January 30th, 2009

Dem Nuh Ramp

What is it, copywrong week in Jamaica?

Tip o’ the proverbial hat to Ripley for pointing me to an article in the Jamaica Star which reports that EMI have served Vybz Kartel with a SERIOUS cease&desist on behalf of none other than (now former) w&w faves, Ne-Yo and Stargate (aka, Shaffer Smith, Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen) —

The current version of Vybz Kartel and Spice’s Rampin Shop has been ordered to be destroyed and pulled from all radio stations, television stations and the Internet by EMI Music Publishing. Plans are in motion for the song to be re-mixed and re-mastered so it can be played on air again.

When the STAR spoke to Vybz Kartel yesterday he explained that he had received an e-mail from EMI Music Publishing stating that Rampin Shop infringes on the copyright license of Miss Independent by Ne-Yo. Rampin Shop was released towards the end of 2008 and is currently on a remade version of the Miss Independent rhythm, the song while immensely popular in Jamaica has not been officially released to the International market. While Ne-Yo is officially signed to Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG), the copyright license for the composition of the Ne-Yo song is licensed by EMI Music Publishing for composers Shaffer Smith, Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel S. Eriksen.

Kartel forwarded the e-mail from EMI to the STAR in which it stated, “‘Ramping Shop’ by Vybz Kartel and Spice infringes the copyright in ‘Miss Independent’ (Smith/Hermansen/Eriksen). Clearance of this use of ‘Miss Independent’ has not been sought or obtained and I am informed that clearance will not be forthcoming. Accordingly ‘Ramping Shop’ cannot be released or exploited in any way. Please confirm your acknowledgement and acceptance of this, and that you will arrange that (i) all recordings of the infringing track will be re-called and destroyed and that no further copies will be issued, and (ii) that the audio and/or video will be taken down immediately from all Internet sites.”

Note that the effervescent instrumental underlying “Miss Independent” is referred to here as “the Miss Independent rhythm” which nicely & subtly indicates how Jamaicans tend to think about accompanimental tracks: as always-already ready for a next “voicing.” Indeed, you can find a few other voicings (and even some mashups) floating around under the name Miss Independent riddim. Some, like Beniton’s version, show how spry artists engage with contemporary hits these days, dialoguing with the original while offering new, localized commentary. (You can call that illegal, but it’s not gonna stop.) Actually, I say “these days” because it’s increasingly common everywhere, but we should acknowledge that recording almost-immediate (cover) versions of r&b hits has been the thing to do in Kingston since, oh, the 1950s. (I realize that digital copying complicates things a little, but it needn’t. And, really, what’s the threat to Ne-Yo/Stargate? “Miss Independent” was a big hit; “Rampin Shop” threatens its future revenue stream NOT IN THE LEAST.)

Vybz’s too-hot-to-handle duet with Spice has been getting serious play in Jamaica and the dancehall diaspora — thus making it a target (unless, as some speculate, Kartel got fingered by a “rival camp”); whereas Beniton’s is not — I mean, is Beniton even reachable? JK HERE’S HIS PHONE# LOL). I’m sick enough of that beat at this point, having quite worn it out, that I’m happy for Kartel to re-release “Rampin” with a new backing, though I did like the striking juxtaposition of Stargate’s soft instrumental bedding and Vybz&Spice’s rough-and-tumble pillowtalk. Which raises the question: can Kartel’s version be heard as parody?

Here’s another irony (not that it’s not reconcilable with current copyright or certain notions of musical ownership), it turns out that, while denying the right to others to participate in contemporary remix culture, Stargate shamelessly reused their own music for “Miss Independent.”

Talk about an industry that’s out of touch. Can you believe that EMI would demand something as patently absurd and impossible as destroying all copies? “from all Internet sites”? Haha good luck with that! Next I’m expecting Cary Sherman to say the RIAA has to “do it in the Facebook, with the Twittering.”

Kartel’s song remains pretty darn easy to find on the net, and I suspect it’ll stay that way. (Praise Jah for decentralization & the promiscuity of digital files. Were only up to Google/YouTube, could we kiss the song goodbye?)

If you haven’t heard it yet, however, and don’t know what you’re getting into, be forewarned: in the time-honored tradition of Caribbean bawdy music, “Rampin Shop” is not for the feint of heart — SO ONLY LISTEN IF U LIKE UR SLACKNESS! (i.e., if you appreciate a good dirty joke. or a bad one. this has both!)

33 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Canyon Cody  |  January 31st, 2009 at 7:32 am

    Do they have to destroy all the physical copies with hammers or can they use screwdrivers to disassemblethem? Can they just delete the files, or do they have to empty their recycle bin also?

  • 2. wayneandwax  |  January 31st, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Actually, physical copies need to be collected into a great heap and burned, preferably in a baseball stadium during a double-header. Digital copies should be placed on physical media and also burned.

  • 3. ripley  |  January 31st, 2009 at 1:25 pm

    actually they have to burn the parts of the internet where the digital copies reside. also the parts of your brain where you remember the tune.

  • 4. giessel  |  February 1st, 2009 at 1:11 pm

    these versions are awesome. both of your posts on this copyright riddim bidness are on point as far as i’m concerned. i’ve always really appreciated this practice as awesome on it’s own and secondarily as a seemingly successful alternative model to the stricter practices we see in the US. not sure if anyone has the clout to make the showdown anything more than a C&D blip, but you’d like it

    re: lyrics: when does referencing/remixing become parody? i love the interplay here and it’s an excellent example of semiotic layering but does it have to be explicitly critical? (or just explicit? heh)

  • 5. wayneandwax  |  February 1st, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    arguing that “rampin shop” is a parody would be a stretch, i think. you could make an easier case for beniton’s version, which directly alludes to, jokes with, and samples ne-yo’s vox. from a lawyer’s perspective, tho, may as well throw every even somewhat plausible defense out there. maybe something will stick. it’s specious reasoning, but the system almost demands it. talk about something in need of a refix.

  • 6. Blackdown  |  February 1st, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    i love the contrast between the sugar sweet backing beat and the brutal reduction of sex to two organs (pussy/cock). certainly beats the orginal vocal though.

  • 7. Gabriel  |  February 2nd, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    Funnily enough, today I got invited to Universal Music’s digital DJ download pool. And what tune did I see as one of the latest additions to the pool? Oh yes – Rampin Shop!

  • 8. wayneandwax  |  February 2nd, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Wha?! I don’t rly understand how that could happen. What a schizo industry right a now.

  • 9. Gabriel  |  February 2nd, 2009 at 2:46 pm

    I know! I guess it’s the UK end of the business seeing that it’s a new reason for DJs to play the Ne-Yo song again.

    Also – Rampin Shop is now being used to advertise Kartel’s Daggerin condoms and I think the beat used on that ad must be the remade version:

    http://www.theheatwave.co.uk/blog/item/vybz-kartel-spice-rampin-shop/

  • 10. w&w  |  February 3rd, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Interesting — the story has been picked up by a Norwegian news source, which includes a link to and summary of this blogpost. Welcome readers from Norway?

  • 11. Jørgen  |  February 3rd, 2009 at 8:56 am

    It’s basically theft. Why can’t you acknowledge that their intellectual property has been violated?

    If I wrote a song and some half-ass Jamaican artist ripped it off, I would do EXACTLY the same.

    Why is it that these artists can’t come up with their own shit?

  • 12. wayneandwax  |  February 3rd, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Jørgen, I don’t know quite where to begin with your questions. I’ll start with the first. I can’t acknowledge what you ask me to because I disagree with the terms you’re using. For one, I can’t begin to understand how to interpret a “violation” in this case. Did the instrumental have its feelings hurt or something? Are you making a moral rights argument? Either way, my basic feeling about the issue is that there should be a lot more freedom (i.e., lack of legal intervention) around what people are able to do with the various media that we’re swimming in, especially the payola-fied pop songs that permeate our soundscapes.

    The producers exploited their “IP” (if you must) to great riches this year — and no doubt will continue to do so. As noted in my post, Stargate has even exploited the same musical materials twice — and yet they would deny, having so propelled this thing into public culture, that anyone else make creative use of them? That’s just selfish from my perspective, but more importantly, attempting to exercise that sort of control over music is simply out of step with cultural practice at this point.

    And perhaps we should remember that without the aesthetics of re-use so creatively and powerfully put forward by hip-hop and reggae artists, “Miss Independent” and — indeed — Stargate would not exist. (Those expatriates/compatriots of yours stand on the shoulders of “derivative-work” GIANTS.) Your comment about “their own shit” belies some strange, idealized, and totally ahistorical idea about originality. That’s not how music or culture works, especially not this music and this culture. Your own unpacked ideas about authenticity and value (“half-ass”) are fairly transparent. I think we fundamentally disagree; I think you’re wrong.

  • 13. wayneandwax  |  February 3rd, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Some recommended, relevant reading, c/o Jamie Boyle (h/t @laripley) —

    So basically mine is a clarion call to say we have worked as though we were assuming that increasing the rights automatically brought more innovation, but in fact that’s wrong, as a simple analysis will suggest, since intellectual property needs – indeed builds – on raw material: scientists need gene sequences, coders need access to lines of code, novelists need access to genres, musicians to obviously build on the work of others. And if we get the balance wrong, as I think we are, and if we expand only outwards, as we are, and if we make exceptions and limitations optional but make the new rights mandatory, then we are going to systematically mess up our intellectual property system. And that is what I think we have been doing.

  • 14. trinity  |  February 3rd, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    We live in a corporate world !!!

    It seems stupid to blame Ne-Yo and Stargate for this. I have a hard time believing that they have anything against Jamaican remix or bootleg culture, as their music also is inspired by it.
    This has to be the work of EMI, and other corporate forces that protects the rights to this music.
    Also, the song that you claim Stargate has reused the music from, is a demo, that was not even released. Do your homework people….
    Stop hatin on the creative, and keep doin those mashups…

    Trinity

  • 15. wayneandwax  |  February 3rd, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Trinity. If I’m reading right you’re sympathetic to my own arguments above. I too wish that artists — rather than corporations — exercised more control (or less) over their own music. It’s a sad irony that their hands are often tied in these situations. I’m not blaming Ne-Yo and Stargate exactly, but I am disappointed that they haven’t intervened or spoken out — if they are indeed happy participants in remix culture.

    Just because we “live in a corporate world” doesn’t mean we have to accept corporate control.

    (Incidentally, whether or not the “original” was released, this is still an example of Stargate reusing their own music. But point taken. I really do try to do my “homework.”)

  • 16. SelectaD  |  February 10th, 2009 at 7:25 am

    mi will spread this remix on Ne-Yo beat further and play it ina di club.

    dem a just jealous coz di tune bad and ne-yo tune saaaad :D

  • 17. SelectaD  |  February 10th, 2009 at 7:33 am

    [quote]as their music also is inspired by it.[/quote]

    yeah man, ur’re right. They do it same way, but a likkle JA Label could not fight that war against the US Major Companys.

    Remember Mr Vegas – Pull Up?

    who thiefed it? Who made the big mainstream hit on coolie dance? What a fuckery!

  • 18. wayneandwax  |  February 10th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    Yes, SelectaD. Thanks for adding your voice to the chorus.

    You’re right to point out the power differentials here.

    In terms of the Vegas tune, if I recall correctly, he did sue Lil Jon / Pitbull over their unauthorized use of the melody (and phonemic contour?) of the chorus to “Pull Up.” I’m not sure whether that ended in a settlement of some sort or not. I’m pretty sure, however, but don’t quote me on this, that Scatta, producer of Coolie Dance, officially licensed the riddim to them for “Culo” — as well as to the producers of Nina Sky’s “Turning Me On.”

  • 19. SelectaD  |  February 11th, 2009 at 8:32 am

    no it was not about the riddim version. Maybe it was licensed to the other producers… What I mean is the use of the vegas melody of the chorus to “pull up”.

  • 20. w&w  |  February 11th, 2009 at 10:53 am

    Yeah, I realize. I was just noting that there are some separate issues a gwaan there.

    I just found this likkle interview clip where Vegas discusses the songs & the lawsuit. Sounds like he won in court, got full publishing credits for “Culo,” and probably got pretty well paid as a result:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZU_W7l3lu2A

  • 21. w&w  |  February 16th, 2009 at 12:08 pm

    kartel fires back:
    http://www.jamaicagleaner.com/gleaner/20090209/letters/letters8.html

  • 22. wayneandwax.com » R&hellip  |  February 17th, 2009 at 1:28 am

    [...] connections to the original tune, serving here as but a background riddim for hyping local events (sorry, Stargate, u cyaaaan stop that) — pardon the dict-iphone audio [...]

  • 23. wayneandwax  |  March 4th, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    h/t to lily for pointing me to yet another version on the “miss independent” riddim, this time from busy signal, clearly inspired by kartel & spice —

    can’t see this one getting airplay in JA anytime soon, e? but will busy get an email from EMI?

  • 24. wayneandwax.com » A&hellip  |  April 3rd, 2009 at 9:58 am

    [...] week (thx, Tom!), reporting that Panamanian reggae artists are, unsurprisingly, enthralled by the “Miss Independent” riddim. No doubt this is well below the radar — none of these Panamanian versions are about to get [...]

  • 25. AUTOTUNE and GUNSHOTSR&hellip  |  April 6th, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    [...] with some lyrics in spanish on top! This is one of several tracks on WAYNE & WAX with the same MISS INDEPENDENT RIDDIM. Appearantly a hot item these days and fought over riddim. Well.., by large record labels that cant [...]

  • 26. Blackdown  |  June 15th, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    “Rampin Shop” came on London pirate radio last night and I … belatedly, having seen it here in Feb … suddenly realised how much I love this tune. respect Wayne!

  • 27. Bucky  |  October 17th, 2009 at 8:57 pm

    I’m coming to this a little late, but on a related note, no pun intended, the use of sampling, the “re-voicing” that’s heard today goes way back to the blues. After I read The Land Where the Blues Began by Alan Lomax, it made sense to me why sampling has never bothered me.

    For instance, Robert Johnson said he “made up” a song that he most probably heard Son House playing first. The two songs have the same melody and chords but different words. Apparently no one considered that stealing or some kind of a sign of a lack of creativity. Unfortunately I can’t remember the song title I’m referring to, because the rhythm lick is looping in my head!

    Personally, I like both “versions” of the song: Ne-yo and Vybz Kartel and Spice’s version.

    The idea that copies should be destroyed and the song should be banned is flat silly. Trying to regulate artistic expression and ultimately the right to free speech is crazy. Plus, they are talking about raw sex, not violence. Preachin’ to the converted, I’m sure, but I’d rather children overhear about great sex than be bombarded by acts of violence seen on film, TV, and worst of all the local news.

  • 28. socaviking  |  November 13th, 2009 at 7:28 pm

    I think you should check this one out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sB3GhOURMWo by (Northern)Norwegian rapper/dancehall artist Joddski AKA Jørg-1 (formerly of Tungtvann) The video explains pretty well what the song is about. Now it’s gone full cycle!

  • 29. taliesin  |  November 15th, 2009 at 2:45 pm

    Wayne- just wanted to let you know that we voiced Tightest, Romping Shop and Miss Independent in a medley style at Karaoke on Friday…

  • 30. wayneandwax  |  November 16th, 2009 at 10:47 am

    Now that sounds like a plan, Tally! Let’s see the copyright cops try to stop that.

    & @socaviking, um, thx (?) for bringing that other version to my attn! pretty interesting/amusing.

  • 31. wayneandwax.com » I&hellip  |  December 3rd, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    [...] of the Miss Independent riddim. As we heard previously, the Ne-Yo instrumental — most famously reappropriated in Vybz&Spice’s “Rampin Shop” — has become a veritable version in [...]

  • 32. HushMyDarlin  |  September 17th, 2012 at 8:43 pm

    Vybz Kartel’s and Slice’s version was SOOO much better and no…there is no way you can just completely delete the song b/c it’s every where!!

  • 33. HushMyDarlin  |  September 17th, 2012 at 8:44 pm

    Spice* auto correct works my nerves!!

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Wayne&Wax

I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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