J. Cole is arguably one of the most important voices in hip hop today. He has a long history of speaking out about issues from poverty, to violence, to depression in his rap and has gained a cult following from fans interested in his authentic and positive message.
On December 9th 2014 J. Cole released his third studio album “2014 Forest Hills Drive”. In the song’s outro track “Note to Self” J. Cole voices his opposition to current copyright law. “Y’all be tryin’ to give a n*gga a hard time on the samples, man! I’ma go to the f*ckin’ Supreme Court and try to make this shit easier for n*ggas like me to clear these samples, man”. Not only is J. Cole cognizant of the fact that the legality of sampling is currently decided by the courts, and not the written law, but he goes on discuss compulsory licenses. “I’ma pay you, I’ma give you a percentage, but you shouldn’t be able to tell me I can’t use it …that’s f*cked up n*gga.” Here J. Cole is alluding to the fact that cover bands (and other artists) can pay a small set fee to receive a compulsory “mechanical license” that allows them to make cover songs, but there is no such protection to ensure hip hop artists have the right to sample.
J. Cole closes out by making the moral argument that “You was inspired by the world, allow the world to be inspired by you…”
It’s always great to hear commentary about the state of copyright law straight from hip hop artists themselves and it’s even more exiting that this commentary is now immortalized by being recorded into a hip hop record.
Snippet from J. Cole’s “Note to Self”
“And all the mothafuckin’ samples that cleared, thank you, y’all be tryin’ to give a nigga a hard time on the samples, man!
I’ma go to the fuckin’ Supreme Court and try to make this shit easier for niggas like me to clear these samples, man. If you made the fuckin’ music, and you made the art, and you put it into the world, I should be able to use it however the fuck I want.
I’ma pay you, I’ma give you a percentage, but you shouldn’t be able to tell me I can’t use it. Ya, that’s fuckin’… that’s fucked up nigga. You was inspired by the world; allow the world to be inspired by your shit and to use your shit.
So all them people like [*censored*] or whoever that don’t let niggas use they shit, fuck that man. It’s 2014, 2015 by the time you might hear this shit. Fuck that man we movin’ on.”