How Copy Rights Birthed The Modern Mixtape.

I came across an article by Kaitlyn Ellison called 5 famous copyright infringement cases (and what you can learn) While I enjoyed reading, and learned a little bit, there was one thing I really did not agree with. Ellison claimed that the “Ice Ice Baby” lawsuit didn’t have much impact on design. Now she may have meant in terms of visual art, because this was a huge turning point in sampling in Hip-Hop/Rap Music.

Now there’s been a hand full of major copyright lawsuits between musicians. Most that I could find were either British Rock bands ripping off old Blues and R&B singers, or Classic Rock Bands suing Rappers for sampling songs (that those bands usually didn’t even write them selfs). While there is merit in most of them, the suits against Hip-Hop artist posed a real threat.

Some artist argue that if you need to sample, or build off other peoples creations, you’re not actually creative at all. I think they couldn’t be any more wrong. At this point in time, there are not many original ideas left. I think there is a lot to say about the ability to take a great piece and build off of it, bringing it to the next level. Look, The God Father came out in ’72, but did any one complain when Goodfellas came out in ’90? No, because even though we had a perfect Mafia movie, we weren’t gonna turn down another.

Here is the danger though. Hip-Hop was born off rapping over the breaks of records, sampling was part of the very genesis of the genre. So if you strip artist of there ability to sample, we would have ran out of drum beats and bass lines in 88.

I understand the desire to be compensated for your work. But unless you have major label money to back your copyright fees, theres no way artist would be able to produce the quality of beats that we have become accustomed to. Even groups with preexisting success wouldn’t have been or be able to afford the fees. Look at the Beastie Boy‘s Paul’s Boutique. The Dust Brothers must have a million different samples on that record. If they tried to put that album out today, they wouldn’t even be able to afford to party.

So after Vanilla Ice fucked the game up for everyone, artist had to find a loop hole. Then comes in the Mixtape. Mixtapes have basically always been around, but the modern mixtape is mostly accredited to 50 Cent and G-Unit. Now personally, the first mixtape I got behind, that very aggressively sampled current hit songs, was Lil Wayne’s  Sorry 4 the Wait. Now I know 2011 was a little late into the game, but I’m just being honest with you. Regardless, that tape was incredibly successful. The explicit sampling of Adele and Beyonce opened the door for the next wave of rappers, The SoundCloud Rappers. A group of young artist basically dubbing over songs while only making minor adjustments. Then tacking these tracks and promoting them on what is basically the Facebook of music, Sound Cloud.

From parties in New York City, to the Golden Age of Rap, then the early ages of Mixtapes on sites like DatPiff and now, the Reign of SoundCloud. Hip-Hop, to some peoples distain, has continued to evolve. With a generation of Rappers that are hated by the OGs, and loved by the youth, the question remains. Is Hip-Hop in a good spot? Honestly I’m split. I feel like Hip-Hop is where Rock and Metal were in the 80’s with Hair bands. On the other hand, there is a plethora of music being put out. From Emo inspired tracks dubbed over anime clips, to hard core Chicago Drill Rap. The genre might be crashing and burning, but I’m enjoying the ride.

I Got You,

Sean Thompson


shout out to for the inspiration, for the featured image and, as always, wikipedia for my facts.

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