by Paul Cantor
The Rza recently filed a cease and desist order to stop the release of a song he produced- “Heartbreaker”- from appearing on The Game’s latest mixtape, Purp and Patron. The song was originally intended to be included on Game’s long-delayed R.E.D. album, but according to Rza, the sample the track is built off around- Grand Funk Railroad’s “Heartbreaker”- couldn’t be cleared in time. This is far from the first time a sample clearance issue has plagued a rap song. Here are five other noteworthy songs that had problems with the samples they incorporated.
1) Biz Markie “Alone Again” (I Need A Haircut, Cold Chillin/Warner Bros. Records 1991)
In the early days, hip-hop was a sampling free-for-all. But that all changed after the release of Biz Markie’s I Need A Haircut LP. On “Alone Again,” Biz sampled Gilbert O’Sullivan’s 1972 hit “Alone Again (Naturally),” and the owners of the tune, Grand Upright Music, Ltd, sued Warner Bros. Records for copyright infringement. The United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered an injunction against Warner, and from that point forward, all samples used in hip-hop songs had to be granted permission- in most cases paid for- before being used. Hip-hop production would never be the same.
2) Truth Hurts ft. Rakim “Addictive” (Truthfully Speaking, Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records 2002)
“Addictive,” produced by Static Major and DJ Quick, was actually a rip off of “Thoda Resham Lagta Hai,” released in 1981 by Indian singer Lata Mangeshkar. As Truth Hur’s song rose up the charts (it’s highest position was #9 on the Billboard Hot 100), the owner of the original sample, Saragama India, Ltd. sent a cease and desist to Aftermath. It was ignored, and they filed a $500 million dollar lawsuit against Universal Music Group to prevent further usage of the tune.
3) The Notorious B.I.G. “10 Crack Commandments” (Life After Death, Bad Boy 1997)
Back in 1998, when samples of Chuck D lyrics from the Public Enemy1991 song “Shut Em Down” (Apocalypse 91 … The Enemy Strikes Black) were used to do the countdown part of Biggie’s classic “10 Crack Commandments,” Chuck D filed a 2 million dollar lawsuit against everyone involved. Named in the suit were Biggie and his publishing company Big Poppa Music; DJ Premier; Diddy’s publishing company Justin Combs Publishing; EMI April Music; Gifted Pearl Music-EMI; Bad Boy Records and Arista Records. The case was eventually settled out of court, but a longstanding grudge between DJ Premier and Chuck D remained until the two made up at Jam Master Jay’s funeral in 2002.
4)Lil Wayne “A Milli” (The Carter III, Cash Money/Universal Motown)
“A Milli” is one of Lil Wayne’s most popular records to date. Unfortunately, the song’s producer, Bangladesh, has never seen any royalties from it. Last year, he sued Cash Money for half “a milli” in unpaid royalties. Cash Money, in turn, said he wasn’t receiving any money because he neglected to inform the label that the song contained two samples- Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Don’t Burn Down the Bridge” (1974) and A Tribe Called Quest’s “I Left My Wallet in El Segundo (Vampire remix)” (1989). The label had to negotiate terms with the owners of original songs, and Bangladesh was left without any portion of the copyright.
5) Jay-Z “Big Pimpin” (Vol 3 … Life and Times of S. Carter)
Jay-Z and Timbaland were sued not once, but twice, over “Big Pimpin,” in which Timbaland allegedly replayed note for note the melody to Egyptian singer Abdel-Halim Hafez’ 1957 song “Khosara, Khosara.” In 2005, Osama Admed Fahmy filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Federal Court, and then in in 2007, Ahab Joseph Nafal, who also owned a portion of the copyright to the original song, sued as well. Both lawsuits were dismissed.