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Counterpoint: Curren$y’s Kind of Being a Dick About Free Mixtape BeatsPosted by Nathan S. on 08/06/12 | Filed under Top Stories, Opinion, Currensy
Water's wet, Rick Ross is fat and we live in a world where free mixtapes are the norm and for-purchase albums are the exception. While we can go back and forth for hours on whether the rise of free music has been good or bad for rappers (easier for an artist to blow up now, harder for them to make money once they've blown), there's one group that's just outright suffered: producers.
If we're talking a "mixtape" in the traditional sense, then we're talking about famous instrumentals being re-used. It's a practice so common that we don't really think anything of it, but objectively, it's actually kind of fucked up. When we get right down to it, a producer's beat (their work) is being re-used in a way they don't support, and without payment. If WorldStarHipHop started taking my articles, re-typing them so they weren't as good as the original, and I wasn't getting paid? Yeah, I'd be kind of pissed.
Still, it's extremely rare for a famous producer to legally go after someone for jacking his beat. First, random rapper probably doesn't have enough money to make a lawsuit worthwhile, and two, in hip-hop jacking beats is so culturally ingrained it's an unwritten rule that producers, especially famous ones, have to let it slide.
For example, Kanye's probably heard 4,000 versions of "The Corner", but fuck it, he's Kanye. Like he's really going to take the time to sue this guy? He already got paid for that beat, what does he care? People are just re-using something he already got paid for.
But it'd be the understatement of the decade to say the the "mixtape" game has changed considerably. These days, "mixtapes" are often just free albums with all-original production. Artists have figured out that since people aren't going to buy their music anyway, it makes more sense to give music away for free and try to collect cash in the long run...and here's where producers get really screwed.
1) Rapper X is putting together an album, which he plans to give away for free.
2) He approaches producer X and says, "Hey, I'm broke and I'm doing a free album, can I use this beat?
3) Producer X thinks, "Fuck it, fine. At least I'll have another beat out there in the world."
4) Rapper X puts out the mixtape, it blows up (thanks in no small part to the production).
5) Rapper X shoots a video for the song, it blows up, he makes money. Producer X gets nothing.
5) Rapper X starting getting some shows, he makes money money. Producer X gets nothing.
6) Rapper X gets signed off the strength of his shows and the mixtape, gets money. Producer X gets nothing.
No matter how cool and relaxed Producer X is, it doesn't take long for him to realize that everyone (the artist, managers, promoters) is making money off their music, except for them. While artists can chase dollars any number of ways, for a producer their financial options are much more limited. They're inherently at the mercy of the rapper, so I can easily understand why a lawsuit may feel like their only option, especially when the use of the beat was unauthorized (and the rapper could have easily paid).
Unfortunately, the prevailing atmosphere in hip-hop is one where rappers feel entitled to free or very low-cost production. It's incredible how many rappers will flash a rack of cash in their videos, then when it comes time to grab a beat it's, "Yo, let me get that beat!" The prevailing attitude seems to be "I'm doing you a favor by rapping over this beat, how dare you charge me?"
Or, even more infuriatingly, rappers will argue that the "exposure" is good for the producer. Exposure is great, but exposure doesn't pay your rent. So you gave a beat out for free and the song blew up, what did all that exposure get you? Even more rappers asking for free beats.
Unfortunately, I don't see a way to easily fix a system that so consistently financially undervalues producers. The game's just rigged against our brothers behind the boards, and I'm not sure there's a lot they can do about it. The only real solution in sight if for rappers to, you know, stop being such dicks about paying for production....I won't hold my breath.
(p.s. Obviously I'm not really talking about Curren$y specifically, for all I know he's got great relationships with everyone who produces for him. I'm just using his tweet as a jumping-off point to tackle a larger issue...so fucking relax everyone tweeting be about hating on Curren$y.)
See Also: What You Really Need to Know About Lord Finesse Suing Mac Miller for $10 Million