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If making a beat with samples isn't art, than what is?
A few quick notes on Lord Finesse, Mac Miller and the art of sampling. As anyone that knows me knows, I’m an ardent sampler. I’ve had many people try to call my card on this by comparing sampling to pirating. The key difference they leave out is that sampling is an art form. It’s called “derivative art” legally. It’s no different the collage or pop art. It borrows existing culture and forms it into a new piece. Of course there are pitfalls, there have been many songs that were said to be “sampled” that were really just remakes with rappers on them. But let’s back up for a second.
I think a lot of people are suddenly and inexplicably enamored with the idea that Oscar Peterson was never “paid” for the original sample that Lord Finesse flipped. I’m sure Oscar’s family is wondering where all these defenders were while he was getting ripped off by record labels, but I digress. Typically, this is raised by people that quite simply don’t respect our culture. The “you don’t own no loops” crowd, the folks that think 3 notes on a keyboard by someone that doesn’t even know how to play a keyboard is more creative then someone killing and cutting up on an MPC. I get it, it’s ingrained into our society that sampling isn’t music, isn’t art, etc. If this is truly your belief system then I have some advice. Stop listening to hip-hop because you don’t understand it.
Hip-Hop, to be brief, was begun in the South Bronx in a time of economic ruin for New York City. Music programs were cut, so were after school and sports programs. Even getting to a school itself was likely closer to a scene from “Escape from New York” of “The Warriors” then those fantasies ever intended. This was a time when fueling an automobile could turn into a long night. And it was certainly a time when you might just live next to an abandoned building, for a long long period of time. Hip-Hop was born from necessity. It was born out of the undying will power of art and music to manifest itself in people, by any means necessary. So when people deny the art behind sampling or consider it a lesser form, I tend to get offended.
That’s exactly what people are doing when they bring up Lord Finesse suing over a sample that he sampled. They are missing the point that what LF did was art. Lord Finesse took something old and created something new, Mac Miller just used something old. To compare sampling something and putting it in a whole new beat and context, to rapping over someone else’s beat it lunacy. It shows a lack of respect for what we do as producers and beat makers.
The same thing happened when Pete Rock (only one of the best hip-hop producers of all time) had the nerve to just voice displeasure at Lupe Fiasco making a skeleton of his classic “T.R.O.Y.” instrumental.
It’s hard to get angry when you know at the root of the blow back for our legends is a fan boy for a current artist that’s been raised in “everything is free” world. The lesson from sampling is not to take things for your own use at will. The lesson of sampling is to create things with the tools given you, no matter your circumstance. That’s the legacy we leave behind collectively as a cultural movement and the legacy that the pioneers began when NO ONE else could.
If that isn’t enough then consider hard facts rather then artistic prose. Oscar Peterson does not own the rights to the sampled work. His estate won’t get it back until 2067. Mr. Peterson is deceased. This means some pie in the sky record label owns this work. So why didn’t the label sue Lord Finesse? For a number of reasons. Lord Finesse’s “Hip 2 the Game” was released in the late 90’s, independently. It was mostly sold in stores like Fat Beats and other mom & pop shops, it was released just before even online stores were fully operating. I’d be shocked if it moved more then 100K. At that time, labels wouldn’t waste their breath on anything that sold under 100K. It would cost too much for them.
A label would also have to decide whether they could prove that the elements of Mr. Peterson’s work were beyond the definition of “derivative”. To put it very simply, a “derivative” is more the sampling of a note or two, then re-worked. Even the combining of a larger sample with several others. As long as the result is more or less “new”. A copyright infringement is more fitting into the cover category. Say, a 4 bar loop, left entirely recognizable, in order to capitalize off the imagery and success of the previous work. The sampling of several lines of lyrics for a chorus. You get what I’m saying.
Is there a grey area? Of course, this is something that was battled out in courts for close to two decades. At this point, it’s mostly established law. The fact that the industry as a whole, and to some extent, infringed upon artists don’t have the resources to raise legal battles has also calmed the waters on this issue over time.
I would heavily suggest reading this piece at The Stranger, which I pulled some of this data from. It goes into much better legalese then I am capable of.
If I had to guess, Finesse did not get the full 10 Million. We may never know, I’d guess about a mil, but I wouldn’t even be shocked if they broke him off with less. I could be wrong. Mac Miller may be a huge fan of Lord Finesse, may respect him, may have grown up dreaming of rapping over that little known beat and had the best of intentions. But at the end of the day, Lord Finesse is the creator, the ball is in his court and the law is on his side. Without acknowledging this, you are saying that sampling is not an art worthy of copyright protections.
Either way, people need to wake up and start recognizing the art that’s in sampling and at the same time, the rights artists have under copyright. Those two parameters are not opposed, they have a meeting point that needs to be acknowledged and respected in a far more serious way if we’re ever to secure our art form in the eyes of history.
@Regrann from @djpremier - #Repost @ditcstudios with @repostapp. ・・・ FIRST NIGHT OF BEATS PER MINUTE: GOOD TURNOUT & THX TO ALL THE DOPE PRODUCERS THAT CAME OUT & PLAYED THAT FIRE 🔥🔥🔥& OUR CELEB PRODUCER FOR THE NIGHT @ROCKWILDERMUSIC & DRAWZILLA FOR MAKING IT HAPPEN!! TIL THE NEXT TIME !!!! #drawzilla #alistfame #newothakid #artbycoreymaor #alumnimotif #iampoint1 #ive_williams #iambsngallure #musicmystro #ditc #lordfinesse #buckwild_ditc #ditcstudios #rockwildermusic #ditcent #Regrann
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Our special guest host for #TheCookout2015, is the architect of #HipHop festivals in Hamilton, & a pioneer for the culture. Happy to announce @eklipz1 aka Leon Robinson, as our host this year.
Come to the Cookout, Saturday, August 8th & celebrate our city’s music, food, art, & indie business. Live performances from the area’s best acts + @Buckshotbdi, @lordfinesseditc, @koolboblove, & @razfresco7.