A sample troll is stalking Jay-Z over Run This Town, claiming the rapper’s 2009 hit from Blueprint 3 uses sounds from a 1969 track called Hook and Sling by the late pianist Eddie Bo.
A lawsuit, filed in New York federal court, claims that Run this Town uses sounds from Hook and Sling dozens of times, and asks for profits from Jay-Z and his record labels, and an order prohibiting the rapper from distributing the song.
So who exactly filed the lawsuit? Good question. The plaintiff is a company called TufAmerica, which is the same classy outfit that sued the Beastie Boys last year on the same day that one member of the trio, MCA, passed away.
As the New York Times explained, Tuf America “has made a business out of buying the rights to old songs and suing artists who sample them without permission.” A similar type of company is responsible for the highly-publicized lawsuit over Robin Thicke’s summer hit Blurred Lines.
In the bigger pictures, the cases represent a resurgence of the legal forces that chill artistic expression and that almost smothered hip-hop in the 1990’s. As scholars have noted, the cost of clearing sample would make it near impossible today for groups like the Beastie Boys to make sample-based masterpieces like 1989’s Paul’s Boutique.
The new lawsuit (below) may also trigger a debate over whether musicians like Jay-Z aka Shawn Carter are “stealing.” You can decide for yourself; here’s the two songs — and keep in mind any profits from this lawsuit are likely to trickle to investors and lawyers rather than musicians or Eddie Bo’s heirs.
Here’s Jay-Z performing Run this Town with Kanye West and Rhianna:
And here’s Eddie Bo playing Hook and Sling: