A Brief History of Sampling Lawsuits, Now With More Beastie Boys

MCA’s family and friends have hardly had time to grieve for the recently deceased rapper, and already the Beastie Boys, the group that brought him, along with Ad-Rock and Mike D., to fame, are back in hot water.

Hip-hop label Tuf America filed suit against the Beasties, claiming that the group improperly sampled the 1982 Trouble Funk song “Drop The Bomb” among others on cuts from albums including Paul’s Boutique and Licensed to Ill.

According to All Hip-Hop, “Tuf America said they did a thorough sound analysis of the tracks in question and concluded that the Beastie Boys illegally incorporated elements of the songs without permission. To complicate the matter, Tuf America claims The Beasties and Capitol Records continue to profit off the album, by way of anniversary and commemorative releases of Licensed To Ill and Paul’s Boutique, which was released in 1989.”  

Sound analysis? Yikes! But the surviving Beasties might not want to worry too much about this, after all lawsuits over sampling are a dime a dozen these days.

Last year superstar producer Timbaland was sued not once but twice for sampling—once involving Nelly Furtado’s “Do It,” below—with both cases going in his favor (albeit because the works weren’t properly copyrighted in the U.S.). Of one of the lawsuits, Tim said, ““It makes me laugh. The part I don’t understand, the dude is trying to act like I went to his house and took it from his computer. I don’t know him from a can of paint. I’m 15 years deep. That’s how you attack a king? You attack moi?”

Also last year, litigious soul singer Syl Johnson, who once took Cypress Hill to court, sued Jay-Z and Kanye West for what he considered use of part of a song of his, “Different Strokes,” for the song “The Joy.” He claimed that after he denied West permission to use his music, West just went ahead and did so anyway. Kanye and Jay released a statement saying it wasn’t the case, but the duo ended up settling with Johnson after all.

Throughout the ages, Lil Wayne has had plenty of trouble with the law. But in 2008, it wasn’t guns or cars or drugs that got him in trouble, but sampling. South African-born musician Karma-Ann Swanepoel took Wayne to court, saying he had illegally sampled her track “Once”—and only approached her with a contract for the right to do so after the song was released. In turn, Weezy turned around and sued the track’s producers.

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