Reading the piece by Sarah Hankins was interesting for me since I knew some of the songs mentioned. One of the examples I did not know about that stuck out was Erick Sermon’s “React” using an Indian sample that talked about suicide while he discusses trying to “scoop up an Arabic chick.”
Even though the article does talk state that hip hop’s use of samples has evolved to better understanding with some artists, there are still mishaps when it comes to sampling songs from different cultures that are not in English.
One example I thought of from a few years ago was “Arab Money” by Busta Rhymes that used lines from the Quran as a key point in the chorus.
He also had to make a statement because he was accused of racism over the song’s title and the message of the song.
Busta Rhymes Defends Arab Money Title
Rapper BUSTA RHYMES has hit back at critics of his song ARAB MONEY, insisting he never set out to “disrespect” anyone of Middle Eastern descent.
The Touch It hitmaker, real name Trevor Smith, has come under fire for the song’s chosen title, with some accusing him of racism.
But Rhymes is adamant he meant no harm in choosing the track’s name and is urging his detractors to listen to the lyrics – because it actually champions Arab culture.
He says, “Sometimes, people like to twist things. We ain’t mockin’ the culture. We ain’t tryin’ to be disrespectful. Ain’t no racism going on right here.
“If you listen to the song, you see that we are actually acknowledging the fact that the Arabian culture, a middle East culture is one of the few cultures, that value passing down hard work riches that’s been built amongst the family.
“It would be nice if a lot of other cultures did the same thing. Feel me? So, I would like for it to be like that in my culture where we could build things to the point where we got so much that we don’t need to rely on other cultures to contribute majorly in a financial way, or in whatever other way, to societies, communities or whatever governments we might live in. So, we are actually biggin’ up the culture. At the end of the day, I want to be like that. I think a lot of us want to be like that.”
Another example is even more recent and became an issue last week. I listen to some k-pop groups and one my favorite k-pop groups, 2NE1, recently released their album at the end of February. One of the members CL, who raps and sings in the group, has a solo hip hop track on their new album called “MTBD” or “Mental Breakdown.” Some Muslim fans have stated that the Quran is being used in “MTBD.”
There has not been a response yet from CL’s company or the producer of the track, Teddy Park, so I do not know what is going to happen with this. Some fans are saying that this will be a problem because 2NE1 has tour stops in Asian countries that have Muslim populations later on this year, one being Indonesia. Angry fans want the sampled portion of the song to be removed.
Someone made a comparison of the section of “MTBD” and the sample in question. There are arguments on the video about whether the Quran is used and about the hate messages towards CL.
K-pop heavily borrows/appropriates from U.S./Western music so it’s not really a surprise that something that has been done in the U.S. industry is being done in South Korea. Korean companies have worked with American and European producers/songwriters to produce songs for their artists. American music has been spread globally so I would not be surprised other hip hop influenced artists in other countries have made the same mistake. There are Korean-Americans and Koreans who have lived abroad who work at 2NE1’s company, YG Entertainment (YGE). Three of the four members of 2NE1 have lived abroad and in South Korea. The staff and artists at YGE definitely listen to American artists so I was not shocked that they heard some sounds that they thought sounded good and just decided to use it without checking if it was appropriate like the artists included in the reading by Sarah Hankins.
One 2NE1 fan explained the reason the use of the Quran in music is not acceptable to fans:
Questions you may be asking:
1. Why is it such a big deal? They weren’t trying to insult anyone.
ANS: (a) This is probably true. They came across something that
sounded pretty, and exotic and decided that it fit well with the song.
The problem is, the Quran isn’t supposed to be associated with music in any
fashion. It isnt supposed to be sung like a song and it isn’t supposed to be
accompanied by instruments. So doing so is seen as misuse and disrespectful.
(b) MTBD is a hip hop dance song. It’ll probably be played
in clubs and at events that sometimes entail drinking and dirty dancing. Dirty
dancing to the “melody” of a sacred text is offending [sic] to many people an again seen as a form of disrespect.
2. Why did it take so long to notice:
ANS: (a) Those who have heard Quran before have most likely have
never heard it accompanied my music. As an Arabic speaker myself, I can attest
to the fact that i just thought it was and Arab/Indian melody being sampled
and played in the background. After hearing the actual recitation separately,
i was able to distinguish and recognize the words/verse.
(b) Quran is recited in many different tones and styles.
Some people read it in a straight reading voice, while other people embellish
with elongations and pauses. Unless your are familiar with that particular
child’s voice and recitation style you probably didn’t put 2 and 2 together.
With that being said, PEOPLE MAKE MISTAKES, and people can redeem
themselves through an apology and appropriate actions to “fix” the song.
Although I do like when different cultures can come together and share with each other, there is still some work to do when it comes to using samples appropriately. I think there needs to be more research done before these samples are used because they can offend a large group of people. Songs or quotes used for sampling should be translated if they are not in the native language of the artist who is sampling so that things like this can stop occurring. In addition, they should reach out to people who are part of the culture that the music or words come from in order to determine if that sample can be used.
YGE finally made a statement and are removing the section in question. However, there are some fans who are still upset because even though they removed the section, they felt they did not get a real apology. In addition, this could lead to legal trouble since they are claiming to have sampled another song and it seems they did not give credit.
The offending lines come in a ditty titled “MTBD.”
The live performance from ‘All or Nothing‘ has been reuploaded without the section in dispute.
YGLadies, Chosun Ilbo