The occasion to say so doesn’t come along often, so it seems fitting to take the chance while it’s here: 50 Cent is right.
Robert Poindexter of The Persuaders is suing the superstar rapper for using a sample of one of the band’s songs without first asking permission.
According to a Sunday report on Cnet.com, a tech media website, Poindexter seeks $600,000 in punitive damages plus an unspecified amount of statutory damages.
In his defense, 50 Cent has pointed out he released the song that contained the sample for free, so he made no money off Poindexter’s work.
According to the article, legal papers in the case refer to this fact as frivolous and immaterial.
Concrete legal issues aside, the simple moral question presented here seems clear enough.
50 Cent borrowed Poindexter’s music to make his own. He didn’t ask permission. Poindexter is annoyed, but he deserves nothing more than maybe a “Sorry” from 50 Cent.
First, Poindexter clearly did not lose money on this whole thing. Even the argument that the release, while free, still increased 50 Cent’s moneymaking potential as a performer, doesn’t make a lot of sense given that he’s already one of the biggest rappers around.
Is one free mixtape going to push him into some new echelon of stardom? In a word: No.
There’s also the fact that rap is largely based on sampling. Without samples, there isn’t rap, and it can take a lot of samples to make a rap song.
One of the interesting things about rap is the way in which its rapacious appropriation of past music in some ways resembles how folk music would be transmitted from generation to generation.
It wasn’t about “singer-songwriters” or “composers.” It was just people playing the music they’d heard before and making it their own.
Would everything have worked out better in the pre-war South if roving bluesmen had asked permission of the writers of every song they played?
A long, long time ago, it seems music used to be about more than making money.
It’s easy to say huge record companies and their bottom-line mentality kill music, but let’s consider the possibility that the musicians themselves can make it a money game every bit as much as the evil captains of the industry.
It’s hard to not hate bands such as Metallica when they jump on the anti-piracy bandwagon and preside over the suing of common people for illegally downloading their songs.
With a fanatic self-interest, some musicians are clutching to their intellectual property like it’s the most precious thing in the world. It not only makes them less relateable, but it can constrict the flow of music and stifle creativity.
It does kind of make sense. Who wouldn’t want to get really, really rich for strumming on a guitar and writing some fourth-rate poetry?
But greedy musicians need to grow up and realize music is bigger than they are, and, believe it or not, their wallets.
So 50 Cent, I agree with you, even if it’s just a lil bit.