When The Eagles filed suit against Frank Ocean for sampling their music for usage on a free mixtape, we all knew it wouldn’t be the last case of its kind. However, the idea of rappers suing other rappers wasn’t exactly what we expected to see next. However, we’re here after Lord Finesse filed suit against Mac Miller to the tune of $10 million after Miller used Finesse’s “Hip 2 Da Game” for his debut mixtape KIDS in the song “Kool-Aid & Pizza” without permission. According to court papers, Finesse filed the lawsuit after DatPiff, Mac Miller, and Rostrum Records, didn’t respond to cease and desist letters sent their way.
For his part, Finesse released only one statement via his Twitter noting that “This case is about the overall picture.. If you’re just looking at “one” point.. It’s about so much more #look deeper..”
In a series of tweets of his own, Mac responded.
“I’m supposed to be on hush but lemme speak on this real quick.
1. I made that record and video as nothing more than an 18 year old kid who wanted to rhyme and pay homage, no other intentions.
2. Finesse and I spoke on the phone for an hour after he heard the record and cleared the air. We even planned to work on music together.
3. All I wanted to do is shed light on a generation that inspired me.
4. When I heard there was a problem, I reached out to him to try and solve it. No response. Lord Finesse, thank you for what u did for hip hop. Thank you for bringing my favorite rapper into the game.
5. Finesse never cleared the Oscar Peterson sample on the original record. I did nothing wrong. We spoke on the phone had a good conversation, he was cool with the record. It’s all love tho. I ain’t even mad at dude. He still a legend.”
So, who’s right and wrong?
Painting the DITC member as a “bitter old artist” is easy, but isn’t completely accurate. Much like the Ocean-Eagles situation, Mac and Rostrum probably profited off the song. On the low end, we’ll say that they made a few bucks off YouTube monetization earnings on a video with more than 20 million views before it was taken down. In the middle of the road (and much like Ocean), Mac could be performing the song at shows, where he is earning money and profiting. At the most (and this is the tricky part), Finesse can claim that the success of KIDS led to Miller’s ability to earn big bucks now…and he deserves a share of that.
Yeah, very murky waters.
Those old enough to remember the ’91 Biz Markie-Gilbert O’Sullivan case know samples slowly declined to nil now, at least on retail releases. The paperwork and astronomical pricing on royalties made the practice infeasible. A record like PE’s It Takes A Million… could never exist today because it literally contains hundreds of sampled songs and sounds. But we’re not talking albums; these are mixtapes.
For Finesse, if he paid to clear the sample originally (based off of Oscar Peterson’s “Dream of You”) and created his own original beat using it, then he has a legal leg to stand on. The question is should be suing? Yes, samples should have been cleared but how many artists are guilty of using old beats on new mixtapes? Are they going to have to start clearing samples for projects meant to build buzz? If so, does that mean no more freebies? And when exactly does the line get crossed from “paying homage” to “pay me”?
If there was a prior phone convo, as Mac stated, maybe another one can clear up the whole mess and the suit can be settled out of court. But one thing’s for sure: there’s no turning back from here.