Silenced Samples: How Copyright Laws Infringe on Hip Hop
Iconic hip hop group De La Soul's music is finally available on streaming platforms, just in time for the fiftieth anniversary of hip hop. To say listeners are overjoyed is an understatement. Only a few days after their streaming debut, De La Soul's 1989 debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising, soared to no. 5 on the UK album chart, even topping their original 1990 high of no. 13. For fans this was a long time coming. The hip hop group had a towering presence in the 80s and 90s, their playful ingenuity and eccentricity even inspired other greats like the Beastie Boys, Childish Gambino, OutKast, and the Pharcyde. But what kept De La Soul's tunes out of rotation for decades — and thus, largely out of the public imagination — was an infuriating entanglement of legal restrictions surrounding sampling, an art form where producers take snippets of songs and stitch them together to form sonic collages. For this week's pod extra, OTM Correspondent Micah Loewinger speaks to Dan Charnas, an associate arts professor at NYU and author of the book "Dilla Time: The Life and Afterlife of J Dilla, the Hip-Hop Producer Who Reinvented Rhythm," about how music copyright law suppresses the artistic voices of hip hop producers.