September 19, 2020

Eminem and Beyoncé, a popularity built on snippets of ’70s songs



Beyoncé He was part of the group Destiny’s Child during the first years of his career. Just before the band broke up (in 2004) he released a solo album that included the song “Crazy in Love.” This song was produced by his current partner: the music producer and rapper. Jay Z.

Beyoncé herself declared in an interview for Billboard magazine in 2011: “Crazy in love was one of those moments of popular culture that nobody expected. The truth is, I asked Jay to put it on the album the night before we released it. Good thing she did ”. And the funny thing is that the song samples the song “Are you my woman” (1970) by The Chi Lites.



The album that launched Marshal mathers (actually known as Eminem by his initials read in English, M and M) and was involved in a certain controversy that did not transcend fan circles because he was accused of copying the style and songs from another rapper known as Cage. Curiously, this controversy does not include a copy that has been able to go unnoticed for years. The iconic theme of “My name is” samples “I got the …” (1975) by the British artist Labi Siffre whose career was linked to Jazz, Soul and Funk.


And now let’s listen to Labi Siffre, at minute 2:32:


In neither of these two cases has there been a media conflict over the copy. In fact copy It is not usually per se the origin of the conflict. In the eye of the hurricane there are usually two issues that are associated with the idea of ​​copying: making a profit through the work of others and not citing the source. In many cases and especially if they are recognized artists, the solution usually involves reaching an agreement in which a fee is paid for using part of the original song. This avoids any future disputes but usually means not citing the source. Thus the industry perpetuates a model in which it seems that ‘songs are invented all the time’ when in reality ‘songs are reinvented all the time ”.

The conflict usually arises is when neither the source is cited nor a fee is paid. If it occurs from the bottom up, it usually has no effects (neither legal nor media) because in fact it is something that happens all the time. As described Ronaldo lemos (expert in the field and current director of Creative Commons Brazil) in the documentary “Good copy, bad copy”(2007), the origins of the Techno-Brega musical movement came about thanks to the work of hundreds of independent producers in the favelas of northern Brazil. What they were basically doing was mercilessly remixing all the music that was popular at the time. And the method was simple: listen to something on the radio, search for it on the Internet, download it and sample it.

When it happens from top to bottom, and especially in recent years, if we find some media noise. It recently happened to Jason Derulo. The singer announced in networks a fragment of what would end up being one of the most used songs on TikTok throughout 2020 (“Savage Love”). In the comments they began to criticize him because the base of the song belonged to an unknown 17-year-old Polynesian young man, known on the Internet as Jawsh 685, who had created a song that sounded exactly the same and had been online for several months. The young New Zealander’s song was titled “Siren Jam” and it barely had several hundred views. The topic reached the media and Derulo finally published the song stating: “I had a good time remixing Jawsh 685”.

Luckily in the world of music research there are those who are dedicated to tracking all these questions and documenting them. Whosampled.com is a website (and an application) born in 2008 that is dedicated to compiling the samples, versions and remixes that are around the songs. In a music conference titled “History of Sampling” and carried out by Chris Read (DJ, music researcher and one of the people in charge of Whosampled), this one had some of the most notorious cases.

One of the disco themes par excellence in 2010 was the “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce. The song uses a sample from the song “Oceans of Fantasy” by Boney m, published in 1979. So far everything reproduces the basic scheme of sampling and in this case with two well-known sources. What is surely less popular is that in reality the Boney M. theme was in turn a version of a song published in 1973 by the German group Nighttrain.




“Sampling is not something contemporary. Since music has existed, it is a very common practice for an artist to listen to another and say: I like it but I’m going to work on it a bit to change something, ”Read said in that same talk. And the fascinating cases that can be found in Whosampled are many. For example that of Luiz Bonfa.

The name of this Brazilian guitarist and composer from Bossa Nova who died in 2001 and whose most prolific stage of his career occurred in the 50s and 60s might not sound familiar to many. Two are the examples in which this musician has been sampled in the last years. “Smile Mona Lisa” by Will.I.Am (2013) uses parts of “Carnival Manhá”(1959) by Bonfá. One of the hits of 2011 (“Somebody I Used To Know“, of Gotye sample “Seville”(1967), from the Brazilian. And going further back, the mythical hip-hop song “Runnin” by The Pharcyde (1995) uses “Saudade Vem Running”Also from Bonfá.




For many years all these practices were framed within what was known as remix culture. In the documentary “Copyright criminals”(2009) Ian Edgar, former member of Eclectic Method He defined what this group of VJs and DJs did as follows: “We take videos, music, rhythms and mix it all. Then we put everything in order to create a new rhythm. What we do is very transparent, it is a remix ”.

And regardless of the legal issues, this culture and these practices are what allow an unknown music producer to collaborate with Eminem and Beyoncé … without either of them knowing.


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