing Amy Winehouse

  • on her album "Back to Black."

  • A lot of fuss was made about the sonic of the album

  • that myself and Salaam Remi, the other producer,

  • achieved, how we captured this long-lost sound,

  • but without the very, very 21st-century personality

  • and firebrand that was Amy Winehouse and her lyrics about rehab and Roger Moore

  • and even a mention of Slick Rick,

  • the whole thing would have run the risk

  • of being very pastiche, to be honest.

  • Imagine any other singer from that era over it

  • singing the same old lyrics.

  • It runs a risk of being completely bland.

  • I mean, there was no doubt that Amy

  • and I and Salaam all had this love

  • for this gospel, soul and blues and jazz

  • that was evident listening to the musical arrangements.

  • She brought the ingredients that made it urgent and of the time.

  • So if we come all the way up to the present day now,

  • the cultural tour de force that is Miley Cyrus,

  • she reinterprets "La Di Da Di" completely for her generation,

  • and we'll take a listen to the Slick Rick part

  • and then see how she sort of flipped it.

  • (Music: "La Di Da Di" by Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh)

  • (Music: "We Can't Stop" by Miley Cyrus)

  • So Miley Cyrus,

  • who wasn't even born yet when "La Di Da Di" was made,

  • and neither were any of the co-writers on the song,

  • has found this song that somehow

  • etched its way into the collective consciousness of pop music,

  • and now, with its timeless playfulness of the original,