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Instrumental Albums Are NOT Free Beats!

In hip hop, emcees have been rapping over other people’s beats for years. Most of the time, it is done as a “freestyle” where the emcee heard the original song, liked the beat and wanted to do his thing with it. There is a fine line between freestyling over someone else’s beat and rapping over a producer’s instrumental while releasing the project as “produced by _________ (insert your favorite producer here).” This has actually been happening a lot lately with hip hop’s new digital age and it really must come to an end. Equally frowned upon is taking an acapella of your favorite rapper and adding it to your track so you can promote that you have a feature with ______________ (insert favorite emcee here). But we’ll save that for another article.

There have been a number of producers this past year who have released instrumental albums: Oddisee, Blu, and Damu The Fudgemunk, among others. An instrumental album is simply that — an album that was produced without the involvement of an emcee. It’s a finished product, unlike a beat tape that a producer shops around hoping to get emcees to hop on the tracks. For an emcee to hop on those instrumentals and shop his record around as “produced by Oddisee, Blu, or Damu”, that’s just criminal. It’s like taking a piece of art (in it’s finished state) and adding your own dialogue (see what I did above?). Now if the emcee gets permission before hand, that’s between them.

From the quote above by 9th Wonder (via Twitter), it’s obvious producers are tired of this practice by emcees who take their beats and credit the song as “produced by _________.” It’s misleading… there is no relationship between the producer and emcee and he probably could care less if you credit him.

Probably the best way to avoid any controversy (and a letter similar to the one above) is to contact the producer before hand. It’s so easy these days with e-mail and Twitter. Hit them up and ask permission first. It IS their work that you’re wanting to use anyway. Not asking permission is also an infringement on copywrite laws. Who knows, your favorite producer may hit you back and tell you to give it a shot! This actually happened in the mid-90s when Sadat X of Brand Nubian heard an interlude on Pete Rock & CL Smooth‘s The Main Ingredient and wanted to use it for a song on his debut album. Instead of just taking the beat and looping it, he contacted Pete Rock and got him involved and paid, as well. The result is the Pete Rock-produced “Escape From New York.”

We need to take a stance now and appreciate instrumental hip hop for what is it — a finished product.

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About Kevin

Owner - Kevin is the owner and founder of Originally from Virginia Beach, VA he now resides in South Florida. In addition to this site he runs HiPNOTT Records, a small independent Hip Hop label and is an Executive Producer of the upcoming documentary DEMOS: An Independent Artist's Guide To Success. Other than music, he is a techie by trade and holds a Bachelor's degree in Information Technology.
  • Justin

    I think it is ok for an artist to use an instrumental album if it is done the right way. If you get permisson from the producer or you make it clear the production was originally on the instrumental album, I think it’s alright. It isn’t right when an artist promotes their project as if they producer worked with them specifically, that’s just like stealing. Sometimes with instrumental albums, it just seems like the beats deserve someone spitting on them. I think Exile’s Radio is a perfect example. I didn’t think that it worked well on it’s own, an emcee getting on those beats would’ve been better. Apparently now Exile is gonna do a remix projet doing just that. Another good example is L’Daialogue rocking over Oddisee’s instrumental ep’s. I prefer those over the original but L’Daia makes it clear that these were off Oddisee’s EP’s and to support those. I believe he reached out to Oddisee too, I’m not sure though.

    In the end, it’s just about handling it the right way. If done right, there’s nothing wrong wth it.

  • keith n’ dem

    word. well said.

  • K.I.N.E.T.I.K.


    Glad somebody said this.

    The thing is so many emcees want to get noticed and in a crowded market place this has become very difficult. However, good business and personal morals should not go out the window in a quest for shine.

    What really irks me is when rappers add veerses to popular songs and say featuring the “popular” artist! That’s just wrong.

    It’s a desperate ploy for attention. Its no different to a woman deciding to walk down the street with no underwear on – everybody is going to look.

    To all my fellow emcees, just keep making good music and respect the people who make the beats and work hard and in some cases, cheap, to bring it to us.

  • Kevin

    Well said, Justin. This article was not intended as a diss to those emcees that do it right, such as the examples you mentioned.

    I wanted to include another example, but I couldn’t remember what the song was. Basically, an emcee rapped over someone’s beat and even shouted the producer out at the beginning of the track.. like he knew him and worked with him! Disgraceful…..

  • Cenzo Beatz

    there is no relationship between the producer and emcee and he probably could care less if you credit him. word!

    but i think if you release an instrumental album and you are a popular producer it is bound to happen sooner or later that rappers take these beats and rap over them – which is wrong – but you gotta expect that!


  • King I Divine

    Def can agree with this article..Just hit up the producer and ask him to use the beats….

  • Lynx

    nice post kev, i completely agree with you…

  • Mike

    sounds like the same ish chucky cheese tried to pull with his album. folks like that can get the gas face. it seems like back in the day the artists were always having to deal with shady labels and getting screwed now other artists are making it hard. seems like a free for all and it’s played out!

  • Ken

    Perfect timing on the article Kevin. I must say that I am on board but even went a step further stating that I am tired of rappers rapping over other people’s beats. That can seriously ruin a track. I understand its a matter or taking a hot song and using it because people are already appreciative of the work, but in today’s world, to me, it is getting old. I like the creativity and drive of the newer artists and unless you are some established head (Raekwon, Styles, Jada, Joel, Royce) where we respect your lyrics, leave it alone. The artists mentioned has laid down a foundation and we can respect their work and listen more to the lyrical content, then the production of a track we like. Let’s get on to the next one and stop killing these people’s beats (not in a good way).

  • smallpro

    i don’t think it’s wrong to use a producer’s work from an instrumental album or something of the sort. in fact, i wish more cats would try their hand at the beats on some instrumental albums (i.e. the aforementioned “radio”). i mean, let’s face it…hip-hop is founded upon the very piracy we’re now frowning upon. i can guarantee you the SAME muthafuckas complaining about this did not clear every sample in every beat they’ve done, so let’s just cut that out right now. we can’t have it both ways. i didn’t hear anybody complaining when ghostface rapped over a whole damn delfonics songs on “pretty toney” (ok, yes i did, but the point still stands).

    that being said, it is hella wrong to hit cats w/ the “produced by _____” buisness when you downloaded that instrumental from limewire. THAT shit is wack. imagine if people credited every beat they used on mixtapes?….they would be clowned to shit. there’s nothing anybody can do about this sort of thing; once it’s out there, it’s out there. what happened w/ damu’s beat is corny. but this kind of thing is bound to happen.

  • spinach

    man, you shouldn’t pay these cats any attention, not even to say “don’t do that.” it all catches up, faster now than ever before. even though the whole world’s in hip hop, it’s still a small town.

  • Ardamus

    As a person who does both, you have to really consider how the producer feels about that. I know both Oddisee and Damu and they both work hard on what they do. I find it upsetting that people could honestly be that irresponsible in terms of emcees contacting producers about beats they use. And like Kevin stated, it shows a lack of communication between the emcee and producer which has to stop. But its the thing about the digital age. Its made it easier for the floodgates to open to situations like this. Sucks…..

  • juiceboxjackson

    I mean, I def. agree with what’s being said, but if the producer is getting credit as “produced by ______________” then isn’t that just a good thing for the producer in the end??

    If the emcee sucks and his quality is terrible (which is usually what happens in this case) but the beat knocks then isn’t that just free promotion?? I don’t know, am I missing something here??

    My brother and I are working on an instrumental tape right now that is probably gonna vibe just fine without any emcees but if some random dude gets ahold of the tape and likes the beats so much that he/she wants to spit over em, I think that’s a humbling but killer situation for my brother and I. I know we aren’t gonna get paid for any of this stuff so I suppose the best thing we could hope for is some emcee pushing an album that’s “produced entirely by juicebox jackson and dr. soul” LOL!!

  • J Fizz

    i agree with this article very much.. But i just found this song of an east oakland rapper gettin on a rare j dilla beat and its very good.

  • woo hah!

    lol I still remember laughing my ass off at the time you guys got mad @ Cham for rapping over a Wax & Eom song

  • Drizz

    finally someone drops some science on this madness. I am so tired of niggas around the way or just in general, comin out w/ mixapes and it has that lame ass “produced by J Dilla or 9th Wonder, etc” in the credits. Ppl unfamiliar look at that and cop ur ish based off that alone. That’s absolutely foul. I think that if an emcee does use a certain beat off of an instrumental album or another copyrighted song, he/she should just list in the credits “beat taken from __________.”

  • G.C.

    @juicebox I can see what you are saying, but the problem is this: If the producer has no knowledge of the beat jacking, it is slanderous to say “produced by” to imply that the producer thought enough of the artist to provide him with a service. Coming from personal experience, I feel like my beats have a certain level to them, and I will not allow just anyone to rhyme over them. I definitely feel like they need the GC stamp of approval for me to work with them.

    @Drizz – I totally agree, using the producer’s name without his consent to trick someone into copping something they otherwise wouldn’t is very unethical.

    I think it would also go the other way if some producer laid an acapella of a famous artist over one of their beats and claimed it to be a collaborative effort instead of what it is – a REMIX.

  • Psymun

    Glad you wrote this article. I always thought that was a sneaky move!

  • Myk Blauuw!

    I agree with smallpro, who made these folks hip-hop police? you cant ILLEGALLY sample someone & then get mad when someone hops on your beat.

    I totally see their side of the argument, because they wouldnt want someone thinking this wack rapper is associated with them, but it’s hip-hop! people have been doin this since the beginning! i do agree that putting “produced by _____” can make some people think that producer was involved, especially if it isnt a well known track, but other than that Im not against it. do i wanna hear some wack rapper go in over Exile’s “Radio”? probably not, but im not gonna tell him not to. now if he goes around saying “this project is produced by exile” then it’s wrong, but what if he says “this project is over all Exile beats”?

    Also, i wouldnt call some of the “instrumental projects” much more than beat tapes anyways…if it’s just a beat looping for 2minutes, it’s a damn beat tape! ieven if you’re not shopping those beats around it’s exactly the same thing you would send out to artists. i can see calling something like Exile’s radio an instrumental project because those tracks stand out on their own, but Blu’s joint was pretty much a beat tape.

    I agree that you shouldnt try to deceive people & make them think that you’re actually working with these artists, but i think it’s more of an issue of wording than the actual act. if you put something acknowledging that the song isnt original (like listing what the track originally was) then i think it would help some folks from getting confused.

  • d7778

    HELL YEA! Nicely said, can’t agree more. For example i’m tired of all these lame ass freestlyes over J.Dilla beats. I’m a beat maker and I make my beats for the fun of it, not for exposure or for the money just because I love it. You don’t know how many cat’s up on myspace destory my art with some weak lyrics, weak hooks, poor quailty recording.

  • Snarez

    hm… i know Young Blaze from Chi done some styles like that …
    produced by Lil Jon or Timbaland etc.

  • L’Daialogue

    (Shouts out to Justin…I’m just adding on…)

    Dear Kevin Nottingham,

    Hello again. This is L’Daialogue DiCaprio and I am an emcee from Memphis, Tennessee that has been a frequent contributor to your site and an avid reader also.

    I read the piece “Instrumental Albums Are NOT Free Beats!” and I wanted to add my 2 cents to the discussion.

    As the article said, I believe agree with people not taking beats of producers (established and non-established) and releasing them as a legitimate collaboration. For example: I also hate people that take 9th Wonder’s beats and throw that infamous “produced by 9th Wonder”-tag on the track. More often than not we find out that said emcee did not even bother to hit up 9th to say “make me hot, P!” They just took P’s pots and pans and did the cooking themselves. I am guilty of this, too.

    Earlier this year, 9th’s artist Tyler Woods had a track called “Prove Myself” and I made an UNOFFICIAL remix of the song and leaked it out to a few different websites and blogs. The purpose of this was more to get the track circulating in circles that he may (or may not) have gotten that press without an emcee on the track. Plus, I felt like it was a hot song.

    Did I let people know that this track was an UNOFFICIAL remix? Yes. It was up to the people that listened to the track to post it on their sites. I NEVER pressed up physical copies and as far as know it never went pass the internet (to my knowledge). But, I have gotten positive reviews from the song because they liked the different angle I took with the track and have gone on to support 9th Wonder, Tyler Woods and JAMLA because of this.

    Another producer that gets this treatment (unfairly might I add) is the producer J. Dilla. Half of these new tracks coming out (and that goes for everybody major, independent or otherwise) did not have a “living” J. Dilla stamp of approval. As much as I kick it with DJ Houseshoes in Los Angeles, this could never happen. He would kick me out of Fat Beats for trying to pass of a tape of J. Dilla production and I respect him for that. It’s thousands of people from Detroit to Los Angeles to Amsterdam that police’s Dilla beats. But, you have had people like Charles Hamilton tried to pass off his entire project (that was internet-based but could have eventually went retail) as a project produced by J. Dilla and that is beyond wrong. That is “if I see you at the show, I’ma kill you on site” wrong. But, I digress.

    I have put out many projects this past year and the one that I truly stepped out on a limb in this sense with is the Odd Daialogue tapes. These EP’s are derived from D.C. producer Oddisee’s “Odd Autumn” and “Odd Autumn” beat tapes. They were all straight instrumental projects and free on the internet for download.

    As soon as I finished these EP’s, I hit up Oddisee. I let him know that I dug his projects and he replied (via email): “Dope sh– homie, Glad to see artist digging the project enough to do something to it! Appreciate it and keep grinding!” So, I didn’t see it as a problem like I said on the intro of “Odd Daialogue 2”: Promotion goes both ways. People in my circles are going to get put on to Oddisee’s music/movement and vice versa. My intent was not to steal Oddisee’s music.

    I understand that emcees CANNOT mislead the general public into believing that they have collaborated with producers that (a.) they don’t know, (b.) they could never ever in a million years afford the beat (i.e. Dre, Neptunes, 9th Wonder, Primo etc.) or (c.) the producer is deceased (i.e. J-Dilla). Mixtapes are a whole different ballgame in that regard. Mixtapes have many producers’ beats on them but emcees are not SUPPOSED to be shopping those beats as retail projects.

    In the case of say of rapper/producer Kinfolk Kia Shine, he got paid because a prominent artist (Lil’ Wayne) rapped over an instrumental he produced. Then, another artist (Drake) sampled the mixtape song that Kia gave to Wayne for his lead single (Best I Ever Had). Kia Shine was even quoted as saying the check that he would be getting from that song would be “the best he’s ever had”.

    So, there are so many dimensions to this discussion because what happens if the said producer’s instrumental get the emcee a bigger break in the form of a record deal? That’s bad, right? But, what if a track used by an unknown emcee could give some producer a BIGGER break? I don’t think that many independent producers would turn down an opportunity like Kia Shine had.

    In conclusion, I respect all producers because I understand their struggles but this is not just a cut and dry discussion. For the emcees in the world, it should be a discussion of an old-school sort of etiquette about other people’s instrumentals. DON’T USE OTHER PEOPLE’S BEATS WITHOUT PERMISSION. But, to the producers in the world (especially the non-established beatsmiths), I wouldn’t put out too many beat tapes with so many hungry emcees looking for sonic landscapes to craft their rhymes over. Courtesy can only go so far when you have instrumental sets floating on these blogs and websites. So, the happy medium is for emcees to try to reach out to producers (email, phone or whatever) and producers to be more selective in the beats that they let out. Otherwise, the circle WILL continue and you will have more articles like these.


    p.s. InDAIpendent EP is coming! Produced entirely by MIDI Marc and I do have the okay from the producer to release the project lol.

  • Kevin

    Like many have said in the comments, this issue is not cut and dry… but it makes for a great discussion piece. Thanks to L’Daialogue for chiming in reference to his Odd Daialogue tapes. Like I said, I wasn’t putting you specifically on blast… glad to hear Oddisee blessed off on your projects.

  • SSP Soundz

    If done in the right manner and not a misleading representation of the instrumentals being used I can see where someone can get their artistry out there. The case above is obvious that its being done to gain some attention off of someone elses work and represented as their own original material, which is not cool! Kev, thx for posting up things such as these on the site. No other hip hop blogs really focus on things other than the obvious current events and/or gossip. Y’all do good work! Like hip hop, DON’T STOP !!!

  • Dom Corleone

    “I understand that emcees CANNOT mislead the general public into believing that they have collaborated with producers that (a.) they don’t know, (b.) they could never ever in a million years afford the beat (i.e. Dre, Neptunes, 9th Wonder, Primo etc.) or (c.) the producer is deceased (i.e. J-Dilla). Mixtapes are a whole different ballgame in that regard. Mixtapes have many producers’ beats on them but emcees are not SUPPOSED to be shopping those beats as retail projects. ”

    ‘Nuff said. If an MC is misleading in their promotion and trying to use it for personal gain, they are in the wrong. A rule of thumb should be to hit the producer up before-hand or just not try to use their name to promote your “remix” or whatever it is.

  • skeme

    DOPE post..L’DAIALOGUE well said

  • Drew

    These people need to chill… copyrights and laws are solid, but stop this ‘holier than thou’ approach to beat making. You ain’t shit and there are millions of producers out there. Be happy that you are admired and move on.

    Dont get me wrong, I looooove Damu, but damn everyone produces.. take your props, and if your upset make more beats and stop cryin. If your really upset, get a lawyer and stop crying on a blog.

    Mr. Empathetic

  • G.C.

    @Drew – Here’s something to think about. Pretend for the sake of argument you are a famous baker. Someone takes your recipe, adds a bunch of crap you never intended to be in your product, and sells it in their bakery as “Baked goods – recipe from Drew” to draw attention to their store. The product they are selling tastes like crap because it does not have the ingredients you intended. Do you want your name promoting that product?

  • G.C.

    Or their store for that matter?

  • Mr. Empathetic

    All you did was create an analogy…. Its still the same, lol. If I really cared about my name of goods/services I would copyright my Brand name or patent my product. If I don’t do these things I’m asking for trouble and shouldn’t cry when bad things happen to me. Rap is a hustle and survival of the fittest, no integrity anymore. If I remember… didn’t The Black Sunn take Damu beats AND state it on the back, how is that better then said rapper above?

    What about when 9th took Nas’ Lyrics, Jay’s Lyrics, everyone else’s lyrics? Did the lyricists APPROVE of the remix? How is this different? Does Nas need to write a letter to Kevin?

    Our idea of what is thievery all seems to be what we think is ‘hot or not’ and that seems subjective as shit.

    Example…. if this was a great remix we would be downloading it on Rapidshare and Bondongo with haste, and if bad we state an injustice. My argument is… Who really can state an injustice within an subjective field such as music?

  • Kevin

    In the case of Black Sunn, I personally know that he DID receive permission from Damu to do that project.

  • G.C.

    That’s a different situation (9th over acapellas). Those acapellas were released as acapella albums (e.g. Black Album), and even if they weren’t, it was very clearly stated that it was a remix project from previously released material. The problem is when and artist puts “produced by”, there is an implication that the artist and producer came to terms, linked up, the artist was provided with the beat from said producer and here is the result of this collaboration. This false implication is unethical, and your rationalization does not make it any less wrong imo.

  • Mr. Empathetic

    @Kevin… You got me lol, Black Sunn is a winner and he def don did good on that EP, the LP I didnt love as much.

    @G.C….. I definitely agree its unethical and I’m probably getting too philosophical here, but I just feel we cant really expect much from hip hop heads and I think a call to arms via a Blog wont do much. We could also discuss what it REALLY means to be “produced by,” because the literal definition simple states “____ produced this.”

    I suppose its just the life of the backpacker not catchin any funky dividends. Respect is all we have, I just don’t think everyone has it.. haha.

    Cheers fella’s… excuse my Devil’s advocate ways

  • Trackstar the DJ

    In 2009 its hard to tell MCs not to rap on beats they hear–its common practice, for better or worse. But one thing that will never be cool is lying, in any form, which includes misrepresenting someone’s involvement in your work.

    Death to Charles Hamilton (‘s career). For the Dilla shit, and for jacking Black Spade and refusing to admit he did:

  • jnota

    remember kevin, as we know, the best way to lose an argument online … is to argue online (thanks seth!). i appreciate you posting this article because its a topic that is NEVER discussed and as always this forum proves to be a great place for people to voice differing opinions.

    people can choose whatever side they see fit, its up to them to decide how the feel.

    GC- the baker analogy is on point. you nailed it.

    drew – you seem to have your mind made up already so im not really gonna try and counter what you put down here. you claim “you aint shit, take your props and move on” and then go on to say that you “love damu’s music” – i dont quite understand where you’re going with that train of thought but you’re entitled to feel that way. again, like gc said, if someone flipped something you worked on and attached your name, maybe you would feel otherwise. you made 1 valid point though – obviously if someone like NAS grabbed a damu beat and did something with it, our perspective on this would likely be different, but that is far from the case. one is good for biz, the other … not so much. to answer your question “Who really can state an injustice within an subjective field such as music?” – i feel anyone with ears can do so; the copyright owner can, the label can, the creator of the music can, the retailer can, and so can the audience member who was duped into listening to something by way of false advertising, which in this case would have been the tag “produced by damu”

    i dont believe there is anything “holier than thou” about this article and/or our take on people using producer’s beats without permission. creatives understand the perspective presented here. but hey, to each his own…

    and yes, for the record black sunn had the greenlight to create his project the way he did.

  • Aaron

    Damu for president!

  • G.C.

    I think we should come up with new terminology for this type of thing to alleviate confusion…what about “Interpolated from 9th Wonder” or something to signify it is a branch from, but not direct contact of, said producer. This would let the listener know it is rhyming over a beat and not a collaboration, and the listener would know exactly what they are getting into. Thoughts?

  • Duble

    As an emcee who has rhymed over beats from G.C, Dj Qvali, and S.2 (with permission) I would like to say good post. Personally, like others have stated, if the beat overshadows the artist, I will be checking for the artist and vice versa. IMO J. Dilla’s beats were good, but not good enough for people all over the world to police who raps over them. Charles Hamilton did some bitch shit, but hey, we all can’t be real. I make beats as well, (definitely not the greatest beats, but I do produce). I could care less if someone rapped over my beats and put it all over the net as produce by Pee Duble. To me that would would bring more attention to my name. Especially if the artist did a good job over them. If the artist was totally wack, the same will be said, “Why did he let this wack ass artist rap over his dope beats?” Either way, I believe that everyone wins in this situation (as long as the artist is not trying to make a buck off of the stolen beats). So like other’s have posted, I see both side to the story, because I have never heard about JNOTA until this article. I will look him up, just to see if the quality of his music, warrants such a letter. In this case HE still wins.

    “These are just MY thoughts ladies and gentlemen…” quoted by ??? I forgot. LOL

  • Black

    All rights reserved means absolutely nothing nowadays because the internet has no limitations. Rappers jack beats, producers jack acapellas and disguise them as “remix albums”. I don’t see these producers getting permission to place their beats behind people’s vocals. What’s the difference? Hell, websites will jack a random photo via Google and throw their tag on it. No disrepect to you Kevin but I highly doubt that you got permission to use the Mos Def photo at the top. It works the same on every level and very few people go through the proper channels or seek permission. No disrepect intended….just saying though!

  • fresh

    to me this sounds like the oxymoron that IS hiphop and taking someone elses work? Taking samples and mixing them up and creatin your own thing wit it …wtf??? not the same? Hiphop is filled with copyright bullshit am I wrong? this is so confusing, like there are vocal samples in tracks…. shit loads of different samples being used…………………

    I can understand doing a PROJECT and rapping over a beat and giving it out/selling it and attaching Damu’s name to it… which says that Damu was affiliated with said emcee.

  • P

    This is why the 4 elements of Hip Hop are emceeing, bboying, djing and graffiti and not beat making. Every other group of people in Hip Hop contribute to the culture in one way or another, they get together to jam and all vibe off the same thing but beatmakers put themselves on some self made pedestal and only take an interest in making a product out of a culture. Its just ridiculous and this completely goes against the whole foundation of rap music, do you really think that all the original artists your favorite emcees track was sampled from intended the recording to be used in the way it was? No, yet these “producers” have the audacity to complain at emcee’s rapping over their beats, now thats really gonna help the culture move forward isnt it. Only letting people with names rather than skills get on their beats, as usual with people who are in Hip Hop to make products its all about the money. Now dont get me wrong I do have respect for certain beatmakers who do do it for the culture and just to make art and im sure they wouldnt complain about nameless emcees getting on their tracks as when they were nameless dj’s and beatmakers they sampled popular breaks and sounds that hip hop dj’s used. However all this said I do dissagree with saying “produced by” in the context that the track was made for them, this is just deceptive to the listener.

  • Jav

    im not some big producer or anything but i’ve made ah few beats and put them up on you-tube and have had people make entirely new videos of the beat with them freestylin horribly might i add over my beats………then given me shoutouts like i want credit for it

    for me it’s not ah problem because no money is invovled and i’m ah noname producer but
    for guys like damu and Oddisee these dude are tarnishing there names…….

    but on the other hand 9th wonder has made mixtapes where he put mc’s like nas over his beats and the shit sounds butta so no one rly cares……

    but then again he doesnt make it seem as though nas is working with him

    alls I can say is doing wat dude did was very disrespectful

    and rly annoying………

  • DumbBaby

    I definitely understand where you guys are coming from. At the same time however, if you do want to get precious about your beats or instrumentals, make sure you havent essentially taken 8 seconds of someone elses song and added some snare drums and shit to it.. Cos there isnt a lot of original creation in that, you know what I mean? Did you play the piano, sing the hook, program the drums yourself on ‘your’ song? See what Im saying? But still everyone should respect everyone elses art, bottom line.

    CHECK OUT VICTORY ANXIETY ($200) OR SKELETON DANCE ($200) ON MY REVERBNATION PAGE.. Those are 100% original beats. Ive played every note on those and therefore they are completely cleared for commercial use. UNLIKE 90% of beat tapes! Hit me up and you can buy them outright, along with all their rights. Plus a million more I havent put there for fear of what you guys are talking about! Or hit me me up and you can just use them for free… lol

    btw.. I think hamilton was just doing a concept thing with the dilla beats.. he never tried to sell them and if your not selling someones work you can kind of do what you want with it.. we may not like it when someone uses our shit and degrades it but if theyre not selling it, we just have to accept it.. Doesnt mean its cool mind you, just cant be stopped. Have a good one peeps!

  • Happy Walters

    i agree but its also helps the MC get out there nad more ppl will listen to the song if they think its produced by the PRODUCER they say which technically it is …i think if they say PRODUCED BY they should say UNOFFICALLY PRODUCED BY whoever…thats what i do…

  • MaG

    Just to keep it 100…i dun rapped and wrote to so many artists using their beat tapes its ridiculous…no one knew who I was or cared to know and nobody wanted to send me beats unless I had a buzz or name attached….i would reach out to cats with no response and as an emcee when all you got is a myspace and maaaaybe a facebook but no email and you’re dealing with a dude who gets about 100 messages a day and you got a project you got to release you feel stranded

    For my FREE (I say this cause I made NO money off of this project…none…and I wouldn’t have treied to cause I had JDilla and Large Professor and Dert tracks on the project tht they worked hard on and actually sold to the public) LP I had jdilla, large professor, and dert tracks…i reached out to both large and dert but no response….but i didn’t use limewire for the beats. I went to itunes and purchased the instrumentals…i gave them credit on the album but didn’t mention their names in the marketing and promotion because I knew that was a tsraight out lie. A dude like small professor was real cool abt the whole situation and let me use the beats he had on his remix albums….

    i agree wholeheartedly…you def need to at least reach out to the camp…i reached out to a well known producer and he was real upfront and jst told me his mgmt woldn’t allow it…i had recorded to the tracks and I even sent them to him…and I understoood it…i also understood tht if I was a bigger name or a bigger draw it wouldn’t have been a problem. I feel like you you SHOULD give credit but dont take it…when you hear the dilla and large pro tracks you KNOW those joints were off their albums…and if anybody asks I’ll be quik to tell them…i think this was a great article Kev cause even for me the lines get blurry….i hope King Divine reads this cause there r sum joints on his beattape i wanna use and i haven’t gotten a response yet lol

  • http://DXARMY.COM Sunny

    emcees need to get their own beats.


    I have used alot of producers beats off of instrumental albums. especially flying lotus.
    I’ve credited them but put REMIX next to their name.
    and I’ve NEVER SOLD a song i didnt have permission to use.

    most times tho, i contact the producer and send them the song and tell them i have the intention of releasing this for FREE and they love it right away.

    then again, I AM ME.


    if that doesnt work, I rely on my beat folders from Illmind, Oddisee, 88-Keys, Ski Beatz, Dj Spinna, Kev Brown, etc. Ha! Good to have beatmaker friends in high places. If not, just ask, if you’ve been doing your thing and making noteworthy advances it could be mutually beneficial for both parties involved. especially if you UNDOUBTEDLY ripped it. no producer is gonna front on that. still tho- HIT THEM UP and ask for permission.


  • Justin

    lol well said Fresh. Whatchu got in store for us in 2010?

  • Remot

    using other peoples music is such a touchy subject in hip hop. If i were an emcee, i personally wouldn’t be rapping over Donuts or other previously released instros, just cuz id rather put something completely new out there. not to say that it can’t be done right, i love a lot of freestyles and ‘remixes’ over old beats

    but producers getting mad about this is silly, unless the artists in question are making some sort of profit with their beats. How much of a hypocrite are u, when u sample hundreds and hundreds of artists, usually not giving them credit (cough, 9th), then turn around and get mad cuz rappers use your beats for a free mixtape?

  • ALMA


  • Kid Captain Coolout

    You can’t stop this… and it’s sad to say it guys but, the laws of Hip-Hop are dead and gone. This issue will become a standard act as more new artists emerge and the problem stems from the mix-tape. These days, cats don’t even get clearance from artists for those anymore. But who’s really complaining? Whether you’re reselling someone’s retail music or giving it away for free… there are ten times as many people in line who are waiting to do the same.

  • GNX Music

    One of the reasons so many mixtapes sound like shit is every one of these wanna be rappers thinks they know what there doing. Now if you actual work with the producer who did the track and let him “produce” the song its going to sound a lot better. Either that or they will tell you that you suck and shouldnt be rapping.

    The idea of mixtapes was much hotter when it was DJ’s doping mixes. All the mixtapes out now are basically all really shitty excuses for demos and in the meantime people can look cool around the hood and say they are about to get on with …..

    To all the artists wanting a career in rapping.. here is some free advice. Get a team of people that know what they are doing. Not the team of people you smoke weed with and call your “indie label” . You will have to pay people that actually know what they are doing.
    Make some good music, get it mixed, make sure you can get your samples cleared.
    Release it on itunes. Now do your promotion. In case your wondering that costs too. And that is how people get radio play, publicity, marketing, shows and sales. Not by handing out CDS to their people. Even if you doing that to “get a buzz” you should already have a good album in place that is available for sale so when people look for you they can do the right thing and support your music.

  • GNX Music

    BTW… Check out the Harry Fox Agency for more information on clearing samples. For most stuff it is a lot easier then it used to be.

  • drew t

    if producers want to release beats for free, in mp3 form, on the internet, and expect people not to use them, they must be crazy.

    if they want all the shit out in the open, as far as permission to use x,y,z beat…producers may want to start contacting the artists THEY sample and steal from,

    99% of producers dont pay the artists they sample. cant have your cake and eat it too, fellas.

    this is a case of the kettle calling the pot black.

  • Michael Stover

    I’ll admit I’m an emcee that has done this, but the question I have to ask is in a music industry where buying beats is extremely expensive, what are emcees supposed to do. I understand the whole tagging the producer as though you worked him (that doesn’t make sense), I see where producers are coming from with the whole using their beats. I just wonder what emcees that don’t have money, but still have a passion to make music are supposed to do.

  • Kid Captain Coolout

    @ Michael – building a cashless rapport with producers you don’t know could be a struggle. But if you’re honest and genuine about your purpose… and have a practiced skill level, you should be able to find your way. There are tons of undiscovered producers who may only have one, two or no MC’s to work with. I’d start somewhere along the lines of listening to all of the free-downloads that you see daily. If you hear tracks on an album where you like the production, write that producer’s name down and the tracks from the album you heard them on. Continue doing this until you’ve come up with at least 20 names… and then Google those names if they haven’t left any contact info on the download text. Find out the most you can about a producer before you contact him/her. Most of them already have blogs, websites, MySpace, Bandcamp or Soundcloud pages. After you’ve found out all that you could on your own… contact them and let em know where you stand honestly, passionately and financially.

  • Emay

    thanks for posting this man. i recently released an instrumental album called emay, karen o, and the kids like more than a month ago and some people used it without my consent. i wasn’t mad, because as being a rapper/producer i know how it feels on both ends when you’re motivated to do something. the thing that gets me mad is when (like kev said) when they’re shouting out dudes that’ve never associated with them before. it just makes me feel sorry for them. i don’t mind seeing mc’s spit over beats when they’re doing mixtapes, because it’s a great way for them to exercise their abilities. but….. when somebody drops an album and their jacking beats it’s pretty wack in my opinion.

  • J. Bizness

    Rappers like to rap.
    One simple solution would be for labels and producers to hold off on releasing instrumental compilations. Another solution would be for folks to tag their instrumentals.
    That’s always an effective deterrent in my experience.
    Though I feel like these solutions won’t eliminate the problem, they will probably help.

  • Emay

    @J. Bizness
    I don’t think producers should have to tag an instrumental album. haha. It would take away from listening to the project. An instrumental album and a beat tape are different things. A beat tape is usually intended for rappers to spit on and is sometimes tagged. An instrumental album is meant to be listened to as you’d listen to any other album. Listening to an instrumental album by Bonobo with tags on it wouldn’t be attractive at all. I think us producers need to suck it up, and that rappers should use whatever they feel as long as they don’t sell it, and it sounds dope.

  • J. Bizness


    I NEVER said that producers should HAVE to tag beats. It’s personal preference. As far as a “beat tapes” & instrumental LPs, the only difference that I can think of is arrangement. I mean… They’re ALL beats. I agree: tags are not attractive, but they keep a good amount of people away. As a beat-maker myself, I could care less about a rapper complaining about the tags. I’ve done it before. If a rapper wants a beat, it only makes sense to contact the producer. I also agree when you say that producers should suck it up because like I said – Rappers rap. Why would producers expect anything less? I feel it’s kinda egotistical in a way for producers to get mad at people rapping over beats that they release (free or otherwise). Another solution would be for producers to charge for instrumental LPs or “beat CDs” alike. In fact – most “beat CDs” were exclusive to buying artists. The fact is: beats get leaked. Back to my original point – If people rapping over your music bothers you, tag your beats or stop releasing free material.

  • Emay

    @J. Bizness

    True true, I see what you’re saying for sure man. Arrangement is definitely a big part of an instrumental album. Concept is also a main part of it. That’s a good point about selling beat CD’s to. We shouldn’t complain at all I think. Especially those of us that sample without the permission of whomever we’re sampling. We’d be hypocrites haha.

  • K-RooL

    Umm, so is it ok if I record a song on an instrumental and put it for example on myspace?
    Of course I’m not about to promote the track as produced by ______ or stuff like that. And I’m definetly not getting paid for it. lol. It’s just that I like rapping.:D

  • Jimminy Spittit

    So basically If I want to use an instrumental and release the track as my own I have to ask the producer, I’m confused what is wrong with this if your not saying that you worked with the producer himself, what on the mixtape I say “rapped on instrumental ______”

  • Corsico

    Well written.

    That being said, whether it was ‘borrowed’ or not, saying the track was produced by [insert producer here] isn’t wrong, technically. Is it proper business? No. But you get the point….

  • Dj ILL ONE

    This is the very thing that producers like Dj Houseshoes has been confronting people via the web about for a while now. I agree wholeheartedly. If you get permission from the artists,that actually could be a very good thing. You never know,you might just be able to work with them in the future. Emcees need to go through the proper channels,or just stop being cheap and pay for a quality track.

  • Journeybrave

    Yo, I’m guilty of this too, but hey it’s hip-hop. These cats built their careers on sampling and the fact of the matter is unknown emcee’s aren’t really getting any true shine from rhyming on their tracks anyway. It’s still hard work for the independent emcee and the producer. I could see if 9th wonder or Damu were lower tier unknowns that had dope beats and someone just jacked them for it, but these cats are well known. They have deals with budgets!!! I don’t even have 1000 friends on facebook, so what does it hurt them if I rock over their beat. They’re getting money, I’m barely getting plays! I say they need to get off their high horses and remember how they got into the business and better yet how they cultivated their “love” for “producing”. They went into a crate, picked out an album(with no permission), found a loop or chopped up a sample, added some drums and then added their name next to “Produced by…” These cats are crying for nothing, they’re spoiled, and hypocritical. I understand the branding aspect and that they don’t want to be associated with bullshit, but they aren’t!!! Their brand is established and can’t be tarnished by some random lower tier unknown emcee (like myself). I took a 9th beat and killed it, plus put some powerful visuals with it which actually enhanced his track but that’s just a matter of perspective. At the end of the day, this business is about popularity which translates into $$$ and as long as you aren’t taking away from someones money I think you’re good.

    -Journey Brave

  • Praverb the Wyse

    This is common with up and comers who unfortunately utilize the technique as a marketing ploy to generate interest. The ploy affects artists who actually work with the beat makers directly. I believe that a lot of beat makers in this world crave and need exposure. Emcees should try to reach out to these up and coming beat makers and create original music. Great article Kevin!


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