I have been thinking quite a bit about sampling. I don’t produce/beat-make/remix or anything to do with music production (If I knew where to start, I would) but it does interest me on the legality and ethics of it all, and the creative process and inspiration behind choosing a sample and then moulding that into something new.
The first thing that interested me is what happens if an artist gets called out on it and denies it? From what I understand, sampling is allowed as long as the artist you sampled from is given a mention in the credits of the song or money for using the sample. A simple mark of respect to know that the work is not all original and you have remastered somebody elses original work.
I give you a perfect example of straight denial and its consequences:
Vanilla Ice Vs David Bowie + Queen
To quote Mr.Ice:
We sampled it from them but it’s not the same bassline. It goes ‘ding ding ding di di ding ding… ding ding ding di di ding ding.’ That’s the way theirs goes. Ours goes ‘ding ding ding di di ding ding… DING… ding ding ding di di ding ding.’ That little bitty change — it’s not the same.
Are you convinced by his reasoning? Me neither. This is not how to sample, especially with a heavy sample (essentially no change to the original). If he had sampled it, and gave the due credits, this wouldn’t be an issue. It would just be like the Dire straits sample on ‘Can I Kick it’. That’s one of the most chill beats I’ve ever heard, and given all due credit where it was obviously needed. A lot of hip hop beats use plenty of heavy samples from other songs. This practice stems form the very origins of Hip Hop by looping vinyl records, but there has been no backlash to this practice in the media due to credit being given. But the way Vanilla Ice has tried to worm his way out and full-out deny that it’s a straight copy and not a small sample, it doesn’t help and makes him look bad.
So the lesson for the day: Don’t do what Vanilla Ice did. That statement transcends sampling.
Here are the songs in question for you to make your own mind up.
Vanilla Ice – Ice Ice Baby
David Bowie + Queen – Under Pressure
Next week… Part 2: ‘How To Sample Properly’ ft. Kanye West
PS: In the end, Vanilla Ice ended up paying Queen due to a lawsuit.