Mac Miller, the young 20-year-old Pittsburgh emcee, has always paid respect and homage to the previous generations of hip-hop’s greats. So it’s not a surprise that on his July 2010 mixtape K.I.D.S., he used a Lord Finesse beat “Hip 2 Da Game” in the song “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza.” This was no big deal since, for years now, rappers have released mixtapes (what we’ll define as a compilation of free songs put out with the purpose of exposing the music to gain a fan base) where they often rhyme over older classic instrumentals or new “hot” beats. Nobody really thought twice about that Finesse beat from 1995, until now.
In the last couple of days, word got out of Lord Finesse suing Miller for $10 million claiming that the young rapper used that beat to “launch his music career.” Finesse is also suing the popular mixtape-distribution site DatPiff and Mac’s label Rostrum Records. According to Courthouse News, “The $10 million lawsuit alleges copyright infringement, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, interference, deceptive trade practices, and a number of related state law claims.”
Now, it’s understandable why Finesse is mad. He sees a young artist garner some of his success from a song using his beat. However, Miller distributed this song on a free mixtape. He never released a single on iTunes and in no way made a direct profit from the beat. Finesse’s argument is that the profit came as a result of all the exposure– the song was downloaded and streamed around a million times and the music video hit over 24 million views on YouTube (which has now been taken down). Yes, this is true. Yes, Mac often performs the popular song while on tour. Yes, I’m sure it helped in the overall (much) bigger picture of Mac’s success. However, there are larger factors (and songs, i.e. “Donald Trump”) that really led to Mac’s status as one of the most popular young rappers.
Mixtapes have always had a clear loophole with sampling and taking other beats. Imagine if this lawsuit passes and artists start getting sued for using stolen beats on mixtapes. The whole hip-hop world would be in disarray and many artists would lose a lot of money. Even an artist as big as Lil Wayne has made a mini mixtape series (No Ceilings) where he only takes instrumentals from popular songs that aren’t his. The amount of mixtapes with only original production, and no samples, are few and far between. On top of all this, the original Lord Finesse song is based around a part of a 1971 Oscar Peterson song “Dream Of You.” Ironically, Finesse never got the sample cleared for the record and that song was on an album that was sold for money. So does that mean whoever represents Peterson now should sue Finesse and get all of the royalties from his album and money that comes from this lawsuit?
Even after all of this, Mac took to twitter to say, “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. All I wanted to do was shed light on a generation that inspired me.” The lawsuit makes it seem that using the beat was all part of a diabolical plan by Mac to gain fans and money. He followed that tweet by saying, “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. When I heard there was a problem, I reached out to him to try and solve it. No response.” Mac went on to praise Finesse, even in the midst of all this, for all that he did for hip-hop. This says a lot about Mac’s character, we’re proud he was the bigger man. Ultimately, the lawsuit is really just a ridiculous move for Finesse. It makes him look out-of-touch and is simply unjustified– especially the extremity of the claims he’s apparently making. The word “finesse” is defined as doing something in a subtle and delicate manner. Well, if that’s the case, the Lord is not living up to his name. disRESPECT.
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