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The Debate About Posting Sample Sources Online

There’s a war going on outside, or rather ummm… inside… between Madlib and the Internet. Seems as if the prolific producer caught wind of ThisIsHipHop listing the sample sources for the Madvillainy album and reached out for them to be taken down. Apparently, Madlib’s message said something like,

“Pages like this on the internet are no help at all to people like Doom, Madlib, and those that work with them.”

Already there’s a debate going on about whether or not Madlib is fussing over nothing, or if sites that list samples really are hurting the producers and artists who create these tracks. Kevin Nottingham, the site’s owner, did in fact take the post down. But he defends what he did by saying:

“In an age where you can pretty much find anything on the Internet, I don’t think this information is too hard to find; I’m just putting it all in one place.”

Myself, I’m kind of towing the line on how I feel about the situation, because I definitely see both sides of the coin. Guys like Madlib have made their career on hunting for and then flipping samples that most people would otherwise just skip right past. And while I do think listing the sources that he’s sampled is a means of honoring his work, it may in fact be detrimental to the guy’s career. Madlib’s whole aura is built off of this idea that he’s mining sample sources that others wouldn’t. By listing what he’s sampling, you’re sort of taking the mystique out of what it is he does, showing the cards in his hands, if you will. Also, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for some publishing company who owned the rights to the material that’s being sampled to find your list of samples online and actually come knocking for some royalties. It’s not like these albums make NO money. Everyone wants their cut. Plus that whole idea of showing the cards devalues what it is that producer does.

Of course sample-based producers have been sort of bitching and moaning about this sort of thing since the 90s, when sample compilations started turning up on vinyl everywhere, listing who sampled what and everything. I think at this point these guys just have to deal with the fact that the internet is this well of information, and if people can expose what someone else is doing- whether it’s in appreciation of their art or to tear them down- it’s going to happen regardless. So fighting it, or asking people to take down these lists is futile, at least in my opinion. When you’ve got sites like providing an encyclopedic-style database of samples, and they’ve been doing this since like forever, it seems kind of pointless. I think, if anything, these sites help more than hurt, just from a buzz factor alone. The reality is, someone is talking about you somewhere. They’re that interested in you and your work that they’d take time out of their life to not do some other shit (eating, sleeping, watching pr0n) but analyze and dissect what is you do as a creative entity. If that isn’t an ego stroke, I don’t know what is.

Final thought: The people who make these sample lists should use their discretion when posting them, because putting it out there for the world to see may actually sap the creative energy which inspires producers like Madlib to dig so deep in the crates and make such great music in the first place. And producers, just like the rest of the music industry, need to be real with themselvees and realize that the internet is an uncontrollable force and you will get exposed from time to time. It’s just the era we’re living in. Nothing is sacred. Not even samples.

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