Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What we need is awareness, we can't get careless

No time for a real post tonight, so I'm just going to point you to an exceptional article from the New York Times this week, about the legendary Clyde Stubblefield's crusade for royalties for the countless hits on which he's been sampled over the years.

(try and diagram that sentence for me, will you?)

Now, if you're looking for me to write a post that attempts to invalidate hip-hop as an art form for its frequent reliance on sampling, you've come to the wrong place. I think sampling can be pretty fucking artistic, in fact. And, no, I'm not talking about that garbage Puff Daddy was doing ten years ago.

I'm talking about my roommate and I -- both suburban white kids -- staring at each other in the living room of our college apartment upon our first listen to "The Chronic" and "The Predator", wondering where the hell Dre and Ice Cube had dug up those ridiculously obscure ( us) hooks and horn lines.

I'm talking about realizing for the first time that the fanfare introducing "Jump Around" was lifted off of "Harlem Shuffle".

I'm talking about the fact that I intimately know every single funky-ass drum fill to "Bust A Move", but don't actually know the first line to the song.

At root, I'm talking about the exuberance of being turned on to totally new music when a familiar artist delivers it to you in a new package. Ultimately, that is the beauty of sampling.

Some are apt to discredit Stubblefield because, well......because he's a drummer. And drummers rarely get songwriting credits. Hell, you ask even the mighty Hal Blaine how much he got paid for doing the tracks for "I've Got You Babe" or "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" or "Help Me, Rhonda" or "Age of Aquarius", and I'm willing to bet you the bottle of Guinness in front of me that he received not much more than his day rate.

But things should be different for rap and hip hop. Because unlike rock and roll with all its pretty guitar players, hip-hop has few - if any at all - of the distractions that prevent the listener from recognizing the core essence of this music is about the beat and how the MC's meter works around it.

Anyway, by now you know where I stand: when one artist has constructed such an overwhelming number of those beats, it's just plain wrong for him not to receive a writing credit or royalty or some sort of formal recognition for being the source artist (...and heaven forbid that the estate of James Brown lays some claim to any available cash, because God knows that bastard loved nothing more than docking his musician's pay).

Ok.....I think I was going to try and keep it short tonight, and now that I've brought up my feelings about James Brown, this post is absolutely on the verge of unraveling. Next thing you know I'll be on that asshole, Ray Charles.

Give the article a read and weigh in.

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