Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why Hip Hop Sucks in '96

I just listened to the Sound Opinions interview with Kembrew McLeod, author and producer of the documentary Copyright Criminals. Check out the episode if you are at all interested in the effect copyright laws in the early 90s had on the use of samples in hip hop. It's often thrown around that an album like Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys could never be made today, because the amount it would cost for the group to clear the hundreds of samples on the record would make for a financially impossible situation. Well, McLeod was interested in finding out the extent to which this tidbit is true. Turns out if the Beasties were to attempt another Paul's Boutique under current copyright law, they would be in the red by an amount to the effect of $20 million. Makes you want to go back to that record and pick apart all the intricate and diverse samples, honoring an era of creativity in hip hop that, McLeod argues, has been all but destroyed by the greed of the copyright industry.

Later in the episode, Jim and Greg play some of their favorite sample-heavy songs. They cite DJ Shadow's Endtroducing... as a genius work of sample collage. I agree. But I think there's a nice coda to this story that could have been added on the show. On that album, Shadow includes a brief song called "Why Hip Hop Sucks in '96". It's a slow drum groove that ends with a sample that, in turns, gives a witty answer to the question the song title poses: "It's the money!" It's perfect that Shadow uses a three-word sample to explain how hip hop artistry is crippled by an industry that limits its use of sampling. That's some self-reflexive shit right there.

And where did Shadow get all those sources anyway? The documentary Scratch (2002), sheds a little light on an otherwise dark basement.


  1. WhoSampled gave me something good, but not what I was looking for".

    Am I betraying my ignorance by asking for the source for "It's the Money"?

    Also, Why online content (or publishing in general) sucks in '11

  2. I read a post that said the clip at the end is actually Lyrics Born. Since they work together on the same label, there's a chance it's not a sample at all but just a line LB recorded for the track. I won't make any edits to the original post until I get a final answer

    And, yes, LyricsMania sucks.