It’s Been Over A Year Since I Ranted On About Sampling
Well it’s been two years and three months since David Shield’s book Reality Hunger hit the stands, and two years and two months since I wrote about it. Quick search on google and it doesn’t look like he’s been sued yet, and certainly there haven’t been any take downs as the book is still available. I have actually read it since then and must admit it is pretty good; Shadow’s Endtroducing still better, but I digress.
Never got around to talking about Christian Marclay’s The Clock. 24 hours of sampled video you say? Considering the fact that Bridgeport v. New Line Films was about an audio sample of less than 3 seconds appearing in a film, yeah you can guess where I’m going with that one. Meanwhile Marclay is praised a thousand times over for his ingenuity, The Clock itself traveling all around the world but nowhere near as widespread as gangster rap.
Speaking of gangster rap, whoever the author of the Willie Lynch of gangster rap letter, should have took credit, got the copyright and pitched the script to hollywood. Great piece of fiction that one. I mean if it were true it’d obviously be implicating Bob Lefsetz (that’s a joke, unless Bob got an editor (that was a joke too, I mean look at my writing)).
Moving on, that whole Everything is a Remix piece which I talked about in my remix moratorium, completed three more parts. I haven’t watched them. Probably won’t, but that’s old news. Whatever steam the remix folk were able to gather up seems to be getting kicked down by the lawyers. Go figure. Hold on, is that story about remixes or sampling? LET THE RANTING BEGIN!!
First of all anybody that uses the term EDM is dead to me (I don’t know how in the world that caught steam considering it was an off shoot of a term which everyone already hated – IDM), but that’s gonna lead me down a completely different rant. On topic, nice one trying to put Flosstradamus in the same league as Kanye with SEO headers and all, but just NO! I went ahead and listened to the tracks in question (no I will not put them here). That’s not sampling. That’s just a jack move. Interestingly enough a similar jack move was brought to my attention recently. But this one has more meat. Let me get this out of the way though – no matter how much I might dig “Imma Read” gotta put Mad Decent and Jeffree on ‘the list’. Doubly so for trying to play both sides with their, put the sample material out for free and charge for the sample-free stuff stance. Go hard or go home!! And while you’re at it know how the whole thing works, because yeah free is not a shield you can hide behind. It’s a recession and lawyer’s gotta eat too.
The interesting thing about this and the other one mentioned (and while we’re at it let’s just throw Zomby in the mix), is again ,they are about jacking by peers, not transformative sampling. ”Peers” is the operative word in this case, and what separates Flosstradamus jacking Olaf Veldkamp from Kanye sampling The Persuaders. The resulting song from Flosstradamus could be confused as being Olaf Veldkamps. Kanye’s would never be confused for The Persuaders. But as predicted in my moratorium, the line continues to get blurred.
In the same breath, lawyers continue promoting fear tactics to maintain status quo. Of course Linda Mensch quotes, talking about how damages are not limited to profits (thereby making free releases free game for sample lawyers), are completely on topic for the piece, so technically nothing wrong here. It just also helps out the cause as everyone becomes so scared of lawsuits they’ll just pay regardless of their rights, or start making bro-step (Stihl still hasn’t caught figured out the sue brosteppers for sample royalties angle). Wouldn’t it have been nice of her to talk about. or alternately Raymer to probe her about. how transformative sampling works? No, that would have promote the idea that there could be legal ways to sample, and since the support for that is so small, not even worth mentioning (yeah that was sarcasm).
Speaking of Kanye (few paragraphs up), apparently Universal Music Group sent YouTube notification about my Lonesome Lockdown video. Here’s the catcher – it wasn’t a take down notice. You can still go on youtube and find it. What they wanted to make me aware of is the fact that they will now be periodically running advertisements before my video, the profits of which presumably will go to UMG. Being perfectly transparent, the view count for that video is really low, ain’t nobody making any money. But should UMG be getting ad dollars for it? I don’t know. If I just used the instrumental, none of the music would be theirs. And on the video itself I’ve added so much cultural and political commentary I believe it stands on its own as a work separate from Kanye’s vid, or more precisely as an artistic commentary. That’s fair use. Getting ahead of myself though.
RIP to Adam Yauch. Slate used the opportunity to explain how the Beastie Boys Paul’s Boutique would have been illegal today. Talk about a catch 22. That probably would mean the Beasties wouldn’t have made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this year (much deserved I might add; Public Enemy & the Bomb Squad next please). We should all look up to the Beastie Boys and see their achievements as inspiration for what is possible with a little ingenuity, just don’t do what they did. Got it?
Oh and Slate doesn’t get away without being put on ‘the list’. You think I didn’t notice that the one contemporary act you could think to use in your piece on the (transformative) sampling genius of the Beastie Boys was mash-up artist Girl Talk. These are NOT the same thing. AT ALL!! Stop doing that!! We need one to one correlations. That’s the way we actually begin looking at the heart of the issue.
That reminds me of the Richard Prince case. They are allowing him to appeal, which is fair I guess. But I think I stand by the court ruling which would seem to be against my view of sampling. But in this case the transformative aspect of the resultant work was miniscule compared to the untouched portion. Well over 50% of Princes pieces are the work of Cariou. For me that wouldn’t fit a standard for transformation. But then I’d have to say that about Lonesome Lockdown or some of my boy Hank’s pieces. But the subtle differences both of those case are used to illustrate a cultural and political point, which is what places the works under fair use.
When asked the purpose behind his transformations, Prince gave nothing, and this I believe is why he lost. On the real, I’m kinda with him on the an artist should not explain himself tip, but there’s something else to it for me. On a clearly subjective level I’m disgusted by his scratching out the faces of rastas for a collection of work with the word “zoo” in the title. I’m also an old hip-hop head and a dread. We don’t necessarily think about settling our differences in court. Thankfully it’s not personal for me, but if it were, like if it were my face that he scratched out, yeah we might have some ‘words’. Still I think my objection is sound without that factor, I just don’t like that guy.
Someone I do like though, while we’re on the appropriation tip, is Awesome Tapes From Africa. But (and you knew there was a but), Brain Shimkovitz’s Collateral Damage piece for The Wire, earns him a place on the list. I mean I get it, but at the same time nah. And it boils down to this:
I want to find a way to give a nominal fee to each artist whose tracks have been downloaded on ATFA. Anyone who has been to Africa knows this is nearly, if not entirely, impossible. In the meantime, should we, due to post-colonial guilt, not include African music in the global process of discovery taking place on screens and MP3 players around the world?
First take your post-colonial guilt and shove it up your ass, then sit down at the table and eat eight humble pies in a row so that the two meet right at your core and churn away producing enough bile every time you open your mouth you can taste it. Sound harsh? Sorry. But the next time you want to dismiss your post-colonial guilt with a few words bring that image up in your mind okay. And the whole flipping the guilt, ‘if you don’t approve of my doing this how else are we gonna spread this music?’ Not good enough. And no I’m not going to give you the answers, and yes I know you’re not the only one. Truth be told if you had just stfu it would have never been an issue. But see the problem with appropriations isn’t the technicalities, legalities, or economics, it’s the attitude, and it’s not my job to tell you what’s wrong with yours, but this is my reaction to it and I’m probably not alone. I’m just gonna leave it at that.
And while we’re on appropriation, my boy Laurent did an ace write up on how juke and footwork have spread out beyond Chicago and mutated into all types of Reynolds-esque retromania. No sarcasm in there. The write up is good, and some of the mutations are incredible. Everybody involved knows it’s appropriation. Like Afro-Cuban jazz before it, those rhythms being absorbed into the broader culture, as Laurent details, plays a key roll in pushing and developing new styles. My only critique is that in my opinion Chicago didn’t reap enough from it. Sure Planet Mu gave them a whole year, and hopefully some of the artists stick around to push their own mutations to the global audience. But, lets just say I’m worried.
Okay I gotta end on a positive. I did happen upon a really good in depth breakdown of sampling (far more level headed that I could ever be) by Ethan Hein. It’s a good read. What? Oh you’re thinking I’ve gotta have some critique right? Nah, it’s a good read. Oh okay!! Using the copyleft image in the opener as representative of creative commons is misleading. Which leads to a whole discussion of how copyleft was coopted by the tech side of the thing but very applicable for art as well when understood as a political stance. But that’ll have to wait for another time.
Oh and the video at the top: As an instrumental it’s transformative sampling, with the vocals it’s a remix. Either way, Oddisee is a beast for it!!