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Chance The Rapper sued over 10 Day sample

By | Published on Wednesday 13 September 2017

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper has been sued over a sample on his 2012 debut mixtape ’10 Day’. A jazz musician who is now working as a lawyer says the track ‘Windows’ samples – without permission – a 1980 recording that he composed.

Many hip hop artists launch their careers by putting out free mixtapes, which are sometimes actually mixes, and other times more like original albums by another name. Back in the day aspiring MCs and producers would actually distribute physical copies of their mixtapes, before the phenomenon moved online, initially as downloads, and more commonly today as streams via SoundCloud and various mixtape platforms.

These unofficial releases commonly include samples and those samples are often not licensed. But copyright owners frequently turn a blind eye to such non-commercial releases, assuming that – if any music on the mixtape gets properly released once an act is signed – the artist’s future label will get the required licences at that point. And now most mixtape consumption is via streams, if any one copyright owner doesn’t feel like playing that game, they can just issue a takedown request against any platform streaming the mix.

Though fiercely independent Chance The Rapper is rewriting the rules of the hip hop business, of course. And with his 2016 release ‘Coloring Book’ – what might have been considered a debut album had he signed with a major label – also usually referred to as a ‘mixtape’, that kind of elevates the status of earlier releases ’10 Day’ and ‘Acid Rap’. Even though the latter two records never had proper commercial releases, despiteĀ an accidental appearance on Apple’s download and streaming platforms.

Of course, as far as copyright law is concerned, an uncleared sample is an uncleared sample oblivious of whether or not the track doing the uncleared sampling had a commercial release. Though in practical terms, release status tends to affect the chances of legal action.

Either way Abdul Wali Muhammad, formerly known as Eric P Saunders, says that he only became aware that ‘Windows’ samples the Lonnie Liston Smith record ‘Bridge Through Time’ (technically a remix of it) earlier this year. Muhammad says he wrote that song and filed a copyright registration in 1979.

In a legal filing made this week, Muhammed – who now works as a criminal and civil rights lawyer – says he reached out to Chance The Rapper’s representatives in May, but they are yet to respond. He is now seeking damages for copyright infringement and a court order halting the future distribution of ‘Windows’.