If you decided to click on this article, then it is extremely likely that you are a fan of old-school hip-hop and/or have been told you shouldn’t release songs that have uncleared samples in them. However, if you are an artist than this is a concern you may have had before
This mythical hip-hop topic is one that you will get different opinions on, depending on who you ask. I am not here to tell you what to do when it comes to this aspect of releasing music, only to provide with you insight so you can make an informed decision for yourself.
There are plenty of reasons why you might be contemplating the release of a song that has unclear samples in it. Maybe the sample is integral to the music, maybe it’s your favorite song on the album and you don’t want to cut it, or perhaps you think it will be too expensive to clear. 😥
While all these are valid reasons for not clearing a sample of a boom-bap beat,
one question needs to be asked before making such a decision: Is there anything more important than being true to yourself?
Your music is what matters. You’ll have to navigate the complex world of digital rights management and giving credit where it is due, but at the end of the day, the risk of releasing music with uncleared samples may be worth the price you’ll pay.
Let’s get into this topic so you can decide the best option for your unique sound.
What is the True Meaning Behind Music Sampling?
Sampling is a way to use existing music to make something new. You can create a song by sampling another song and then adding your own spin to it. This means you’re taking someone else’s work and adding your ideas to it. Everyone from Eminem’s My Name Is to Kendrick Lamar’s Money Trees has used samples in their music
Sampling can also create songs that sound like the original, but with some variations to it. For example, many hip-hop artists will rap over beats that have sample in them from different genres and time periods. This makes their raps sound true to the essence of hip-hop (and often gives them credibility), even though it was recorded years later.
This is a frequent method modern artists like Benny The Butcher, Westside Gunn Nas, J.Cole, Kendrick Lamar and more use to get started. Having underground boom-bap type beats is almost like a rite of passage that you are honoring one of the modern world’s most prolific times of music.
What are Underground Boom Bap Type Beats?
Underground Boom-Bap type beats are hip-hop beats with a sound reminiscent of the early 90’s when hip-hop music was still underground. These types of beats are perfect for artists (whether introspective or hardcore) who are lyricists at the heart of it and value keeping hip-hop in its original form.
These songs are often times sampled-based and come with a risk when releasing it so in a perfect world you would seek to get permission from the original artist who created the song first to avoid potentially being sued. (Most artists don’t do this )
Boom bap itself is a subgenre of hip hop that originated in the 1980s and is characterized by its use of hard-hitting break drums and sampling from old records. Boom-bap beats typically have a raw, unpolished sound and often feature samples from funk, soul, and jazz records however, there is no genre of music that is safe from being sampled when it comes to these types of beats,even scores from older movies aren’t exempt.
The more underground boom-bap beats refer to soundscapes made by independent or lesser-known artists, as opposed to those made by mainstream producers. These beats often have a more experimental and underground sound and are made outside the mainstream hip-hop industry. You’d be amazed at how many famous songs come from older samples. (That never had sample clearance at the time of the release)
What are the Risks of Using Uncleared Samples?
If you are serious about releasing music, the risks of using uncleared samples should not be underestimated. The consequences of copyright infringement can be severe, and in some cases, they can financially ruin you.
You could be sued for copyright infringement. This means that someone else owns the rights to the sample and is able to sue you for using it without their
permission or payment of royalties—and even if there was no intention on your
part to infringe on someone else’s copyrights, it does not matter!
If a court decides that what you did was “too similar” (even if it
wasn’t), you will be liable for damages and legal fees incurred by both parties
Sometimes these lawsuits are settled out of court, but even so, attorneys’ fees can run into hundreds or thousands of dollars per case depending on how many songs were involved. You’ll end up having to destroy physical copies and delete any digital
releases you’ve put up on Spotify, TikTok, or YouTube.
However, it is highly unlikely you will be sued if you are an artist that is not mainstream…….yet. As an upcoming artist, if you are being sued for an uncleared sample, chances are you have a song that has blown up. If this happens to be the case, you will be able to jumpstart your career off this song even after legal matters are settled.
So is the risk worth the reward? 💰 📈
It’s a common misconception that rapping over sampled music will hurt your career. In fact, if you want to boost your career, it can be one of the best ways to do it. Rapping over sampled music can potentially boost a rapper’s career in several ways.
Using samples can help a rapper stand out and create a unique sound that sets them apart from other artists.
Sampling can also add depth and texture to a rapper’s music, making it more exciting and appealing to listeners.
Additionally, rapping over sampled music can be a way to pay homage to the original artist and their work, which can be seen as a sign of respect and can help a rapper gain credibility and recognition within the hip-hop community.
Finally, using samples can be a way for a rapper to connect with listeners familiar with the original song, which can help build a loyal and dedicated fan base.
There have been many songs that have used uncleared samples and boosted the careers of music artists.
One well-known example is Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang, which used an uncleared sample of Chic’s Good Times and helped to launch the careers of the Sugarhill Gang and the entire hip-hop genre.
Additionally, U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer used an uncleared sample of Rick James’ Super Freak and helped to make Hammer one of the biggest names in hip hop at the time.
Kanye West wouldn’t exist without his sample of Chaka Khan on Through the Wire. Even though he lost the rights to that song, it was all he needed to start one of the most explosive rap careers of all time.
The reason? Chaka Khan didn’t like her song Through the Fire being sampled by another artist. It wasn’t Kanye West himself. It was the way Through the Wire sped up her vocals, making her sound nothing like her fans would recognize. She felt emotionally connected to Kanye for the trauma he was healing from after the car accident that inspired the song. So initially, she wanted to help, but when an original artist is distorted, misrepresented, or in some way not recognized for their work, it tends to end in disputes.
Kanye made a rational choice as a risk-taker. Give up some of the rights to the song to leverage the publicity it was bringing from major rap labels who wanted to sign him or fight with one of the music industry’s godmothers. He chose to roll the dice, and the result is his debut album – The College Dropout, earning him Grammy nominations and a coveted spot in the top 500 albums of all time.
It isn’t just Kanye. Plenty of other artists take the risk of using other people’s work to build a career. Sometimes with permission, but most of the time with a shout-out. Recognition has a lot to do with sampling. Check out this list!
The list goes on and on. The common theme between all of these tracks is that they are the highest streaming songs for each artist’s catalog. However, when you utilize underground boom bap type beats, you often avoid these issues because they are so little known that no one wants to claim them.
Also, there is the flipside argument. Many songs being reused and sampled now are reigniting careers of the past. Artists who have been far from the spotlight of fame are seeing new fans because modern artists are sampling their work.
Need an example? Lauren Hill certainly didn’t suffer when Drake sampled Ex-Factor on Nice for What❗
It’s a risky business, and you will have to weigh your options carefully. If you are a new artist, it’s probably not worth taking the risk. It’s one thing when your following is small, but if you plan on growing into a more prominent artist and want to avoid costly lawsuits for uncleared samples, then it would be best for you not to use uncleared samples at all until after any potential copyright infringement issues have been resolved.
The established artists may be able to shrug off any lawsuits that come their way with relative ease due to their large fan base or because they can afford them (or both). If this sounds like something that could work well with your situation as an artist—and if so—then, by all means, go ahead and use uncleared samples in your songs.
No matter your decision, stay respectful. Many artists are thrilled their work is being used by others if they are acknowledged and shown respect.
It’s the whole idea that a rising tide raises all boats. If you hit success using underground boom bap type beats in your new hit on TikTok, odds are, the original artist will get just as much of a boost. Your best bet is to collaborate, acknowledge, and innovate so listeners cannot help but share your new sound.
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