A Brief History and Controversy Behind Using other Artist’s Music


Sampling is used in the bulk of the music industry today with the rise of hip hop in the past ten years. Lawsuits were filed for songs like “Old Town Road” in which Lil Nas X bought the sample for $3 off of a website called BeatStars. On this website, other artists can buy a beat made by producers for cheap. The problem was that since Lil Nas X did not think the song would blow up he did not give credit to “Young Kio” who sampled Nine Inch Nails for the beat. This led to a lawsuit and Nas ended up giving him and Nine inch nails credit for the song. 

Sampling is when producers or musicians take another body of work and reuse a part of that piece for their own song. This technique started in the late 70s when producers and DJ’s started playing back and splicing parts of other songs using synthesizers and tape loops. 

These controversies with sampling began in 1979 with the release of  “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. This track is often considered the first true hip hop song. The beat of the song is built off a rift from Chic’s “Good Times”. However, Sugarhill did not give credit to the original song. Only after being pressed by the media did the group give the band an overdue songwriting credit. 

Another older example of this is “Straight out of Compton” by NWA. In the intro of the song is a drum break sampled from a song byThe Winstons “Amen Brother”. The sad thing, however, is that since the original song came out in 1969 and was not popular like “Good Times”, the Winstons never noticed and never got royalties for that song and the thousands of other songs that have used that drum break. 

Some artists instead got all of the royalties like Lou Reed when his song “Walk on the Wild Side” was the basis for the Tribe Called Quest song, ”Can I kick it? which they did not make a penny off of due to the prominence of the sample throughout the song. 

The most famous of these cases against sampling is “Ice Ice baby” by Vanilla Ice and “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie. Vanilla Ice sampled “Under Pressurefor the bassline of his song and did not give Queen or Bowie credit. Ice claimed that since he added an anacrusis on the 4th beat that he did not have to give credit to the original artists. After this claim, Lawyers threatened a lawsuit, and Ice gave credit to the two artists. 

Sampling is based on the idea of using other artists’ songs in your song. A similar idea has been going around since the 1960s in the form of cover songs.  When blues music started to get more popular, Famous classic rock artists like Led Zeppelin and Cream covered these tunes exposing them to a whole new audience.These bands have covered and expanded on famous blues songs like Cross Road Blues” by Robert Johnson and “When the Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. 

Some covers got so famous that you might not even know that they were covers. Some examples are “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”originally done by New Wave artist Robert Hazard, “Tainted Love” was originally recorded by RnB singer Gloria Jones in 1964 and “I love Rock and Roll”was first done by a rock band called The Arrows

These versions have become more popular than the originals, but at least the artists gave the credit to the musicians who did it originally unlike some rappers who are attempting to use samples without getting permission from the original artists. 

Another recent example of this has been with the release of Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour. In the song “Good 4 U”, many fans noticed how similar it was to Paramore’s song “Misery Business”. Millions of people saw a video combining the two songs which forced Rodrigo into giving writing credits to Hayley Willaims and Josh Farro of Paramore.

Rodrigo also had issues with Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff for sampling a piano melody from the Taylor Swift song “New Year’s Day” for her song“1 step forward, 3 steps back” whic led to her giving 50% of the royalties from the song to Taylor and Antonoff. Since both of these songs were top 10 hits, she lost millions of dollars since she had to give royalties to both artists. 

However, some artists like Elton John are happy to let their music be sampled if they get a credit or feature. On the Young Thug song “High”, Elton John is given a feature because the song samples the chorus of his famous song “Rocket Man”. Elton and Thug still must be on good terms since there is going to be a Young Thug feature on Elton’s new album.

Artists have to learn to ask for permission to use samples. The original artists also should learn to be more open to letting someone else use their music because whether they like it or not sampling is the future of the industry.












Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.