I need to defend a Hip-Hop legend. I wouldn’t usually blog about Mac Miller, but I feel I need to share my opinion surrounding the latest news that D.I.T.C founder Lord Finesse has filed a $10m lawsuit against Mac Miller for using the music from his 1995 “Hip 2 Da Game” record. Speaking to Hip-Hop artists of every generation since the 80’s, sampling has been something that, in my opinion, has enhanced our listening experience for the better. Was I surprised to hear that Lord Finesse’s people are making this move? No. Do I agree? No. But is this sampling or is it something else? Read on below.
Lets rewind to the beginning of the story. Mac Miller released his free mixtape “K.I.D.S” in 2010, and on that mixtape contained a track called “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza”. I certainly don’t have the ear of a producer however the music behind the record was essentially used with Mac Miller remixing the track, renaming the title, shooting a video and putting it out on the mixtape which was a free download, which according to Rolling Stone “downloaded more than 500,000 times and streamed more than 450,000 times”, As every single Hip-Hop follower knows, elements of this process are common practice within the industry and is absolutely not the first time this has happened. Nor will it be the last.
I want to be clear on where I stand on this. I’m defending a Hip-Hop legend. I’m not defending his actions, but I am defending the backlash from the Hip-Hop world which appears (by no fault of its own) to be uneducated in what happens. I am pro-sampling, and 99% of my favourite Hip-Hop songs and albums contain samples in one form of another. I can also confirm that to my knowledge, over 75% of those samples are NOT cleared. I refuse to drop names behind the statistics because that deflects the attention away from this topic, but it does outline my original statement that I am NOT surprised that Lord Finesse’s people have filed a lawsuit. Lets be clear, this isn’t “just” a sample, the beat is practically the backbone of the track and this is what (in my opinion) has being a major factor in the decision to file a lawsuit.
The most “popular” comment I’ve seen is “he hasn’t got any money so he’s suing Mac Miller“. Not only is this ridiculous but completely disrespectful towards a Hip-Hop legend. I don’t use the term lightly, for any person who knows of Lord Finesse (including Mac Miller himself) will completely recognise the opportunity he has given a number of MC’s, along with the platforms he’s built since the 1980’s to get the industry where it is today. Mac Miller appears forthcoming in his statements made via Twitter, but there are two sides to every story, yet, as always, once the bandwagon starts rolling it quickly picks up full speed and I just hope that people are looking at Lord Finesse’s responses on Twitter too. Lets go deeper.
Mixtape website Datpiff.Com originally hosted the mixtape, and it’s common knowledge that featured mixtapes and promotional banners are paid for. The cost to the user is free, however Datpiff quite rightly branched out into partnering with affiliates and ad-schemes which create extra revenue for the website. Furthermore, Mac Miller’s official youtube account, along with others, display adverts at the start of the video for Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza. This is adsense revenue for the publisher, along with costs incurred from advertisers. When Mac Miller performs the song on his tours, or radio spins the record, more and more money is being paid out through the various artist royalty schemes that exist. The above implications are only a small factor in the overall picture but can’t be ignored.
On the reverse side, claims are being made that the samples used in the original by Lord Finesse (Minnie Riperton, Oscar Peterson & Hugo Montenegro) were not cleared in the first place. Once again, back to my original point that a LOT of samples used in records aren’t cleared because it becomes commercially impossible for artists to release music. We of course can’t comment on this because we don’t know whether it’s true, but removing the element of the process (being tedious, having first hand experience in this matter), from the equation, if every single sample was questioned, we’d have no music to listen to.
So to my conclusion and perhaps directly answering the questions I first raised in the article. Am I surprised that this is happening? No. Because I know it happens most of the time with any major album release, however it’s dealt with behind the scenes and resolved before it reaches the public. Do I agree with the move? No. I have never agreed with anybody suing another artist for using samples. I attempt to hold on to the hope that we can enjoy the music and be creative without fear of being sued by using music that we love, to re-create and remix elements of song into new material. I do feel the original music should be credited. However this isn’t just a sample being used, the foundation of a track has been used arguably kick started an artists career who is worth tens of millions of dollars. Does Lord Finesse have a right to feel aggrieved? Very possibly.
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