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1- "All Samples Cleared!": Hip-Hop Sampling Aesthetics and the Legacy of Grand Upright v. Warner - Claire McLeish, McGill University

9:00 AM, Sunday 26 May 2019 (2 hours)
Coffee break   11:00 AM to 11:30 AM (30 minutes)
In 1991, Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Biz Markie for sampling his song “Alone Again (Naturally),” in Markie’s rap, “Alone Again.” This lawsuit, Grand Upright v. Warner, became a landmark case for music copyright, and for some scholars, represented a symbolic end to hip-hop’s golden age. This paper uses the lawsuit and its legacy as points of entry into debates about hip-hop during a time of aesthetic transformation. Specifically, I present a corpus study spanning 1988 to 1993, consisting of hip-hop songs of various subgenres drawn from Billboard charts. Unlike previous studies on this period, I consider both canonical artists, whose mastery of sampling is widely admired (such as Public Enemy and De La Soul), and more commercially successful artists (like MC Hammer, and Sir Mix-A-Lot), who typically used fewer samples. My corpus study reveals an overall decline in the average number of samples per song, and a radical shift in how these samples are used. I situate my claims within the broader discourse of hip-hop historiography, as well as the intersections of legal institutions and musical aesthetics.
McGill University
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