If You Decide Not To Use Any Of The Beats, Please Don’t Rap Over Em And Put Em On A Mixtape

The rapper Skillz has an interesting blog up over at Okayplayer.com, where he talks about his first time meeting Kanye and getting some tracks from him. The VA-bred rapper, by now most known for his year-end wrap-ups, writes,

He asked me what kind of shit was I looking for and I told him what I tell every producer …” I don’t know, I just know it when I hear it.” So he played like 20 beats and I only really liked four… [H]e burns the cd and we get ready to bounce and we’re walking to the door and he says my name ..

ye- Skillz
me- Huh
ye- Can I ask you a favor ,yo?
me- What up?
ye- If you decide to not use any of the beats please don’t rap over em and put em on a mixtape or nothing.
me- Oh! iiight
Ye- I’m for real
me- ummmm..ok

We leave and I ask Howie What was that all about. He explains that niggas just take shit and rap over it and put it out and that has been happening to him lately. I mean I did it with Aaliyah’s song and got pub so I knew exactly when he was talking about. He drops me off at the Time Hotel( with them small ass rooms) and I pop the cd in and listen to the beats again. I came up with a mean hook for one( I don’t have it anymore) wrote something to the last beat on the cd. I remember riding the train back to VA two days later and really wanting to track the song, or at least what I had written. And back in VA in the studio I played the cd and my homies asked who made the beats, I told em Kanye West but I probably wont use em. My man Irv was like ‘fuck that, we using them joints, lets lay something to it and give it to P Cutta. I took the cd out and changed the subject and started talking about the game the night before. I remembered the look in his eyes(Ye) when he asked me not to do that. I didn’t really know homie but he asked me and I told him I wouldn’t. I felt like if I did then I would be taking food from his mouth ya know?

I gotta hand it to Skillz, he did something most rappers in his position do not do, and that’s respect the producer and their work. In his blog entry, he references “H To The Izzo,” so I gotta figure this whole exchange took place some time around 2001-02. Kanye was definitely becoming more of a name-brand producer at the time, and also, around that time the mixtape scene was beginning to explode. Rappers were getting huge buzzes off mixtapes (Joe Budden and 50 Cent come to mind right off top, but there were a zillion others who got signed and never even came out). I can recall having artists in my studio, artists who somehow got their hands on beat CDs from producers like Alchemist, Emile, Buckwild, Rza… etc. Maybe they knew the producer, maybe someone at Def Jam gave them a CD that was floating around the office. Who knows. They would lay songs down to 2tracks, and before you knew it these songs ended up on mixtapes, and it would say Rapper X (produced by The Heatmakerz). For the artists, it was a great look. For the producers, they went unpaid on a sellable track that an artist was using to further his/her career.

Skillz probably had a lot to gain from recording and leaking a Kanye West track back then. We’re talking six years ago. The whole music game was a lot different. The name on the credits could actually make you hot at that time, maybe you’d even get a record deal.

Now, not so much. Maybe you’ll send it to Eskay and he’ll post it, you’ll get some buzz for an hour or two (a day at best), and then you’re left answering to Kanye how that track got out (if he even sees it).

Still, I think the whole aspect of artists leaking tracks is one of the reasons why producers don’t want to deal with rappers anymore. They’d rather deal with singer and songwriters, and even themselves, where their material isn’t apt to wind up on some random mixtape or floating around on a blog. It’s more controllable that way.

Maybe we all need a simple disclaimer like the one Kanye gave Skillz. I’ve had to dart around that mixtape thing a million times. I can’t remember how many beats I have that ended up on mixtapes. Sometimes it’s the same one beat that gets used like 50 times by 50 different rappers on 50 different mixtapes. It’d pretty ridiculous. You’re just like, fuck man, someone cut a check.

*** FYI- I have my own Skillz story. I met him back at the Mixtape Awards in January of 2004, at Club Speed. We traded info, told him I wanted to get him some tracks, and then followed up next day. We couldn’t link cause he was back in VA or something, and this was before gmail was the norm for sending tracks. Probably like 2 months later he hit me out of the blue like “Yo i’m in Philly for a couple hours, come thu if you want to play beats for me.” So I hopped in the car, drove the hour and a half to Philly with a CD that had like 20 beats on it. Met him at the studio, played the 20 joints. Like the Kanye story, he picked a few, but they were mostly soul-sample type tracks, and not really what he was looking for. We talked a little more, I left him with the CD, then hopped back in the car and drove back to New York the same night. I have no idea if he ever recorded anything to the beats, but hey, I’m no Kanye and they could be floating around on a Best of Skillz mixtape somewhere!

  • Curtis75Black

    I see where Kanye was coming from and I always wondered when it came to original beats, do producers normally get paid if it appears on a mixtape ? I mean if you’re affiliated with the producer a fee needs to be handed out if you’re gonna take the tracks home. Not to sound naive but how much money can a Mixtape track get you anyway ?

  • Rob The Music Ed

    I wonder what else was on tha CD. Some of the joints had to get picked up by someone.
    I still remember the beat Kanye did for Geda K “Respect the Roc”. A reworked version ended up on twista’s album a few years later, but that original GEda K joint was my shit.

  • Avenger XL

    I see where ye was coming from. However there is a bit of hipocrisy in this due to the fact you probably sampled someone elses work without permission and were going to make money off of it because you programmed some drums and a possible base line for it. I don’t care how you flipped it you are now in the same situation as any band that has been sampled. The rapper is just the latest on the food chain when it comes to this.

    Now don’t get me wrong I love soul samples, I love DJ priemer, Pete Rock, Large pro, Diamond D etc…. i.e. all of the great masters of flipping a song to make another song. But please remember that before this was a way too make major bread it was something people did for fun and I agree if anyone gets a dime off your work you deserve a say in it. You just need to understand that hip-hop creativity was affected by the sample lawsuits and now every producer and rapper thinks they got the next shit and hold it forever. How many beats do you think Ye has just laying around he could get with a few good unknown groups and make one hell of a underground album/mixtape and probably make more money in the long run off that pubilicty than the small amount he gets off the beat sell that will probably never be released or poorly recieved unless you let another producer like dre or Timbo rape you for credit(i.e. ghost produce).
    Bottomline I think real producers(not beatmakers) need to search out talent they like talk project vision with them and see if they can get things popping. New producers need to work with artists on they level like this. Beatmakers need to strive to be producers and not just beat whores. In a genre where 90% of the music is lifted from another source crying foul over stolem material is like a dope dealer calling the cops cause they got jacked for crills.

    There I said it

  • http://hiphoponmymind.blogspot.com/ DJ Daddy Mack

    If you are a honorable person, then listen to the producer. If not, don’t lie to yourself. You know you will do it. But honestly, I don’t think Kanye would care now. He prolly forgot about that beat. He even prolly forgot about Skillz.

  • patkilpat

    I really respect that, I was actually worried where this was going after I read about not putting it on mixtapes. (Because I ask artists not to do that also when I send stuff to artists/lables)

    Its hard because there was a time when you could “stamp” shit and protect yourself a little bit, now thats taboo and will get your tracks skipped. Like damn if you like it you can’t call or email or something to get an “unstamped” version.

    As far as sampling goes, I don’t think sampling makes you a hypocrite, sampling is like making a collague out of magazines pictures. Its art made of art. Its the lables job to clear it. Oh and avenger you left out Dilla.

    myspace.com/patrickkilpatrickisshadowgovernment

  • Shawty J

    I’m not a producer, but I can understand why a producer wouldn’t want their stuff leaked on a mixtape. I read an interview a while back in XXL, I think with Streetrunner about how he was dissappoitned when a song he produced for Lil Wayne leaked.

    Basically when a song shows up on a mixtape, since mixtapes technically are illegal, their is no publishing. Also, a producer can’t be guaranteed that they’ll be credited for their work, so that’s losing out on money and exposure, so unless the beat was paid for already that producer loses out.

  • Avenger XL

    I still think at the end of the day. This all boils down to the cannibalistic huslte culture that hip-hop has become. We are on some mad dog capitilistic shit and once again I still feel everyone needs to get paid for their work but I do think dudes is doing it all the wrong way. It is fine to ask cat’s not to put their music on mixtapes if they are not purchased without permission (note their illegal sampled music that the copy right owners haven’t agreed to yet in many cases). However I wish Hip-hop would develope producers that provided entire soundscapes for artists and stop this mixtape style beat bizzare we have now. Most albums are incoherent(see wack) because the frequencies on the music are all different and the material all sounds like a mixtape rather than a Album showing the efforts of a producer and an artist working through a vision. This mixtape culture created the beat whore i.e. the cat who is pretty much trying to sell the sounds he/she strung together to any aritst who can’t afford most of the so called top producer 1 gazillion dollars a track. I think these beat makers would be forced to eventually become real producers if we cut the one track here one track there model down and start making a effort to produce entire albums.

    Now I know the complaint here how are you going to ever get to do an album as a up and coming producer when you have all of the elite in your way. Well last time I checked real producers are also talent scouts and A&R’s roled in one and they go out and find people creating the sound they like and forge things with them signed and unsigned. Their are enough ill unsigned cat’s that there would be no problem finding someone who needs what a producer has to offer. I think a real producer is a body of music what a director is to a movie or a conductor is to symphony.

    That’s enough of my rant peace blousses

  • http://www.theunderwriters.blogspot.com THE UNDERWRITER

    This is the type of thinking that the music industry lacks for the most part. Respect the work.

  • Avenger XL

    Yes, respect the work by all means but know thy culture. Once your culture is based on the DIY get sonics where you can and turn them into something new and worry about copyrights if it makes money or get heard by enough cat’s to deam relevance then you are buying into a system that makes cats look foolish trying to be all tough about how dudes are running away with there creations. That doesn’t make sense taking a original work and deconstructing or reimagining it without permission of the creator is always a dangerous endeavor and of course this effects hip-hop in a negative way because as Hip-hop at it’s best was collage art music with some playing mixed throughout.

    Bottomline I still think everyone should get paid for their work. But people need to be serious and understand how this thing works when you borrow from one man to build your blueprint you shouldn’t be as mad when you are faced with the simialr issue. In this day in age if someone like SKillz took a beat from me without my permission and put it on a mixtape I would first try and reach out and get his vocals if it was banging and forming a buzz get a studio cut on it and push it through my website and itunes. If it sucked or went over looked I may still work with it and put it out their on my own to get ownership and advertising off of it.

    Play your hand people, don’t punsih the cat’s who are secretly doing leg work for you. Even if they don’t give you credit up front that just means you launch your campaign letting folks know what it is and if they get buzz off your work it opens up the door for you to put out more product and sink their titanic. But if you wait around for that one check that is that slave mentality and don’t forget ye got seriouly extorted before he made it and even Jay tried to shit on him when he first came to Roc A Fella.