We interrupt the regular scheduled blogging for a brief off topic hip hop link-fest regarding G.O.O.D. Music’s recent track New God Flow and a recent article/discussion about Hip Hop sampling.
Starts with this article The court case that changed hip-hop — from Public Enemy to Kanye — forever from the Washington Post.
The article talks about this 1991 District case, involving song 1 being sampled in song 2. The outcome of the case meant that hip hop artists must always obtain a proper license to use any type of sample sample. Because of this, the article argues, only the wealthiest artists can afford to use samples and so hip hop was forever changed.
Then this BloggingHeads.tv discussion occurs and Matt Lewis basically builds on the article’s arguments saying that established hip hop artists, specifically Kanye West, are benefiting greatly by not innovating in music because they can just license samples and call it their own songs. Matt Lewis frequently uses the word “steal” when he talks about how music is sampled in hip hop and says that innovation may be spurred now that upstart hip hop producers can’t ‘lazily rely on sampling’.
New God Flow
There is so much wrong with these ideas that I don’t even know where to start. I inclined to rant about Matt Lewis’ ignorant white-mansplaning but instead I’ll introduce you to a recent hip hop song that uses sampling, let you listen to it, talk a little bit about it, and then let you reflect on Matt Lewis’ comments on your own.
The song is New God Flow (listen) by two 35 year old black men named Kanye West and Pusha T. The song is Kanye’ most recent and was released as a free download from Kanye’s website on July 2nd. Here is the instrumental of the song so you can listen to music only part of the track. The song samples 5 other songs listed here, specifically it samples a fragment from a soulful sermon by a Rev. GI Townsel that was recorded and released in 1959 on the album Negro Church Music [Atlantic SD-1351] (listen to the sermon here). Just listen to that original recording, take a step back, and realize that hip hop isn’t about any music industry or licensing royalties.
Sampling is at the very root of hip hop, in it’s infancy hip hop was little more (read a great intro about break beats from the early days here). Kanye and others sample music as a way to take the environment they were raised in and reinvent it to draw out it’s relavence in current culture. You can’t listen to New God Flow and say its maker was lazy because he depended on sampling instead of creating some kind of ‘original’ music.
This was only the briefest bit of Hip Hop education but I encourage everyone to check out any of the following links to broaden your hip hop knowledge.
- RapGenius.com – Lyrics website
- WhoSampled.com – Sampling database
- Can’t Stop Won’t Stop – The book on hip hop history
- GregsHipHop.com – Songs I like
- RIP A Remix Manifesto – Free documentary about remix culture.
- Good Copy Bad Copy – Free documentary that focuses on copyright and music culture.
- Music is More About Participation than Compensation – Great article about music and the music industry
I’d like to thank Grooveshark for giving us the ability to listen to these treasured recordings despite the legal onslaught they’ve had to fight in court for the past 2.5 years against Universal Music Group which has tried to shut them down (read more here).
Matt Lewis tries to get inside Kanye West’s head and decides Mr. West would be insane to to not support the strict copyright licensing fees that exist. The problem is that Matt Lewis has no understanding of hip hop culture and apparently has only a limited understanding of what making music is all about. Everyone should read this great article about the art of the music, and the industry built around music in the mid 1900s. I really don’t hate Matt Lewis but I was offended by his comments as a hip hop fan and wish that he would refrain from speaking on a topic that he knows absolutely nothing about.
Update: As soon as I finished writing this article a brand new Hip Hop sampling news story takes the internet by storm. There are two videos in that article that do a great break down!