The Decline of the Hip-Hop Civilization

Nekesa Mumbi Moody from the Associated Press takes on the My New Rap Problem: Criticism From Within. Is hip-hop dead?

It’s at least ailing, according to recent statistics: Though music sales are down overall, rap sales slid a whopping 21 percent from 2005 to 2006, and for the first time in 12 years no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the year. A recent study by the Black Youth Project showed a majority of youth think rap has too many violent images. In a poll of black Americans by The Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices last year, 50 percent of respondents said hip-hop was a negative force in American society.

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Copyright law has ruined hip-hop.

There needs to be a compulsory sampling license with a fair, standardized price or else we’ll never see another It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Fear of a Black Planet, 3 Feet High and Rising, or Paul’s Boutique. It’s not the “negative” lyrics (well, not entirely) that people are sick of; it’s the tired-ass beats.

17 thoughts on “The Decline of the Hip-Hop Civilization”

  1. Not to stifle your creativity or anything, but you should know that since the 1991 federal case against Biz Markie, sampling is considered copyright infringement (under the law). So even if you’re not making money from it, the Man can still hunt you down (just ask all those students settling with the RIAA — not for “downloading” but for copyright infringement).

    “If you use samples without obtaining the proper clearance licenses, you have to be aware of the penalties. A copyright infringer is liable for ‘statutory damages’ that generally run from $500 to $20,000 for a single act of copyright infringement. If the court determines there has been wilful infringement, damages can run as high as $100,000.”

    And that’s why the law needs to be changed. For you, 100dbs! For you!

  2. The law don’t need to be changed….Just Create your own beats!

    That way you don’t pay for Samples, or

    run the risk of being sued, right?

    Common sense, man…..

  3. You know, I can see both sides of this

    argument, but since when or why did

    so called “Black Music” become so

    dependent on this “sampling” stuff?

    Black musicians are Proven innovators

    …I say keep the copyright laws, especially for the Ol’school funk musicians who were smart enough to keep some of their Publishing rights to

    the classics that Hip-Hop(rap) artists & producers borrow samples from…it’s a payday for George Clinton, James Brown’s Estate, Roger Troutman’s estate, sly, Rick James, etc….But, if you want to keep more Loot in your pocket down the road, then Just write your own grooves( in the style thereof…) Let somebody pay to Bite off of you for once instead of complaining…this is really a non-issue! Rock, reggae, jazz, Funk, Neo Soul, & Gospel artist write their own music, why can’t Hip Hop artists evolve & do the same thing & expand the Genre?

  4. No one’s suggesting that the original artists should not be paid — just that there needs to be a set rate with a compulsory license just like there is now with cover songs. You shouldn’t have to negotiate with each copyright owner for every single sample, where they can charge anything from five bucks to $500,000 to some percentage of the sales, etc…

    Artists would still be free to create their own beats, of course, but to have the law basically kill a whole branch of musicmaking (i.e., sample-based beats) is inexcusable.

    Whether you like it or not, in the past sampling was used very creatively (and musically!) by producers like the Dust Brothers, Prince Paul, and Hank Shocklee and the Bomb Squad.

  5. indeed… as far as legal things go, you can argue “fair use” as an academic study or excercise.

    noone’s suing girl talk, and he’s certainly making money, and DEFINITELY didn’t clear all those samples.

    anyway, all this talk about “being dependent on samples” is kind of missing the point. jake, you’re on point about producers – prince paul is my favorite hip hop producer of all time, bar none. 3FHAR will never be equaled in my opinion. ever.

    i used to think sampling was cheap too, then i woke the fuck up. it’s harder to take 20 snippets and recontextualize them into something that makes sense and stands on its own than it is to write tracks from scratch. believe it. i play a few instruments and i’d never go back to 100% synth-based or natural instrument-based composition. never in a million years.

  6. Jake, I disagree with you….If I write a song that does something sales wise(or not) and somebody samples it

    or wants to sample a phrase or lick from my track it should be up to Me as

    the writer/publisher to set the price, not the Law( government)…Hell, that’s free enterprise, baby! Whether I “can charge anything from five bucks to $500,000 to some percentage of the sales, etc…” is on me…that’s like somebody trying to put a cap on the price of Real Estate a seller might own.

    Flat rates on Sample Clearances? It’ll never happen; it’s un-American. The fix? I agree with Dee_M….Be creative, just write your own shit…then you don’t have clearance headaches.

  7. Kerry, I hear what you’re saying, but then why is there a compulsory license for cover songs? You write a song, and I can get a band to record a note-for-note copy of your song for only 9.1¢ for every copy I sell. That is the current (since January 1, 2006) statutory rate.

    For lots of reasons, the Law (government) treats art different from real estate.

  8. Yeah, intellectual property is treated differently to encourage innovation. That’s why there’s a limit on copyright in the first place. And like Jake said, like it or not, lots of producers have made massive innovations in music using samples. Imagine Paul’s Boutique without the samples. I shutter at the thought!

    Compulsory licensing is the only thing that makes sense to me.

  9. I Can see from the past 4 or 5 comments that the sampling debate

    will always be a unfortunate Mexican Standoff of sorts…I write some music pieces in the Hip-Hop idiom based of nothing but samples & also some that

    contain nothing but Natural instruments…I can’t agree with calling either approach “Innovative” as much as it is just a matter of the Technology

    of our times ( digital recording, etc.)…but “compulsary Licensing” for the use of Samples? Forget it, guys; It’ll never happen…the Industry( Labels, Publishing Houses, songwriters) makes a mint off of folks who produce music this way…Again, there’s nothing wrong it, just understand that it’s too lucrative right

    now to go for the law to change, & most of the musicians & producer wannabe’s don’t have enough money & clout or the Time to litigate or lobby for that, anyway …another way around this licensing dilemma is, if you have any skills with computer software synths & samplers, Guitars, Keys, Drum programming , etc….you could

    create your own retro-sounding samples(loops)…I know a bunch of folks with limited actual musical instrument skills make some Hot tracks ( and Lyrical skillz to match)…

    Besides, I’ve never known anyone to get Sued for using a Snare sound or a

    particular Kick…that said, if you’re innovative with your production skillz you can avoid having to even deal with “ClearaNCES” and all the politics…

  10. Samples, Shamples…fuck a damn sample…why should I pay some has-been Funk Guy with multicolored dreads or his publisher a cut of my hit? Hip-Hop should have evolved by

    now to where we artists aren’t hindered by that madness…bad enough that Payola ( Pay for radio play) on hip hop stations is at all time high; be damned if I pay again (as in royalties)!! God Bless the child who has the talent & genious to come Original!!

  11. Deke, you crazy, man!(LOL) Why you

    slam my man Dr.Funkenstein??!! But I can appreciate where you are coming from (I think)..I can’t see giving up

    any royalties or paying someone off the jump like ‘dat…if i want that vibe on a particular track, I just do what I

    do as a producer/musician to get it.

    As an indie artist ( Major Label deals Suck) I can’t afford nor would I want to pay for clearances! I got my day Career & on the weekends I travel with my collective & we do live shows & sell CD’s directly to the fans & over the web (CDBaby & my own site)…so far the $$ from both ends is working for me…

  12. Tha Nite Rida cruised like a muhfukkin’ barracuda into tha Midstate parkin’ lot an’ wit’ typical mad stealth executed a perfect 90-degree turn into her designated spot. “It Monday, bitchez,” I said as I flew outta my hoopty an’ hustled 2 tha employee entrance. “Aw yeah, y’all know how we do it. Bitchez best fo-get that punk-ass, no-workin’ weekend shit an’ be down wit’ tha hardcore officin’, or y’all gonna have tha H-Dog up in yo’ shit. Word dat.”

  13. No working? I wouldn’t call 2538 cd sales @ $10 bucks a pop within a 90-day period a failure…and that’s on top of the fee for doing the live gig! Them colleges pay some nice money, son…paid off my car with ‘dem proceeds…indie/underground is the way to go if you handle your business


    By the way, “Tha Nite Rida” comment…Derek, is that a quote from a book? You writin’ a Hip Hop novel?

    There’s money in that, bro….and who the Fuck is H-Dog?!!???

  14. Hip Hop is …well, stale. One artist makes a groundbreaking record & everyone else copies it. Even down to the messages; who can out-bling who, etc…And it’s Our fault. Black people don’t control their own segment of the music industry…we don’t own radio, major Distribution, marketing, and all the Mom & pop stores in the Hood have been undercut by Wal-mart, Target & the ‘net….couple that with what it costs now to break a new record on radio in this “Clear Channel-Radio One” consolidation, Radio consultant corporate enviroment and you have what you’ve got… Black Art packaged & resold to the white suburban mainstream…Corporate Millions are being made selling “Ghetto culture” by Major Labels…Where’s Berry Gordy, ’cause we need some True independent Labels right now. The whole Culture is being pimped by corporate greed….

  15. Walt’s somewhat on point….El Debarge

    made a mint when Puffy/Biggie did that “One More Chance” song….I swear I heard that same loop on 5 or 6 hip hop releases that year…What made P.E.’s Chuck D/Shocklee productions works of art was( and I doubt if you could Identify the source of the samples) the Lyrics for one, and that they used Random sounds to make up a groove & that Wall of sound….whereas Bad Boy Entertainment & others later & today use entire Bridges & main grooves from ol’school hits…I wish some well known Rapper would do me a favor of sampling my shit…that would be a nice payday, baby…, don’t change the Laws, please!

  16. Y’all still on this shit? It’s a dumb argument!! Kids are going to keep sampling & writing beats as long as it’s the Hip standard….Instrument makers like KORG, Roland, Yamaha, Casio, Akai, etc..have been making

    keyboards that utilize sampled sounds for years…you can pick up any music

    mag and see ads for drum loops, bass riffs, guitar/Horn/organ riffs you can buy on cd libraries ( same thing on the net)….sampling ain’t going anywhere.

    Not to mention all the studio tricks & programs that tout getting that “Lo-Fi”

    sound into your mixes…hell, my proteus 2k has a nice sample of a “skratchy old LP” in the sound banks!

    Just know that if you decide to sample a piece of a Pre-recorded, published

    piece of music and your song does something in terms of a hit on the street or airwaves and the writer/publisher recognizes the hit, i.e., “Get Caught”, you gotta pay….that’s just the way the hip hop game is…everybody’s out for they selves..’nuff said.

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