On this weeks news that Pharrell & some Rick Astley looking clown called Robin Thicke have been sued by Marvin Gaye’s estate for plagiarism for their track ‘Blurred lines’ which even to an untrained ear is a total rip off of Marvin’s 1977 classic ‘Got to give it up’.But this really isn’t nothing new, people have been experimenting with the same chord structures for years in hope to find lucratively successful musical formula’s.
My views on sampling are varied, bear with me a minute, this is relevant…as both a musician and occasional sample based producer I feel that with a little dedication I can write an original piece of music without feeling the need to rip someone elses composition off, as times gone on however it’s getting increasing harder to come up with an original sound and it seems that an almost ‘If you can’t beat them, join them’ attitude has been adopted by the mainstream music market and they proceed to regurgitate peoples chord progressions and vocal styles in hope that we don’t notice, which for the most part people don’t (try asking a 14 year old to name one Marvin Gaye song).So what we have are clones of a formerly great music age and it doesn’t help when all the real instrumentation has been replaced by machines that try to replicate real instruments when from experience there is absolutely no substitute for raw talent, and the feel of a bassline played on an actual bass, or a guitar lick on yes. a real guitar, this is where the real skill is, always was, always will be.Understanding that music has evolved just as anything else on this ever changing planet, and for a large part it’s a good thing, I’m trying to be careful not to frame myself here, being someone who has to know the ins and outs of every kind of music there is, i’ve experimented with almost all of them new and old and enjoyed it every step of the way so far…but part of me wishes I had invested that time more wisely and learnt how to play more instruments and also develop the ones I already knew like the guitar, mainly because instruments were accessible to me while growing up, whereas they weren’t for everyone in less privileged places and times as Lord Jamal of Brand Nubian so eloquently addresses here in Ice T’s hiphopumentary ‘Something from nothing – The art of rap’
I am definitely not opposed to sampling music, as long as it’s done with integrity and if it’s intended for commercial release. take the right steps.Clearing samples is a pain in the ass for independent artists, I remade a little known motown song for a track I did in 2011 with the Control Freaks UK, We took all the right channels and eventually got permission from the original songwriters and Warner Brothers to use it for 25% of the gross earnings, they also offered to distribute it for a further 10%.As a musician I would like to feel that if anyone sampled my material, the same respect would be shown.Sadly so many of the artists from the genres that hip hop samples such as Jazz, blues, funk and soul never achieved any commercial recognition, and in some cases died penniless and homeless, this kind of thing strengthens those beliefs even more.Being a musician is something that requires skill, personally it’d be great to see if more bands like The Roots came through in hip hop and convinced the world that it IS real music and deserves to be acknowledged as such.Until then to the public it may be deemed as plagiarism forever.
But the track in question definitely isn’t hip hop, and as far as the Pharrell situation goes, he may as well have just sampled the track and paid royalties to Marvin Gaye’s family and mot tried to claim some kind of false glory that this was entirely his original composition, come on man, you hot to give up that 7m, but as my fellow band mate just pointed out to me the buck doesn’t stop there, take a listen to ‘Happy’ and you’ll notice that it’s also a not so blatant rip off from another Marvin song ‘Ain’t it peculiar’.