I have a paragraph in my forthcoming book (did I mention I have a forthcoming book? I have a forthcoming book. It’s a book I’m writing. And it’s forthcoming), Posthuman Pop, where I use Mos Def’s “The Rape Over” as an example of hegemony profiting from critique. The tl;dr is that Mos Def writes a(n anti-Semitic, homophobic…anybody wanna talk about what’s conscious in conscious rap? anybody?) song about how “old white men” and “corporate force” are “runnin this rap shit,” and then he releases it through Rawkus Records, owned and distributed in 2004 by Geffen, a division of Universal, the quintessential “corporate force” run by “old white men.” ie, it’s in Universal’s best interest for this song to exist because 1) they make money off of it, and 2) how bad can things be when someone can excoriate the so-called powerful record industry, huh? (answer: bad, but you’ll have to read the book or wait for the other blog post to get the parallel with how multiculturalism works in neoliberal society). Universal is afforded the room to be more evil in its dealings by giving “voice” to artists who call it out. Let’s call it the Benevolent Bad.
But that’s not the point of this post.
I was curious about how the writing credits for “The Rape Over” got shared. Kanye produced both it and “The Takeover,” the 2001 Jay Z song whose sample runs through “The Rape Over.” And because this is early 00s Yeezy, “The Takeover” includes a bajillion samples; the one that shows up in “The Rape Over” is from the Doors’ “5 to 1.” Kanye and Jay Z would’ve been working under Roc-A-Fella, another Universal division, but the Doors were with Elektra, a Warner subsidiary. So I’m looking up ASCAP writing credits in the interest of seeing whether Mos Def is hustling for Universal and Warner.
Turns out: just Warner. Somehow, “The Takeover” got clearances for KRS-One’s “Sound of da Police” (which includes a sample of Grand Funk Railroad covering the Animals covering a folk song they heard from an Alan Lomax recording….you know what, Ethan Hein can cover this for you) and the Doors’ “5 to 1” so that the writing credits are hilariously long. (the rest of the samples may or may not have been cleared; if they were, it must’ve happened as a one-time payout instead of writing credits)
But “The Rape Over”…..it belongs entirely to the Doors.
Which is weird because, well, they didn’t write it all. And their part is filtered through the production techniques Kanye applied. And Kanye was there when “Takeover” happened and, I mean we all are familiar with is ego but surely he remembered that wasn’t his song. My basic google skills haven’t turned up a lawsuit, so my best guess is that for reasons that are beyond me, “The Rape Over” didn’t clear the Doors sample, then everyone got busted, and they just handed over 100% authorship because they knew they were doomed in a court ruling after “The Takeover” had already acknowledged the Doors’ contribution, and giving up the song is cheaper than giving up the song and paying all those legal fees.
Anyway, yeah, Mos Def really stuck it to the man, huh?