EL-P (aka: Jaime “El Producto” Meline) is, arguably, one of the most important hip-hop producers of all time. I use the term “arguably” because, I’m personally willing to argue that fact, if anyone really wants to get into it. In the 90s, Meline started the highly influential rap crew Company Flow and released the doom-laden classic Funcrusher Plus (an extended version of their independently produced Funcrusher ep), the very first album ever put out by the then-upstart “underground” rap label RAWKUS Records. Eventually, EL-P told RAWKUS to eat a dick and bounced, opting to form Definitive Jux, with the intention of maintaining an artist friendly label, helping to develop the artists’ careers while making sure that they received both the credit and monetary compensation that they were owed (something that he didn’t feel was happening with RAWKUS). Using DEF JUX, EL-P went on to help make household names out of artists like AESOP ROCK and RJD2, while releasing 2 remarkable and highly innovative solo albums of his own.
A little over a year and a half ago, we posted an article which included a statement from EL-P announcing his intention to officially and indefinitely place Def Jux on hiatus. Part of his main reasoning behind the decision was to focus on becoming an artist again, because all of the time and effort put into producing albums for others and running a label was beginning to interfere with his abilities to do so effectively. The silver lining for Def Jux fans is that EL-P has been making good on that promise. Since the announcement, Company Flow has reunited to perform Funcrusher Plus in it’s entirely for ATP in London (plus, a few other select dates), Producto has released another mixtape, and even produced and/or appeared on tracks for artists like Killer Mike and Das Racist. Seeing as the rapper/producer hadn’t released a proper solo album since 2007‘s I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, the main question for a lot of us was when that was gonna happen. That answer came back in August with the news that EL-P had signed to Fat Possum records for a 2012 full-length titled Cancer for Cure, and the free download of the sample track, “Drones Over Bklyn.” Now a remix of Drones has arrived with an extremely well-known and recognizable sample; one that Meline never bothered to disguise in the slightest. What’s more is that he’s actually openly selling it -albeit for for charity (Mr. Dibbs hopital fees)- without ever getting the sample cleared and, thanks to a new service known as LEGITMIX, he may not even have to.
This new remix, “RUSH Over Bklyn“, features a very blatant sample of the Rush classic “Tom Sawyer“. That alone is a fascinating concept, because EL-P is known for digging pretty deep to pull out/use samples by more obscure artists like 1960s cult psych phenoms, Silver Apples and early electronic pioneer Raymond Scott. There’s something refreshing about hearing him take such a classic sample of a rock epic as famous as “Tom Sawyer“, especially since it seems like one of the last songs that someone would be able to easily get cleared for use. “RUSH Over Bklyn” is a great reminder that, if you’re good at what you do, it doesn’t matter if you use what would seem like an, otherwise lazy sample. Producto uses a fairly straight ahead approach with the remix by swiping the infamous phaser blast intro outright and lyrically stomping across it, while still magically making it his own.
Obviously, sampling an already legendary track for a rap song isn’t the most revolutionary concept. The groundbreaking aspect comes with the fact that, although LEGITMIX isn’t an entirely new process, no one’s really been willing to test out the copyright laws and use it in this manner; chopping up an uncleared track like this and then immediately trying to turn around and sell it. Up until now, songs that have been created with “borrowed” material like this have been doomed to limited distribution -if any, at all- made solely to be spread amongst friends or for free mixtape downloads. The LEGITMIX mission statement and software approach the idea of sampling and copyright laws from a really unique direction, more or less, circumventing the system and the need for clearance on copywritten audio material. This is great but, until their ideas are actually put into practice, it’s little more than a theory and no one has been willing to step in as the guinea pig. That’s where EL-P comes in. And if he’s gonna test out the legality of swiping a samples, he might as well go really big and use one of the most famous rock songs of all time. In fact, he goes so far as to unabashedly chop up Geddy Lee‘s vocals right into the song, as well. Sure, it seems like a ballsy move, because… how can this actually be legal?
Here’s how LEGITMIX describes both the use of their service/software and how it works with EL-P and this particular project”
“When a consumer purchases “Rush Over Bkyln”, the browser-based Legitmix software searches their computer for the “Tom Sawyer” track. If they don’t have it they can purchase it from Legitmix or any online music store. With a few mouse clicks, the Legitmix software recreates on the binary level “Rush Over Bklyn” on the consumer’s computer using their copy of “Tom Sawyer”. The price of “Rush Over Bklyn is $0.70 plus the retail cost of the “Tom Sawyer” track (if the consumer doesn’t have it).“
as well, as…
“Normally, “Rush Over Bklyn” would have been leaked on the Internet or left on some dusty hard drive. Now with Legitmix, El-p can sell his creative work and generate new sales for Rush. For this pioneering releasing, El-p has chosen to help out a friend in need and is donating all proceeds from the sale of “Rush Over Bklyn” to a fund established for the legendary DJ/producer Brad Forste aka DJ MR DIBBS who is battling liver disease. As hospital bills rise, El-P and Legitmix hope to relieve the burden of family and friends that a half a million-dollar debt can produce.“
So… basically, as I understand it, you’re not technically buying a song with a sample of RUSH‘s music in it. Instead, you’re actually just purchasing the ingredients or framework around the sample, minus the sample. From there, the song is being generated on your computer by using a copy of the sampled song that you already own with the LEGITIMIX software, as it incorporates and processes the corresponding segments into that framework to create the same finished product of the song that you want which is featuring that sample. The reason that RUSH, or any other band being sampled, would benefit financially from this, is because, if you do not already have that sample of their track, you’ll need to purchase the song from the artist, so that it exists on your computer and can be siphoned and mixed by the LEGITIMIX software. The software just takes what it needs from the copyrighted songs that you already own in your digital library to fill in the necessary samples to recreate the tracks with your own computer. It’s a lot like that Eighties movie KidCo, where the kids create a highly successful company selling manure and, after their corporate rivals try to get them audited by the IRS, they win the case by convincing the courts that they shouldn’t have to pay taxes for the feed that their parents already purchased and paid taxes on, all over again, just because it’s been processed through the excretion of the horses they own. In this case, your copy of “Tom Sawyer” is the feed and the LEGITIMIX software is the horse’s digestive system. At least, that’s what I’m gathering from reading these explanations. This is a concept that could only ever work in the present digital music-based age that we live in.
With “RUSH Over Bklyn,” EL-P and LEGITIMIX are setting a precedent and could be signaling a huge shift in the manner in which sampling and music copyright laws operate. By formatting the system in a manner which the sampled artists themselves are making money, this could pose a win win situation for all parties involved. Of course, it’s only a matter of time before someone does something like sample a hardcore Christian artist with the intention of creating a demonic, beastiality, murder ballad to insult and offend them with the use of their own music (feel free to use that one.)
We encourage everyone to listen to the track below and then to go purchase it from the link which will be provided below. Not only will this show support for the LEGITIMIX project as a whole, but all of the proceeds will go directly to help with the medical bills accrued by Meline‘s friend/fellow-producer Brad Forste (aka: MR. DIBBS).
Here’s what EL-P, himself, has to say about his participation in the project:
“I did this because I think it’s an interesting idea and approach to the sample clearance issue. Most importantly I hope this raises awareness and money for my good friend, collaborator and hip hop legend Brad Forste aka DJ MR DIBBS. He is suffering from cirrhosis of the liver and (like so many of us) uninsured. He has racked up almost a half a mil in hospital bills after just one month, and he needs help. All proceeds from this song go to him.“
Check out “RUSH Over BKLYN” below.
To purchase the track and help out MR.DIBBS, please use THIS LINK.
DONATE TO PAYITFORWARD2MRDIBBS
To donate with PayPal click “Send Money” and the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org. The email address belongs to Kristin Rose. She is Mr. Dibbs’ wife. For those who don’t use PayPal you can send a mail check or money order payable to Kristin Rose. Address envelope to: Brad Forste 4830 Poplar St Cincinnati, OH 45212