Brandon McFarland on Thursday, Aug. 25th
Kanye West and Jay-Z’s song “The Joy”, from the critically acclaimed Watch the Throne album on Island Def Jam imprint, contained a sample of Syl Johnson‘s “Different Strokes” for which Syl did not receive notification or compensation.
Reissue label Numero Group, who put out a box set last year compiling Johnson’s work, Complete Mythology, had been going back and forth with Island Def Jam about the song since it first surfaced last year as a part of Kanye’s G.O.O.D Music Fridays releases. According to Numero’s website, it was the Island Def Jam office that dropped the ball on the sample clearance.
Late last night, we received a phone call from Syl—who was nearly in tears—asking if we knew why The Numero Group appeared in the credits to a new Kanye West/Jay Z album called Watch The Throne. We had no idea. The credits mis-identify Numero as the publisher of the sampled song (“Different Strokes”), which of course we are not, and any routine search of the BMI database would show otherwise. Wondering why we weren’t consulted on this new use, and baffled why we appear in the credits, for which we never asked, we contacted the sample clearance house. Even they cannot get a response from their own clients. Island Def Jam seems to think that Syl doesn’t have any fight left in him. We’re betting otherwise.
It’s a story as old as hip-hop itself. The sad part is unless an artist like Syl still has money to burn, taking Island Def Jam to court, he’ll have to sit by and “Watch the Throne” rake in millions in revenue.