Sample Snitching: How Online Fan Chatter Can Create Legal Trouble for Rap Producers

Last summer, I received an email from an independent rap label, promoting one of its new releases. It had a note attached about samples. “Do your best to refrain from mentioning them by name unless you know they’ve been cleared,” the label owner wrote. “We’ve already had to pull records because people had named the source in YouTube comments and then it ended up on WhoSampled and the rights holders saw it, smh.”

For nearly as long as hip-hop has existed, there have been lawsuits from copyright holders about the genre’s use of samples, snippets of pre-existing songs and recordings repurposed as elements of the beat. The very first hip-hop hit, Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” was the subject of a legal challenge (settled out of court) from the members of Chic, whose “Good Times” bass line the pioneering rap song interpolated. Though sampling old records is no longer the only or even the primary means of making rap beats—its popularity having receded perhaps as a consequence of the legal risks—the lawsuits persist.

In 2021, tracking down potentially unlicensed samples is a lot easier than it was for Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers, who pursued remuneration over “Rapper’s Delight” after he happened to hear the record while out at a club. As the label owner alluded to in his email, the internet is filled with information linking hip-hop tracks with the songs they sample. (He agreed to be interviewed for this article under the condition of anonymity.) Compiled largely by well-meaning fans, on message boards, in comments sections, and on the popular sample-sourcing website WhoSampled, these ad hoc archives are nonetheless a bane for some rap producers and label owners, who see them as helpful directories for any rightsholders out hunting for a lawsuit. When I approached several established producers and labels, asking them for interviews about fans naming sample sources online, most declined to speak with me.


Views: 9

Reply to This

Best guide to hip hop, soul, reggae concerts & events in San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles & New York City + music, videos, radio and more


Bookmark and Share

Subscribe to E-Blast




  • Add Photos
  • View All


Latest Activity

realmuzik posted discussions
3 hours ago
Editor's Pick posted discussions
8 hours ago
TEAM BIGGA RANKIN posted blog posts
18 hours ago
Kris Kartel posted a blog post
Editor's Pick posted discussions
realmuzik posted discussions
BLACC WIDOHH posted a blog post


Newest Release from PA’s own LadyBossHer roots in the East Coast come through her music with a vengeance. Her music is straight to the point, and the beat selection matches with her flow to precision. The whole project was put together well and the songs were placed with intuative efforts to entertain her audience from start to finish.…See More
Dj Smoke (@PromoMixtapes) posted discussions
Editor's Pick posted discussions
Kris Kartel is now a member of True Skool Network
realmuzik posted a discussion

Tjonaz - "So All About It"

Man I’m an Overnight Celebrity because of simple fact that I took Motivational Sacrifices To Be Famously Rich Do to some reason that I am my inspiration an I am my motivation in this song was inspired to give a glips of my testimonial story Which is…See More
BLACC WIDOHH posted a blog post

Really Really

Welcome to the world of Joseph Bills. He is ranked among the elite of the elite in Arizona’s hip hop scene. A genuine soul and a pure vibe to see his peers win and MAXOUT at every performance, he is the one to watch. With his single that has took over the airwaves, “Really Really” is a song that gets the juices flowing! His energy speaks on who really living in the moment…See More

© 2021   Created by Ren the Vinyl Archaeologist.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service