For quite a while I wanted to do a list of songs that I really liked as a teenager only to realize that it wasn’t really the songs but the great choices of samples in those songs. I am thinking Aretha Franklin on a Mos Def song, I am thinking Blondie on a KRS-One-song and I am thinking of Lou Reed on a A Tribe called Quest-song and many more. Now, don’t get me wrong, all the mentioned Hip Hop songs are pretty amazing (in stark contrast to sth. like that way too awful “Mary J. Blige inappropriately samples “Every breath you take” for a eulogy”-song) but back then (1997/1998, long before the internet was cool), it was next to impossible to find out that those samples were just that. And when I realized it much later, it – well, it didn’t make me angry but I was a little disappointed because I could have listened to the originals and got to know amazing artists (or unknown songs by them, I knew Aretha since I first watched the Blues Brothers as a lil wee kid) long before I actually did.
I can’t tell you how obsessed I was with this spec of a song and how long it took me to find it.
See, when I see someone like Destiny’s Child sample the crazy guitar intro from “Edge of Seventeen” or when – even worse – a really bad DJ pretty much bases all of his success with a song on Aloe Blacc’s beautiful song “Wake me up” but doesn’t even mention him in the title even though that song without Blacc’s vocals would be super boring and lame and crap, I get a little frustrated.
Just f*** that stupid DJ. Sure, Blacc was probably paid well enough but f*** that DJ.
And now Jay-Z gets sued for using an ‘Oh’. And a German paper describes it as the possible end of a whole genre if he actually has to pay for it. “It’s just a simple syllable, should he really get sued for that?’, they ask and I say: Well, if he samples someone else’s work and makes tons of money (this is Jay-Z we are talking about, not some independent rapper who works as a barista to make his living) with it and then doesn’t even mention it in the liner notes, then…well, maybe suing is a little much but how else do you keep those big-ass musicians trampling over the creative work of more unknown (or already dead) artists without even mentioning them? And why in the world couldn’t someone like Jay-Z just freaking do his own ‘oh’ into a mic and be done with it? If he really wanted to honor Eddie Bo, who originated this specific ‘oh’, then shouldn’t he have mentioned him somewhere?
Legal shenanigans aside, I am glad that Jay-Z got sued, so we got to listen to this song.
See, I still cringe when I read another story about an Elvis song, a Beatles song, a Led Zeppelin song, a Rolling Stones song that was pretty much ripped out of the hands of some obscure blues musician and then used without any permission (or payment) only to sell like Cronuts (are those still a thing? They didn’t taste good enough to still be a thing). And although I don’t want to make every DJ’s work so much harder and more dependent on money that they have to get permission for every single sample they use (I mean, this idea of reappropriating art – in a non-Shia-La-Boef-coyping-it-way – is part of our culture and shouldn’t be destroyed). But if you are Jay-Z, for goodness’ sake, be a bit more respectful of other musicians because you can afford it. You don’t have to use other people’s samples because you lack the capacities, money and people to make your own samples. And if you want to use them, give credit where credit is due.
Yeah, you roll your eyes but this is the coolest way ever to sample a song – get that original artist on stage and let them wiggle their butt in a blue leather dress and have fun.