February 3rd, 2009

Pop Champagne, Pop Copyright

Listening to the Federation‘s recent mixx of reggae hottage for Mad Decent, a few things struck me per recent conversations here:

[audio:http://media.libsyn.com/media/maddecent/mad_decent_radio_44_federation.mp3]

1) the use of the “hey” sample in the intro (0:30-0:40), like an airhorn or any other selector sound effect (speaking of which, check the first sound on that page — you can’t make this stuff up, folks!)

2) the use of the beat from “Pop Champagne” as a riddim. Importantly, not only do we hear Elephant Man’s unauthorized voicing “Sweep the Floor” (akin to “Rampin Shop,” legally speaking), but we also hear TWO DUBPLATES that also employ Ron Browz’s minimal beat. These latter recordings were no doubt commissioned by Federation Sound themselves (so special), and they call attn to the degree to which such “remixes” or “unauthorized” recordings are deeply embedded in performance practice: as long as selectors need to move a crowd and kill a next sound, they’re going to be asking artists to voice on the latest hype. That sort of activity is essentially un-police-able, in part because it resides on the margins of the music biz (if however central to reggae industry), in part because it moves so fast.

For another example, see the Fed’s most recent dancehall reggae mega-mix, in which the beat from Kanye’s “Heartless” propels a couple tracks: 1) Dr.Evil’s no-brainer (but brilliant) “counteraction“; and 2) yet another instance of Ele hopping pon the now ting quick as he can.

These all illustrate that despite overreaching laws and chilling effects, the riddim method is alive and well in Jamaica and the dancehall diaspora. Maybe more notably, it has caught on outside Jamaica in a way that perhaps outstrips reggae’s “original” model for creative (and contemporaneous) reuse.

Indeed, the most remarkable examples illustrating the global uptake of the riddim method in the last year happened in hip-hop. The beats from Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” and MIA’s “Paper Planes” essentially became global riddims, generating about a zilli remixes, freestyles, versions, voicings, wot-ever-u-call-em (and that’s not even counting post-milli beats and such).

Can the law catch up to something faster than it?

4 Comments

  • 1. Christina  |  February 4th, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Maybe it’s because I only recently started paying attention, but what seems even more important to me is that the riddim method seems to be getting more and more popular in the US in popular music, too: think Swagger like us, Live Your Life (Numa Numa relick INSANITY), Beautiful Girls and Harder. Sure this stuff has always been happening within hiphop and inna di underground, but mainstream definitely seems to be reusing/recycling more often. I feel like 5 years ago people who did cross-genre sampling/relicking got a lot of crap for what they did, and now more and more people are understanding that this is a normal thing to do.

    Am I way off, or are we finally starting to get it right?

  • 2. w&w  |  February 4th, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    I’m with you, Christina. That was basically my point in the last two paragraphs.

    It’s worth noting that aside from “Beautiful Girls” those are all hip-hop songs you’ve listed (and the Sean Kingston song basically follows the dovetailed logic of hip-hop sampling and reggae versioning). Not that we couldn’t find examples in mainstream music outside of hip-hop. But part of the point is that hip-hop (and reggae) are now mainstream, as are their approaches. Indeed, we wouldn’t be the first, by any stretch, to argue that hip-hop and reggae aesthetics have been so broadly diffused across modern musical production that they have disappeared into ubiquity.

    So there are grounds for optimism. It’d be nice, however, to lose the ever looming threat of litigation. Chilling effects are real in the world of music.

  • 3. wayneandwax.com » Z&hellip  |  February 5th, 2009 at 2:58 am

    […] final note, per recent discussions here about musical “borrowing” and ownership: b/c Yellowman plucked the zunguzung […]

  • 4. Lateef  |  February 6th, 2009 at 10:27 am

    Man – You are good…thanks for the breakdown.

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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