There May Be a Path to De La Soul’s Catalog Going Digital. One Exec Explains.
Sampling and interpolating has been a part of Hip-Hop since Rap’s first mainstream hit. Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” relied heavily on replayed elements of Chic’s “Good Times” to start a music revolution. However, after late ’80s and early ’90s lawsuits involving acts like Vanilla Ice, Biz Markie, and De La Soul, sampling has become a key part of the music business.
Whether the Rolling Stones getting satisfaction from The Verve, or Barry White never gonna give up his hits for less than a massive mechanical royalty, all artists know how to navigate these waters. However, with the music industry changing greatly in terms of traditional unit sales, one major publishing house is adapting its ways.
EMI, a division of Sony/ATV, has recently proposed “sample amnesty.” Website DJ Booth has been in the trenches of what the shift could mean since an initial September report, and interviewed one of the executives at the controls. Alex Black, Global Director for EMI Production Music, told the publication “The idea of the amnesty is two-fold. [For artists] who might have uncleared samples, it’s giving that person the ability to come forward and clear that sample, and therefore legitimize their masters. Sampling’s been around for 30 odd years now, and I know labels are holding old releases in their catalog. Here’s a chance to come forward, wipe the slate clean. We get the rights credit for our composers, you get a clean master that you can exploit to synch. It’s a win-win.”
With this, hypothetically, if Biz Markie’s “Nobody Beats The Biz,” which uses elements of Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like An Eagle” would declare its sample, it would no longer risk lawsuit when the Biz recording is sampled—as its been done by Wu-Tang Clan, Nas, and A Tribe Called Quest.
This also changes the game on mixtape songs that eventually become hits. An artist can make a song with a sample, and potentially avoid penalty to legitimize its use—a basis in a lawsuit started by Hip-Hop artist Lord Finesse against Mac Miller, revolving his 2010 K.I.D.S. mixtape.
Additionally, Black says that he has been “proactive” in clearing samples from EMI’s catalog, and cited Jay Z, Joey Bada$$, and Gnarls Barkley material as contemporary examples.
Black believes that sampling artists help increase the value and potential of legacy artists. This is on full display when samples that were popularized in songs are licensed in commercials and TV shows. The Geto Boys’ “G Code” instrumental (as produced by Scarface) has been used in recent Chrysler commercials, while RJD2 & Aceyalone’s 2006 “A Beautiful Mine” would later become the opening theme to AMC’s award-winning “Mad Men.”
Black tells DJ Booth that his interaction with De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising helped frame the thinking and possibility. “Those [De La Soul] records opened the door on what’s possible, you can take someone’s music and add to it in a way where it takes on a new life, a new audience, it can be as good if not better than the original.”
As Hip-Hop artists look at film, licensing possibilities, and revenue streams later in careers, should artists pursue this amnesty?