The touching piano loop on Kanye West’s “Real Friends”? Sampled from Kingsway. The wavy synth on "Levitate" off Kendrick Lamar's Untitled Unmastered? Kingsway. The beat of "No Tellin’" by Drake? You guessed it: built around a Kingsway sample. The Kingsway Music Library was founded by Adam Feeney a.k.a. producer and multi-instrumentalist Frank Dukes. Producers like Jake One, Illmind & Hit-Boy all happily used the boutique sample library. Even Madlib, the loop digga himself, used Kingsway for "Half Manne Half Cocaine" on Bandana with Freddie Gibbs.
“I was surprised that Madlib even knew about the Kingsway library,” recalls Kingsway founder Frank Dukes. “But Egon was like, ‘Madlib f***s with you, bro. He loves the music library.’ So seeing someone like Madlib, who is one of the most revered crate-digging producers. For him to embrace the evolution of crate-digging by sampling Kingsway—that's super cool.”
An evolution in music libraries is exactly what Dukes was striving for with Kingsway Music Library. What initially started out as a collection for his own use, turned into much more once he started sharing his work with friends and fellow producers like Boi-1da, Jake One & Illmind. “I transitioned from sampling records to making my own samples, around the time that I chopped up the Menahan Street Band’s ‘The Traitor’ for 50 Cent’s ‘Talking In Codes’ in 2009,” tells Frank Dukes in our video interview. “During a trip to New York, I spent time with the Menahan Street Band in their studio in Brooklyn. They were making classic-sounding recordings. Really rich, textured. I loved that.”
Up till then, Frank Dukes was primarily a sample-based producer himself. Playing by the ear, chopping up samples on his MPC. But with years prior, also experience in playing the piano, guitar, bass, and drums. “The Menahan Street Band got me back into playing and writing my own music,” Dukes says. “That inspired me to start recording, and making things sound the way I want them to sound. In the beginning, it was about ‘making samples that sound like samples.’ For me, that evolved to writing ideas for songs; for beats. Not necessarily having to sound old. That’s where musically I wanted to innovate on the concept of sample libraries.”
Here at Tracklib, we’ve extensively featured library music before. Think Cavendish Music(formerly known as Boosey & Hawkes), Italian catalog Four Flies, or KPM greats like Les Baxter. As a long-time crate-digger and vinyl collector himself, old library music records were a source of inspiration to Frank Dukes: library music (or: production music) was originally composed for the use on television or radio. The music was performed and recorded without any pressure from record labels to create commercial hit singles. “That also inspired the idea,” tells Dukes in our interview. “To reappropriate the concept of music libraries for the modern landscape. For other creators to use. That was the jumping-off point for Kingsway.”
In the video, Dukes mentions how he “believes in fairness,“ which shows in his work with Kingsway since 2013. A common ground with Tracklib: an aim to make sample clearance affordable to anyone. Dukes: “I’ve had songs get shut down because of clearance issues. Not so much because of the person refusing, but because we couldn’t track down the rights owner. Ownership and publishing can be so complicated that sometimes the people who think they own it, don’t even own it. Sometimes it’s a big mess.” With hundreds of **Kingsway Music Library**compositions now available on Tracklib, that’s the answer to avoid that maze and walk the Kingsway instead.
“For the early Kingsway libraries, I was really trying to sound like old records I would like to sample myself. That was really an experiment. As the volumes progress, you can hear that they evolve past that. They sort of become more ‘modern,’ I guess. My sensibilities evolved. For the later editions, I was writing ideas, rather than making samples.”
“I made this sample pack with the Regent Park School of Music in Toronto. They serve the local music community really well. The ideas once we started discussing them really evolved from having the kids play on something, to support their music program with this library. The kids were aged nine to sixteen—all have never been in a music studio before, but everyone was so talented. 80% of the retail sales and all sample clearances and royalties go to the school to help fund their music program. I used one of the samples in a Taylor Swift song, which was obviously a big deal for the kids to hear their music used by an artist of that magnitude.”
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