Stealing Beats From Producers Undermines Hip-Hop’s Most Important Players

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On Monday’s Everyday Struggle episode, self-proclaimed “Chief Cultural Director” and semi-retired rapper Joe Budden found a good deal of humor in producers having their beats stolen. While discussing producer MilanMakesBeats’ claims that Playboi Carti stole his beats without compensation and threats to beat up the “pieon,” Budden had a hearty laugh about the producers whom he gave similar treatment in his sixteen-year career.

When DJ Akademiks had a rare morality moment, noting “we can’t co-sign producers gettin’ finessed,” Joe scoffed “oh please,” then raised an argument that producers shouldn’t be upset about getting stiffed because recording artists don’t get paid much from streams. It may be true that rappers aren’t rakin’ it up from music sales, but that doesn’t absolve them of their duty to pay producers whose beats they use. You can’t tell your landlord that your job isn’t paying you a lot and expect them to care.

When show moderator Nadeska asked Budden, the same guy who berated Lil Yachty about being on top of his business, to offer advice to young producers he said, “I’m not teaching that n—- sh*t” because “I might need a free beat.”

Budden then deemed producers wanting a signed contract as “extra” and said, “I don’t have to do none of this [fair negotiating]… I’ll lay a whole song to your two-track and send it right to iTunes.” Really? That’s what flies in “the culture? for Budden”

Comments like Budden’s are exactly why hitmaking producer Sonny Digital recently suggested a producer’s union, so that producers can leverage more respect from an industry full of artists like Budden and Birdman who find no issue with screwing over producers, and rappers like French Montana, who forgot the names of the producers who crafted his seven times platinum “Unforgettable.”

Hip-hop producers are perhaps more important than ever. More often than not, the beats they craft are the most beloved aspects of songs. Their melodies and drums are what make songs rock in the club, bang in the whip and get heads nodding. Plus, we’ve all seen how bad things can go when these guys rap acapella. But despite the producer’s vitality in the musical equation, their treatment remains wholly unethical.

Budden said on the show, “If you’re a new [producer], and you’re coming too much with this legal paperwork bullsh*t, I’m gonna rob you,” bizarrely resentful at the audacity of a producer wanting to put a deal on paper. What’s troubling is that Budden was robbed of his own shot at stardom by Def Jam in the mid-00s, so why would he be so apathetic toward the plight of producers who, just like he once was, are being used up and disregarded by the music industry’s capitalistic machinations?

How would he have felt if Jay-Z — even then one of the most powerful men in music — flexed his industry muscle and ganked “Pump It Up” from him, a beat that Rocafella producer Just Blaze had been shopping in house? Would he be able to laugh while his life-changing work was taken from him without renumeration?