21/11/2009

Rakim works with Bassi Maestro on track from "The Seventh Seal"


We couldn't believe our eyes when we saw an Italian producer/emcee, Bassi Maestro, being credited for producing "Working for You" on Rakim's new album, "The Seventh Seal"...a chance for Italian hip hop to be launched to the heights of worldwide fame and respect...and at the same time a huge honour, crafting a beat for one of the best emcees ever.

But it was all more complicated than that, as we learned by reading Bassi Maestro's blog. Apparently the beat was on a cd left by Bassi Maestro in NY, it travelled far from hand to hand and eventually ended infront of Rakim. Loving the beat but not knowing who the producer was, Rakim decided to use it anyways and leave the credits blank on the album.

Of course, Bassi Maestro found out. Unsurprisingly. The Seventh Seal being such a high profile release made it highly unlikely for the beat to remain creditless for long. What ensued was a an explosion of debates online on various forums and blogs, and the ultimate move by most sites and Wikipedia to give Bassi Maestro his fair credit.

This is a complex one, and affects all beatmakers who give away their beats for free online or to emcees on cds. There is a lot of "heat" around the subject on Italian and American forums, both interestingly arguing opposite views ("Americans are thieves! vs Italians stop whining!"). However in our view, these are the really important things to keep in mind about this story:

1. Moral obligations
- None of us know what really happened, if we however take the above version of the story to be the truth, a creditless beat shouldn't be used on an album. Not for the royalties, but for the simple reason that credit should be given where credit is due.

2. Protect yourself
- Yes, easily said now, but this is vital. Performing rights association protection is the legal way to do it, otherwise tagging beats is a valid practical alternative. Of course, in the excitement of promoting your beats the last thing that comes to mind is that Rakim may end up using them without giving you credit, but that's the way the world turns and the unlikeliest of things can happen.

3. But actually, it's not that bad
- Unfair, irritating, enraging, sad...yes...but once the dust settles and you get over these emotions you start looking at the bigger picture. Italian hip hop is now at the forefront of the global scene and Bassi Maestro is at the heart of it. Stealing and/or imitation is the biggest form of flattery, the beat must have therefore been truly irresistible for a hip hop veteran such as Rakim to use it on his album. Is that not a huge compliment and boost? And also, Bassi Maestro is most definitely on his way now to many more high profile international hip hop projects with some of the best artists in the world thanks to this mishap...the future is bright for him and Italian hip hop.

So in conclusion, lets take a positive look at things. Rakim will no doubt appreciate he made a mistake (we seriously hope so...) , the credit will be officially given to Bassi Maestro and this will hopefully lead to many new and wonderful international collabos. Not sure if any money will ever exchange hands for this beat, but wouldn't any up and coming producer be happy to let one of the best lyricists ever flow for free over his instrumentals? Not for cash, but just for the love of hip hop?

Rakim is not going to make millions from his album, it's an underground release, so lets just hope that both parties reach an amicable artistic agreement; and that this is just the beginning of a series of great things to come.

PS
Could not resist mentioning this...but is it not ironic that this has caused such a stir in the world of a musical genre that strives on "borrowing" (aka sampling) other people's music, often without giving the original artist any credit...? What if the artist sampled by Bassi Maestro on the beat steps up and demands royalties?? Now that would be a tricky one...

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Below are the two versions of the beat, Bassi Maestro's original from 2004 and Working from You by Rakim from 2009







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