Hello, and welcome to the Fourth edition of Cypher Sessions; this post will be exploring Lupe Fiasco’s newest track “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)”, which does a little more than just samples Pete Rock’s classic track “They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y)”. We will also be looking into how this could of happened (hint: ownership of the song may or may not have been in Pete’s possession), and the benefits and downsides of this happening, and will it become a future trend? But first, let’s get into what happened.
So for those of you who are (like myself) impatiently awaiting “Food and Liquor II: Pt.1” from Lupe, set to drop September 25th, you know that Lupe released what is supposed to be the first single off the album “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free) this past Tuesday. You also may or may not (depending on your level of Hip Hop knowledge) a similarity (see: understatement) between Lu’s track and a track by one Pete Rock. We could argue for hours if not days about this, but make no qualms, the beat for Fiasco’s new track is basically the same beat for T.R.O.Y. If you don’t believe me, let’s listen below and let the music speak for itself.
First, Lupe’s new track: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S77zUWqawag
And now, Pete Rock & CL Smooth’s classic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BONgL61snlM
There’s not really any denying that Lupe and his crew decided to take the track and give it a new look. As many interviews have indicated, Pete Rock was not happy with this occurrence at all. What’s even more interesting though are two things that give Lupe and his people some validity in their argument (although it definitely begrudges me to say that in some ways). First off, Lupe and his people called Pete Rock back in November to get his support; Pete didn’t go for it. Secondly, and more importantly, Pete Rock doesn’t own rights to the song, as he sampled it from Tom Scott, who created the original track, and actually signed off on the usage by Lu and his people (see: Lupe-Pete Rock Issue not resolved). This raises a couple of questions, and also really asks us as passionate Hip Hop heads to look into this issue from both views, and not whoever one may be more of a fan of.
The first big question that really comes to mind is, how do you even decide who is in the right, and who is in the wrong (if there even is a right or wrong in this situation)? As a huge fan of both Lupe and Pete, I have a couple of benefits and downsides to this whole scenario happening. First, as an Old School/Underground Hip Hop head, it seems like Pete would be right in not being happy about this track being “rebooted” if you will, because it is a classic and it has impacted a generation of Hip Hop listeners, fans, and music industry people as a whole. IF Pete didn’t want the track redone, then out of respect of the artist’s wishes, this song shouldn’t of happened. But, since it did happen, this leads me to my next downside and benefit.
This is obviously a benefit for not only allowing Lupe to revamp a classic song and add to his already exceptional legacy, but it helps out his team and more importantly, Atlantic Records. This definitely has the feel of an Atlantic move, with their often strategic moves that are intended to cash in as much as possible. That’s why this second point is such a conflicting one for this Hip Hop head. I’m sure Lupe sincerely really was trying to pay homage to a classic song and one of the greatest producers and groups ever to get on the 1’s and 2’s and spit on a microphone. However, with the way it’s been covered in the press, and the way Pete Rock’s tweets have been taken as gospel, it hasn’t been seen as such. And, being one for hearing both sides of the story, I want to briefly investigate this.
Pete Rock definitely has every right to be upset about this sequence of events. However, he also has a right (and some might say, a duty) to be angry with himself, and here’s why. If you create one of the signature songs IN Hip Hop, you should do everything in your power to make sure you have legal rights over your own intellectual property. Granted, T.R.O.Y was made back in a time when sampling didn’t really have a definitive space within the legal realm, and there really wasn’t so much red tape around who owned what. Unfortunately, one of the evolutions of Hip Hop over time has been the legalities of it all, and making sure that one has their intellectually protected in more than just verbal declarations. As an upstart in the Hip Hop game myself, one thing that I unfortunately tend to think of is the business-side of things, where if my producers and I are going to release a song, and there’s any part of it that could get us into legal trouble, we tend to think of putting it on a mixtape or a free release. As an artist from back in the day, at the time they didn’t HAVE to think about that. Unfortunately, now you do, with everything that you put out. That’s why it’s so difficult to take either side, because these are artists from different times, with different understandings and different foundations of knowledge with regard to how music works legally.
All we can hope for is that things get resolved, and that this doesn’t become a trend, where classic songs are revamped and drama arises because of it.
Thanks for catching this week’s Cypher Sessions, and if you want to leave your take on the Lupe-Pete Rock situation, please comment below and let me know what you think. Also, feel free to share with anyone you think would be interested in one of the freshest takes on Hip Hop around.