Know Your (Copy)Rights: Predicting The Sampling Fallout From “Paper Planes”

September 18, 2008

As the rap world's fascination with MIA's "Paper Planes" and the parade of "remixes" featuring the likes of 50 Cent, Jim Jones and Freeway (possibly) starts to subside, we've been thinking about why more hip-hop producer's haven't sampled The Clash, whose "Straight To Hell" is the basis of Diplo's beat. After the jump, FADER editors Eric Ducker and Eddie "Stats" Houghton discuss over instant messenger what the beatmakers have been missing, who probably blew it and whether you'll be hearing the harmonica from "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" on Myrtle Ave. any time soon.

Eric Ducker: Let me just fire up the iTunes and put The Clash on shuffle.

Eddie Stats: Word. Let me get my Clash coffee table book, so I can drop random facts.

ED: Okay, my first question is: why haven’t more people sampled The Clash?

ES: Good question. I have no fucking clue, except that maybe it’s hard to clear? Or at least that’s what I assumed until “Paper Planes” came out. I would think Simonon and Jones would be easy sells

ED: I can’t imagine they would take a Rolling Stones/Beatles/Barry White anti-rap stance.

ES: Maybe you have to get clearance from CBS or some kind of Bernie Rhodes/ Joe Strummer estate combine. That’s the only good excuse I can think of.

ED: Yeah, I don’t think they would not clear things from an artistic standpoint, money could be the only issue, because the only people who really have sampled them before “Paper Planes” were Will Smith and Ice Cube & Mack 10.

ES: Will Smith! I forgot about that. It must be a money thing. I always got the feeling The Clash didn’t make too much money when they were “alive.” They basically took a loss with Sandinista and London Calling by doing double and triple LPs for the price of one.

ED: But isn’t that like the opposite thinking of the Tom Tom Club who will basically let anyone sample “Genius of Love” as long as it’s not super offensive, because that way they can make money on it?

ES: I think it’s like if you want to sample “Guns of Brixton” you probably have to pay off all their debts to CBS, including hotel rooms Topper Headon trashed in 1980 that still aren’t paid for.

So wait, let’s review the short list: Ice Cube & Mack 10, Will Smith and MIA?

ED: And you said Mos Def sampled “Magnificent Seven,” right?

ES: That’s correct, although it was more of a mash-up than a sample. It sounds like a DJ is coasting the “Magnificent Dance” bonus beats while he is rapping.

ED: But Ice Cube & Mack 10/Will Smith/MIA all sampled songs from Combat Rock, and there is plenty of other material on that album that is good sample fodder. And you’d think most DJs/producers would have that album because of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Rock the Casbah,” which could potentially take them down other Clash roads as well.

ES: I’m saying, it must be money because Combat Rock might as well be called Steal This Record. It can’t be that nobody has thought of it. Dudes have sampled Can for crying out loud. I mean by the time I left art school I had looped up “Justice Tonight” and “Guns of Brixton” on the sampler in the video editing suite. I know I’m not the only art school DJ who thought of that shit.

ED: So if money wasn’t an issue, do you think those are the most neglected sample sources from The Clash?

ES: “Guns of Brixton” might be number one, I think. I mean it basically sounds like Mobb Deep already. It is one Prodigy verse away from being “Shook Ones, Pt. 0”

ED: You should make a Free Prodigy mixtape and have him rap a verse over it from the prison pay phone.

ES: Note to self...

ED: The closest I guess we’ve come to someone using “Guns of Brixton” publicly is Santogold doing “Guns of Brooklyn” on that new mixtape of hers

ES: I was gunna mention that. It’s amazing, but it’s like a whole other thread of the punk-reggae/two-tone aesthetic being revived in the electronic age:

Santogold/Natty/De Tropix/Vampire Weekend/MIA/Adrian Orange etc etc. And that for sure is going to be a mixtape! Called 2Tone. Maybe Paint the White House 2Tone, if I can bust it out before election times.

ED: I’d cop it

ES: It’s kind of amazing that even in the ‘97 era of ‘80s samples nobody did more with The Clash, like Duran Duran’s “Notorious” and Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”?

ED: I could imagine Missy going over “Radio Clash” in like 2002

ES: Diddy, Clef and Timb all sampled The Police, is that any easier to clear? It must be a C-O-N-spiracy

ED: Here’s where the conspiracy gets deeper: Combat Rock is obviously a hip-hop influenced album. Do you think the Clash could conceive that maybe it would get sampled one day?

ES: Yeah, I can totally imagine them fantasizing about it, Mick Jones anyway. He was kind of a sampling pioneer with B.A.D.

ED: Explain to a non-producer like me what about The Clash’s music makes it attractive to sample?

ES: Well, beats for one thing, especially off-beat beats. Like the crazy thing about “Paper Planes” is that it doesn’t use Topper Headon’s crazy drumming/percussion, which is like Vietnamese bossa nova with echo on it. It’s already so Timbaland!

So let’s review the greatest misses:

1. “Guns of Brixton” (shame on u Havok and Prodigy)

2. Straight to Hell" (good for MIA, but not used to its full potential)

3. "Ghetto Defendant" (could be a Clef style reggae joint or with an 808 double-time snap beat)

ED: God, even the titles sound like they should be rap songs.

ES: He said, The ghetto prince of gutter poets/ Was bounced out of the roooom, or something like that.

ED: Strangely, I don’t think any rap producer would be overpowered by the funk of “Overpowered By Funk.”

ES: Underwhelmed by the funk.

4. “Justice Tonight/Kick it Over” aka the dub version of “Armagideon Time.” Note to rappers: should be used with a vocal sample of Nas from Illmatic saying, Time to start the revolution.

ED: I think the intro to “Car Jamming” is pretty jamming, maybe even slowed down a little.

ES: “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais”! (The harmonica part.)

ED: I think frat rappers should be all over “Train in Vain (Stand By Me).”

ES: True, at the white boy club singing, Hey now...etc.

There’s probably a ton of stuff on Sandinista, but I don’t know those as well.

ED: That's like the Gravity's Rainbow of punk albums. I don't know if anyone really knows it well.

ES: Those could actually use some redemption, as opposed to the ones we’re naming which it’s questionable that you could ever top

ED: Someone could do something smarter with “The Magnificent Seven.”

ES: Definitely. I feel like there probably is a Mr. Magic tape of the Cold Crush rapping over it in some yard sale in Queens.

ED: I wonder if the members of The Clash consider “The Magnificent Seven” getting played on American black radio the highlight of their career?

ES: I think maybe so, yeah. Again I think Mick Jones was basically the first white rapper, maybe pre-Blondie even.

ED: With Debbie Harry it’s like she’s speaking a foreign language phonetically, which is great in its own way, but it’s not the same.

ES: Wow, somebody just drove by on Myrtle Ave. blasting “Paper Planes.” I hear the MIA sample on “Swagger Like Us” getting a lot of play on the Myrtle Ave jeep-meter, too

ED: To wrap this up, do you predict more Clash-sampling songs in the near future? Will the allure of big payments be too much more the band to turn down, if that in fact is the issue?

ES: There will be more, but they will probably be either 1) superstars who can afford it (like Kanye or Jay) or 2) uncleared white label/mixtape joints,
and no middle ground, i.e. no Prodigy, sadly.

Know Your (Copy)Rights: Predicting The Sampling Fallout From “Paper Planes”