April 15, 2004


On the Kanye debate between Blissblog and Woebot:

Simon: 'With Kanye, I just think it's intriguing how he's praised for doing something that Puff Daddy was reviled for. '

Hmmmm, interesting, but I think there are differences:

1.I think we need to insist upon the point that Simon somewhat grudgingly makes (re: mixtapes and DJing) that SELECTION is as important as ORIGINATION. In hyperdub culture, editing is not some secondary or derivative process; it's what everything's about. The contrast of Kanye with Puffy proves this; although their methodologies are similar , the results are very different. (Kanye is brilliant; Puffy was wack).

2. 'Through the Wire' is perhaps atypical of The College Dropout in being, as Simon says, almost exclusively based on one sample. Even 'Slowjamz' has much more music in it than 'Wire' (the hook is sung rather than sampled). Luke's favourite 'Jesus Walks', meanwhile, is a widescreen, Ray Harryhausen-style sonic epic.

3. As I recall - and I've thankfully managed to expunge the memory of most of Puffy's records - Puffy tended not to sample vocals, whereas most of Kanye's samples are of voice. Not sure what implication this has!

Posted by mark at April 15, 2004 06:45 PM | TrackBack

you know its tempting to try and make the other point, that Kanye is a lot like Puffy and that its ok cause Puffy actually made some solid records. But now I can't remember any Puffy songs, so ce la vie to that argument...

But it does bring up a very different issue, economics. The biggest similarity between Kanye and Puffy is the budgets they have for sample clearance. I remember an interview with some producer a while back who was quite bitter that he couldn't release albums chock with old soul samples ala Blueprint, due to the shear cost of clearing these things. There are producers coast to coast, London to Japan who can make sick beats out of these songs. All the Black Album remixes is perfect example. Kids everywhere are making sick beats, but they can't release them commercially... loop back the copyright discussions.....

Posted by: Abe at April 15, 2004 09:48 PM

you know its tempting to try and make the other point, that Kanye is a lot like Puffy and that its ok cause Puffy actually made some solid records. But now I can't remember any Puffy songs, so ce la vie to that argument...

Yeh, that's what Simon was saying, or at least hinting at...

The point on economics is of course well-made. But if you recall, I did bring up sampling during the mp3/ copyright discussion as a practice that violates copyright which is producer-positive (unlike mp3 replication which is , in the main, negative for producers). There's a perfectly equitable solution to this, though, that doesn't involve abandoning copyright altogether: anyone sampling simply agrees to pay a proportion of their earnings from the track rather than an upfront fee.

Posted by: mark k-punk at April 15, 2004 10:25 PM

That arrangment is clearly equitable only as between the the original artist and the successful sampler. Things are less clear if between the original artist and a long series of artists who failed to make a hit song with the sample.

Posted by: dominic at April 16, 2004 03:25 AM

By the arrangement I was outlining, if they don't make a hit, then they won't be required to pay. What's the problem?

Posted by: mark k-punk at April 16, 2004 04:09 AM

on the reflected glory tip, people should remember that what puffy most famously reincarnated was the police's "every breath you take." while what kanye is bringing back to life is (on the whole) music people dismissed out of hand. its the same trick which de la soul performed on 3 feet high with their parents record collections...

whilst i aint clear what simon feels about it, i'm not so sure i mind about people basking in "reflected glory". with kanye at least theres a strong sense that he's (cheekily, amusingly) taking liberties.

Posted by: Matt Woebot at April 16, 2004 08:10 AM

Good point Matt. yeh, apart from the Chaka sample, his steals were hardly canonic were they? I mean, Vandross? Michael Bolton? OK, there's Marvin Gaye, but that's only the slightest sigh, the merest sliver....

And, point 4 I should have made above: even if it is only pitching the samples up, Kanye does something to his source material. Puffy merely replayed it, the same but worse. The most canonic of canonic rap samples ('Public Enemy No1', 'The Message') pointlessly, listlessly reiterated, desecrated, but in a half-assed karaoke way, not in any spirit of dadaist reinvention. The Police sample traded on people's banal misconceptions of what the original song was about, blanding out stalker obsession into Hallmark card piety.

Posted by: mark k-punk at April 16, 2004 11:42 AM

Actually, on that "reflected glory" point, Nick Hornby says exactly the same thing in that stupid "31 Songs" book! But of course he says it in the course of a completely idiotic, retrograde argument.

So maybe Puffy:Kanye::Hornby:Reynolds ;)

Posted by: Angus at April 16, 2004 01:22 PM

1. I think that sample by percentage arrangement already exists. It's up to the owner of the original copyright what the actual arrangement will be, if any. If they don't expect to make a lot of money on licensing a sample, why would they let some small independent producer use it?

The best solution I've heard is creating a standard percentage (which the copyright holder would legally be forced to accept). I think this is what already exists for cover versions. I suppose there would have to be a provision that the sample be sufficiently transformed.

2. "The Police sample traded on people's banal misconceptions of what the original song was about, blanding out stalker obsession into Hallmark card piety." You could call that dadaist reinvention, right? You would if the original version was the pious one and the remake the stalker one. That song still sucks though.

Posted by: cole at April 17, 2004 01:37 AM

A cursory listen to Ready To Die amply demonstrates that Puffy on form was unstoppable.

Posted by: Tim Finney at April 20, 2004 03:11 AM

There are two good Puffy tunes -- that "Diddy" one that was a Neptunes track, and that "Come with me" one that's him rapping over Led Zep's Kashmir. Well, it's alright anyway.

That one using Every Breath is shit, except for the session singer's falsetto counterpoint on the refrain. It's a good example of Mark's point. The original is one fucked up record. VERY dark. A nightmare of symbolism and clashing meanings and receptivities. With Puffy on it, it's marshmallow soft.

Posted by: paul "carpetbomber" meme at April 20, 2004 04:42 PM

Oh, I meant to say, on: "SELECTION is as important as ORIGINATION in hyperdub culture":-

Just wanted to quote Burroughs: "Writing isn't writing. It's re-writing."

Posted by: paul "carpetbomber" meme at April 20, 2004 04:45 PM

don't get me wrong i think 'through the wire' is pure genius

what's interesting is that it ought to reflect back on what puff daddy did and make it seem better or more valid

i'd agree with Tim F, some of those Bad Boy tunes were good -- 'mo money more problems' which is the one based around diana ross 'i'm coming up' if memory serves is ace -- i said this before somewhre but for all the world it sounds like something on Roule by alan braxe (speeling?) or even daft punk -- 'hypnotize' by biggy .. even some of the Ma$e tunes --

then there was thing with Shyne that was like barrington levy transposed onto the sly'n'robbie groove from grace jones' 'nightclubbing', very little new musical material involved but you know -- beats Richard X at his own game several years avant la lettre

i don't like the every breath you take one at all as a listening experience but as a feat of pop mythology it's a stunning feat

shades of Pop Art in there - puff as the black Warhol

the 'all writing is rewriting'/citation = as valid as origination is understood i think -- the question then becomes how do we evaluate when it's done well, what does 'well' mean in this context?

much as i'd detest listening to it you could say in terms of reassigning new meaning to something that already freighted with pop cult meaning the 'every breath you take' versioning is quite inspired

Posted by: simonr at April 20, 2004 05:31 PM

I think the reason that "I'll Be Missing You" works theoretically but fails in practice is that it's actually not enough of a Richard X-style soundclash. Puffy should have been content with biting either the chorus or the melody; using both prevents the record from escaping the orbit of Police-assigned meaning. If "Every Breath You Take" was in fact universally acknowledged as being a stalker song Puffy's revision would seem more radical but in fact he merely emphasises and draws out the "banal" non-stalker reading that the casual listener picked up on with the original anyway.

So perhaps you could say that Puff's faults, his "laziness", lay in his tendency to merely assimilate the old and the new in his music rather than set them against eachother (a tendency which has thankfully receded in the last few years). Much of the value of Richard X bootlegs and a huge amount of sample-based pop lies in its oppositional quality: forcing the sample to convey meanings in a certain context that they wouldn't convey on their own, or challenging those meanings.

Most first-wave soul/funk/disco sample-based gangsta rap achieved this oppositional quality quite effortlessly because the "gangsta" element is foreign to the original music, but as such hip hop becomes increasingly familiar this friction fades or gets rubbed away. Hence the over-the-top plushness and effeteness of the West/Blaze model of sped-up soul samples: by emphasising the source music's most effeminate qualities that sense of tension and friction is regained.

Posted by: Tim Finney at April 21, 2004 04:04 AM

Tim's said it all, I reckon, even if I think the reason that "I'll Be Missing You" works theoretically but fails in practice is that it's actually not enough of a Richard X-style soundclash is a masterpiece of understatement.

What Tim says about the lack of friction exactly fingers the problem with Puffy; this was bad enough when he sampling pop, but became ludicrous when he sampled rap. The Public Enemy fiasco strikes me as the best e.g. of this.

Think there's a gap in Simon's reasoning from saying that Puffy and Kanye's methodology is the same to saying that they are equally valid; my pt was that you can do theft well or badly (and I'd still maintain that, with the examples Tim and Simon cited PERHAPS excepted, Puffy was pretty pisspoor in the main.) And that Kanye's speeding up the samples makes all the difference....

Posted by: mark k-punk at April 21, 2004 02:52 PM

They both really suck!

Posted by: at August 25, 2004 11:58 PM