"Rap is an art. You can't own no loops."
Those are the wise words once rapped by the late and very great Guru on "Take it Personal."
Guru, who along with DJ Premier combined to make Gang Starr, at the time understood what hip-hop was. He understood that rappers and producers were all Frankenstein-types, taking portions from various pieces of work, from different genres, and sewing them up together to make a new conjunction.
And, yeah, sometimes producers and rappers will use the same break or sample. But f*ck it, it was OK because you knew he or she was going to flip it different.
Kinda wish Guru, who succumbed to cancer back in 2010, was still around to remind his fellow pioneers.
Last night, news came out that Lord Finesse filed a $10 million dollar lawsuit against Mac Miller. Back in 2010, Mac released "Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza," a track where he raps over Finesse’s 1996 underground hit "Hip 2 Da Game." The song, which Mac shot a video for, and you can see above, never appeared on an official album, but rather it was one of the standout tracks off of Mac’s K.I.D.S. mixtape, the tape that probably broke the rapper to the masses.
The fact that Lord Finesse, a member of the legendary Diggin' in the Crates Crew and an artist who made his career by sampling other musician’s pieces of work - mostly without permission and a lot of times without giving that artist a dime - is now suing Mac for the same thing, is appalling to me.
What Mac Miller did — flipping a song into his own track — is nothing new to the culture (how do you think 50 Cent got on?) If you clicked on this blog then you know that rappers rapping over other people's beats and releasing them on free mixtapes or for the Internet is not a new practice. Ice Cube famously did it on “Jackin For Beats” off of his Kill at Will EP back in 1990.
Jesus, I'm so confused by hip-hop today.
Whenever I’m confused about something I go to Twitter, because, well, Twitter has everything. First I hit up Mac's page. He always came across as a humble dude, so it wasn't surprising to see him take the high road:
After getting one half of the story, I then went to the Twitter page of the Funky Technician himself, where he somewhat explained his actions, and also gave props to Mac:
Here's the thing: guys like Finesse and Pete Rock (who retweeted Finesse's second tweet and who got upset earlier in the year when Lupe Fiasco sampled "T.R.O.Y." on his "Around My Way (Freedom Ain't Free)" single) are just randomly coming up with rules.
"Mixtapes are one thing, but you can’t take someone’s else’s entire song, shoot a music video and call it your own."
Well, first of all, Finesse, he didn't take the song. He used the beat, turned it into his own song, and gave it away. Second of all, why can't he do that? Because you decided he couldn't?
I'm sure there are hundreds of jazz musicians, soul singers, rock bands who say you can't sample his or her drums or horns or voice.
It's like a life-long pickpocket getting upset because someone stole his TV.
Sampling and using other people’s music is all part of the game, baby.
A part of me wonders how much of this is bitterness.
Even though people like Lord Finesse and Pete Rock laid down the foundation, and are two of the culture’s most important artists, the two producers are living in an era where their great achievements seem to be almost forgotten.
I know what they have done, but I know there is a large portion of the younger generation who doesn’t, who thinks that the beat on “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza” originally came from Mac.
It sucks that hip-hop has done a poor job in making sure the music's heroes aren’t forgotten, but suing is a poor way of reacting to this.
This whole lawsuit is petty and disappointing. If this was to go to court, and Finesse would win, it would set a scary benchmark for a culture that was birthed on borrowing and sampling.
Finesse probably won't win, though. Finesse never cleared the Oscar Peterson "Dream of You" sample he uses on "Hip 2 Da Game."
Oh, the irony.
I does the Twitter thing @Milkman__Dead