Syl Johnson's not feeling "The Joy" | Bleader

Syl Johnson's not feeling "The Joy"

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Syl Johnson samples a cookie
  • Syl Johnson samples a cookie
Back in August when Jay-Z and Kanye dropped Watch the Throne the folks over at local label Numero Group noticed that the track "The Joy" featured a sample from "Different Strokes" by Chicago soul legend Syl Johnson, with whom they've worked on a number of projects including a massive, career-spanning box set the label released a year ago. (And who Peter Margasak profiled in the Reader around the same time.) Kanye had previously expressed interest in using "Different Strokes"—one of hip-hop's favorite sample sources—on last year's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and had even cleared the use with Johnson, but the track in question didn't make the Deluxe Edition cut as originally intended. Kanye might actually have owed Johnson money anyway but Johnson didn't pursue the matter, and it seemed to have faded away.

Then Throne came out with a liner note indicating that Numero had cleared the use of "Different Strokes" which in a blog post—since deleted—they indicated that a) no they didn't, and b) they don't own Johnson's publishing and therefore don't have the power to clear samples of Johnson's material. Word's getting around today that Johnson's taking Jay and Ye to court.

I'm personally a huge fan of Throne, and of sampling culture in general, but it's hard to see Johnson as being anything but the wronged party here. He's no intellectual property troll, and the money from clearing samples—or, commonly, suing samplers after the fact—is for a lot of musicians of his generation and level of popularity really the only way to make money from their music.

I reached out to Numero for a comment but they're staying silent on the matter for now. If you want to hear their views on the illicit sampling of their catalog you can check out this post from last month that takes Big K.R.I.T., Curren$y, and a number of other currently hot rappers to task for doing so.

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