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:


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?