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.
The new Kanye West & Jay-Z collaboration album, Watch The Throne, arrived to much fanfare and criticism. I purposely shut my ears to most opinions – or at least took them with a grain of salt – until I listened closely, with liner notes by my side. Here are some quotes from actual critics that made it through my noise filter, for better or for worse. I cut in a few facts to neutralize things.
In the midst of an early 21st-century Great Recession, the vicarious experience of opulence may be enough for Jay’s and Kanye’s millions of fans. But on a record this ambitious, this sonically bold, it’s a shame two of music’s greatest storytellers don’t extend their gaze beyond their own luxe lives. – Rolling Stone
- Kanye and Jay-Z are multi-millionaires. Combined, they earned around $53 million last year – putting them in a financial class significantly higher most Americans.
Listening to it is sort of like watching George Clooney get all his movie-star friends together for a party at his Italian villa, and, along the way, maybe dream up Ocean’s Twelve. – Pitchfork
- Recording sessions for Watch The Throne took place in Honolulu, Hawaii, Sydney, Australia, New York, Paris, France, and Wiltshire, England,with a laundry list of collaborators including The RZA, Swizz Beatz, The Neptunes, Q-Tip, Lex Luger, Hit Boy, 88-Keys and more.
The production is often stellar, favoring West’s soul-dusties sensibility, with snippets of James Brown, Otis Redding, and Nina Simone. But it rarely takes the kind of chances West routinely takes on his solo albums. – Chicago Tribune
- Kanye and crew built entire tracks from Otis Redding, as well as James Brown grunts and screams. They also ran a Nina Simone vocal sample through Auto-Tune.
11. Made In America (ft. Frank Ocean) – First of all son….Lionel Richie called from 1986 n said he wants his song back yo. Drake said he gon soak in his lotion pool to this shit rite here for like a week son. I heard this shit gon be used for the next Gwyneth Paltrow movie too. This shit is like audio lesbian comin out my speakers son. – Big Ghost
- No Comment.
A week from now people will continue to play this album, despite everyone’s immediate reactions, because Jay-Z and Kanye made the most progressive rap album this year by current hip hop standards, and a great album in general.
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments.
After starting half an hour late, a hoarse Kanye West said people treat him “like Hitler” during his headline show at The Big Chill festival in England on Saturday. It was actually a part of a ten minute rant by Kanye to a crowd of unmoved music fans that focused on his accusations that vitriol and condemnation are a regular part of his life.
“I walk through the hotel and I walk down the street, and people look at me like I’m (expletive) insane, like I’m Hitler,” the 34-year-old rapper said at theBig Chill Festival on Saturday night. “One day the light will shine through and one day people will understand everything I ever did.”
According to The Independent, fans reacted angrily and booed the singer, although he managed to raise spirits by playing hits including ‘All Fall Down’, ‘Jesus Walks’, ‘Love Lockdown’, ‘Touch The Sky’ and ‘Gold Digger’ during his two hour set. Check out the footage above.
Violence in music videos isn’t new. But when it comes in a bunch like this, it raises debates about freedom of speech, the effect of violent images on kids, and its overall cultural significance.
I think freedom of expression is one of the most valuable constitutional rights to any artist and that’s how we get great art. Whether or not kids can discern fiction from reality totally falls on the parents.
Nigerian indie label Mo’Hits Records (Afro-Beat artists D’banji and Don Jazzy) just signed with Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music imprint.
The main influencers of the dance part scene in West Africa, D’Banji has released four albums, the most recent of the four entitled Mr. Endowed, featuring Snoop Dogg on the album’s title track. Could Kanye bring African culture to American hip hop?
The two acts took to Twitter relatively early to express their joy over the “G.O.O.D.” occasion. A day before his birthday, June 8th,D’banj Tweeted:
“Lord, I thank you for being so GOOD to us. On such a special day, you have decided to humble us more! I’m speechless. Just like yesterday, myself and my brother did ‘Tongolo‘. 7 years later, Mo’ Hits signs with Good Music. Best birthday gift ever. God, thank you.”
Don Jazzy wrote:
“Thanks for your love and prayers always. Now we can hear IDJA from the world’s finest stars. Thanks again, it’s Naija.”
In the video, D’banji and Don Jazzy hang out and listen to their music with Kanye, Cudi, Pusha T and producer No I.D., as Kanye signs the contract:
When poet/musician Gil Scott Heron died Friday at age 62, hip hop luminaries quickly stepped up to honor his contribution to a genre he was often credited with forefathering (though he never embraced that title).
Though his music didn’t reach major success in sales, even at the height of his career, he’s been an ongoing inspiration to the hip hop generation.
For hip hop’s more politically conscious artists, from Talib Kweli to Tupac Shakur, Scott-Heron’s music is pretty much pre-requisite.
The very first mention of A Tribe Called Quest (who are now one of hip hop’s most iconic groups) was over a Gil Scott Heron sample. Check the rhyme from a teenage Q-Tip on the Jungle Brother’s “Black Is Black” which sampled “The Bottle” by Gil Scott-Heron:
Kanye West frequently runs to his Gil Scott-Heron record collection when producing for himself and others. Kanye sampled Scott-Heron twice for himself on the songs “My Way Home” and “Lost In The World,” another time for Common’s song “The People” (Common actually made my favorite Gil Scott-inspired song, entitled “The 6th Sense” featuring Bilal) and again for the Game’s song “Angel” featuring Common.
Scott-Heron’s song “Delta Man” was the sample to Slim Thug’s “Coming From” featuring Big K.R.I.T. and J-Dawg; one of the most recent usage of Scott-Heron’s material and one of the few Southern hip hop interpretations of Scott-Heron’s music:
Former Interscope-signed rapper Jensen Karp recently stumbled across a couple of CDs in his garage, both given to him in 2001 during his time at the label. Each had the name Kanye West written on them and are believed to be the oldest Kanye West beats to ever be released. Both can be streamed here for those interested in checking them out.
This had AllDayPlay.FM and the Wild & Krazy Kids reminiscing on a pivotal shift in rap music from all beat machine generated sounds otherwise known as “keyboard beats,” to beats composed using loops of old vinyl, or “sample driven beats”. So where does the term “Chipmunk Soul” come in? Well, if you ever heard a used a record player, it has two settings, 78 and 45 rpm (revolutions per minute). If you put a 10 or 12″ record on a 45rpm setting the record plays faster making the voices on said record high-pitched (like a chipmunk version of the record). This style of making beats with sped up samples was perfected by Kanye West and Just Blaze and it produced countless hits for Camron, Jay-Z, and Twista, just to name a few. Listen to this podcast to get a crash course in the Chipmunk Soul Era.
Fun Fact: This Chipmunk Soul style of beat making was allegedly created first by RZA of Wu-Tang.
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“…this rap sh*t is really just like selling smoke…” – Andre 3000 (of Outkast), “Myintrotoletuknow” Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
“…So we cook it, cut it, measure it, bag it, sell it…put that CD on your tongue, yeah that’s pure man…” – Kanye West, “Crack Music” Late Registration
On Jay-Z’s second album, In My Lifetime, Vol 1, he has a song called “Rap Game/Crack Game” where he draws the various parallels between the dope game and the music industry. As evidenced by the first quote, Jay’s song wasn’t the first time such a parallel had been drawn. Kanye West tackled the same idea, though somewhat clumsily and definitely with less focus on his classic second opus.
Point is, various rap artists have made the connection (no pun intended) between the vocations.
And now, there is another parallel just waiting to happen. You see, it turns out that that that blog game is a whole lot like the current music model these days. This whole process that we’ve been going through here at VSB has illustrated it for me quite clearly. And being the benevolent soul that I am, and since I do believe that sharing is caring, I decided to do what writers do and write. If I was a rapper, I might drop a song explaining it. But I’m not and I know my father. Anyway, let’s walk through the process using the current internet based music model.
As the dead ninja Tupac said, “follow me!”
1. WordPress/Blogger/MT4 vs ProTools/Logic/Reason/FruityLoops, etc
The barriers to entry to music are minimal these days. Five hundred dollars and computer are all that you need to have a studio in your home. Hell, I have one. You don’t even need hardware anymore. A software package like Ableton Live will do it all for you. Basically, ANYBODY can become a music producer nowadays. And with an additional hundred dollars you can get a decent microphone. Now, I’m not saying they can be a good rapper/producer, but a rapper/producer nonetheless. The same goes with blogging. All you need is to sign up. Period. You sign up via one of the CMS platforms and write your first sentence, and voila, you are a blogger. Not necessarily a good one, but a blogger nonetheless.
2. Blog Posts vs Releasing Songs via Popular Aggregator sites and New Music Cartel afficionados, etc
For those of us who have long given up our aspirations to rap (too many degrees, too old, can’t go back to jail) without losing our aspirations to write, blogging is the best thing. You can write freely. Whenever, wherever, whatever. And about anything. The point is that hopefully whatever you write will connect with somebody who will like it enough that they will either talk about it or share it with others. This is akin to rappers releasing songs on to the net. From Wiz Khalifa to Crooked I, these rappers drop song after song hoping that one of them will resonate enough for folks to check out their work wherever they can find it. Whereas bloggers have their own websites to drop knowledge, the rappers use as many sites as possible, which is easy since the big ones all post the exact same sh*# anyway. Basically one song gets posted 100 times. Us bloggers hope that as many people as possible come to read and then comment, letting us know that folks reading.
Big shout out to Chicago’s Rhymefest for forcing a runoff as he continues his bid for alderman in Chi-Towns 20th ward. It’s a classic battle in which a young, Grammy Award-winning artist is going up against an older incumbent retired police officer named Willie Cochran.
Kanye West and Jay-Z, two of hip-hop’s biggest stars, are dropping a highly anticipated album together entitled Watch The Throne dropping this March. But is the first single “H.A.M.” as good as all the hype it has generated?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and promise you that this will be the first of two posts on Present Shock, the Douglas Rushkoff book that has been getting a mountain of attention in the tech press since it was released earlier this month.