2021: The albums I have enjoyed this year

Last year I was able to make to lists and separate the ones who was Hip Hop and the ones who was Pop & Afrobeat. However, this year I will make a joint session. Since well, music haven’t been as prevalent for me. Neither has the music been as vital or been as close as before. The lockdowns and quarantine has stopped a lot of time listening time for me. Usually, I listen to the most music in transit or watch music videos at home. Therefore, I lost a lot of space and opportunities to it by default by being home during lockdowns this year.

That’s why I will have one simple list and all genres will be represented here. The albums I did appreciate and can see myself bumping in the future… and the ones that was lost on me… the famous dishonourable mentions, if you may.

Well… here we go.

Mr. P – “The Prodigal” was a fun afrobeat album from the P-Square alumni. He really showed swag and wished more people had talked about it. There is nice joints on here and it’s underwhelming how little that has been pushed about this album.

HRSMN (Canibus, Kurupt, Killah Priest & Rass Kass) – “Last Ride” was a dope hip-hop album made by old-school heroes. It was really fun and not with tracks fit for modern radio. This was the finesse and funny bars from a collective of wordsmiths. All of these gentlemen have proven their skills in the past and this was just a gem to listen too.

B-Real & Scott Storch – “Tell You Something” was a shocker of a release. Not that I have anticipated or awaited anything produced by Scott Storch in a decade or so. Storch fell off and seemed to be lost .B-Real has been on joint LPs with Xzibit and Derrick of late, which has been super awesome to listen too. So, his just following up on that and is having a great time on the beats of Storch. FYI: “Never Go Home” has a terrible beat and it should have been forgotten on whatever Nintendo Gameboy Game he sampled it from. That’s the only downer on this one and is an instant skip.

Rudeboy – “Rudykillus” is the other P-Square alumni album of the year. Where he starts of the album reminiscing and reminding everyone of his past hits. His swagger is cool and all. This is an album worth listening too and tracks like “Focus” shows his star-power and talent.

Talib Kweli and Diamond D – “Gotham” is another wordsmith and hip-hop album, which I felt has gone under the radar. Not shocking, as it been years since Talib was a main-stay and relevant for a broader audience. Still, he deserves credit and can produce nice of bodies of work to this day.

Joell Ortiz – “Autograph” is the A-Typical project of the Slaughterhouse MC at this point. He can tell stories and paint pictures with his words. The beats are refreshing and vibrant. It’s an absolute gem of a LP. These are the sorts that should be higher on rankings and get acknowledged, but the game is rigged. That’s why it’s not there…

Fashawn & Sir Veterano – ‘All Hail The King”. The F is finally returning and off Nas’s Mass Appeal. He shows why his a cool dude and an artist. Here his just brazen and direct, as there is steady and funky beats by Sir Veterano on the production. This is a real underground, but he should get credit. As he has continued to push out his craft and with this LP his showing that he is a force to be reckon with.

Dax – “Pain Paints Paintings” was an album which grow on me. Dax hasn’t changed or anything. Listen to him thanks to YouTube and the videos there in quarantine. He dropped a few EPs before and it was evident there was skills there. Now with a full project it was fun to listen too. Not it is revolutionary or has any sort of traditional hip-hop over it …. NO. But, it is a fun joint and easy-listening, as Dax never goes to deep.

Saigon – “Pain, Peace & Prosperity” is the album of a man I have followed since the Yardfather mixtape series in the early 2000s. It is nice seeing him shining on this one. It is clear that Just Blaze isn’t as involved or have production on here. Though, it is refreshing to see Saigon deliver a full project and get support from all across the board.

Remedy – “Remedy Meets Wu-Tang” is the most out of left-field album of the year for my part. It was just so amazing to see the Wu-Tang Collective shine on a album in 2021. This was like the golden age returning and nothing had changed. The beats, the bars and the whole setting was made for this. Remedy, which I haven’t heard of and maybe I lost the memo. Was showing his skills, but there was plenty of times where the Wu-Tang MCs out-shined him, but who cares? It’s an awesome project!

Lloyd Banks – “The Curse of the inevitable” with the return of the G-Unit wonderkid. Well, Banks isn’t a kid anymore and been a long time coming for his return. The G-Unit rapper dropped an album which fits into the Griselda era and could easily been dropped on that imprint. This wasn’t sounding like any of his previous LPs or even having the production of a G-Unit album. However, his word-play and bars was obvious on this one. That was what made this one unique. Not like he was pressured by Interscope or G-Unit to make a radio-friendly jam to be played on Hot 97.

Tiwa Savage – “Water and Garri EP” was a fun instalment, a very short one, but a worthwhile one. This is what you expect and as always, Tiwa does deliver. There is no skips and just a jolly atmosphere until the project is over. Nas even featured on the first track and he phoned it in sadly, but at least he wasn’t speaking of “crypto-currency” on this one. Tiwa had deserved a more fitting rapper on the track, but she maybe wanted someone who is celebrated and gets recognized world-wide.

This here is my list and it’s subjective. There was several of albums that I still enjoyed, but didn’t play like did this. Others that I have in my “tape-deck” but haven’t gotten into. Which would be another list. Albums I tried to listen too, but never caught on or had the rush to bump again. There is a few of those. However, I don’t feel the need to drop those… Peace.

Pharrell and Thicke’s lines wasn’t ‘Blurred’ on “Blurred Lines” as the Court’s verdict awards Gaye’s Estate $4m in damages!

thicke-gaye

Well, Copyright infringement is a tricky thing, especially with something as soft as sound and audio. That musicians are taking each other’s vibes and play into their own creations isn’t new. The music is inspired and often in modern popular music they sample music that the composer together with producers pays for licencing. One of the most popular in my time we’re when Jay-Z and Dame Dash got the rights to use Annie Sample on Hard Knock Life:

“Jay-Z gained permission to use the “Hard Knock Life” sample by writing a letter to the musical’s composer Charles Strouse and lyricist Martin Charnin expounding on his childhood love of the show, having won a ticket to see it on Broadway as a prize in an essay-writing competition at his hard-knock Bedford-Stuyvesant school. The letter was, he later admitted, an “exaggeration”. In fact the rapper came across the hip-hop version, by producer Mark “the 45 King” James, at a rap show and bought it for a rumoured $10,000” (Ludovic Hunter-Tilney, 2015).

What was done in Jay-Z famous single for the ‘Hard Knock Life’ he got permission and also seek to gain permission to use the sample of the song in his own creation. Something that even wasn’t in mind between the parties in the litigation between Marvin Gaye’s estate and the Thicke Parties; as the Copyright infringement case that been running ever since the “Blurred Lines” became a hit in 2013. This was now a concluded case in the courts on the 22nd December 2016. Where the judgement and the jury came to a verdict where the Thicke Parties we’re at fault as per explained underneath. That both musical specialist and legal experts denies the claims of the Thicke’s as they does not see it as coincidence that “Blurred Lines” sounds so similar to “Give To Give It Up” by Marvin Gaye.

“In 1976, Motown legend Marvin Gaye composed and recorded in studio his #1 dance and funk hit “Got To Give It Up” (“Give”). ER2238. The song, dubbed by Oprah Winfrey the greatest dance song ever, has endured for the forty years since it was created. SER856. In early 2013, Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke discussed writing a new song. See SER856, SER858. In multiple public statements they were candid about the fact that Give and Marvin Gaye were at the top of their minds in creating their song “Blurred Lines” (“Blurred”)” (United States Court of Appeals, P: 17, 2016).

“The amicus brief strays far outside the record, makes unsupported generalization about the music at issue, and is apparently uninformed by the actual trial testimony, including the fact that Williams and Thicke disavowed the idea that they wished to create an “homage” to Marvin Gaye. It also bears mentioning that of the 212 signatories to that brief, several are not “songwriters, composers, musicians, [or] producers” at all, but rather music business executives such as talent managers, attorneys, and other representatives. In addition, more than half (by our count, based on public information) are either clients of the Thicke Parties’ trial counsel, have recorded or are credited on albums with Williams, or have another business relationship with one or more of the Thicke Parties. This web of connections is not disclosed in the amici’s statement of interest” (United States Court of Appeals, P: 22, 2016).

“Thicke made many similar statements in video and radio interviews, e.g., telling an interviewer that Give is “one of my favorite songs of all time, I went in [to the studio] and [said] ‘you know Pharrell I’d love to make something like this, you know feel like ‘Got to Give it Up’ and [Pharrell] started with the percussion you know trying to get that rhythm and then the song actually happened we did the whole record in about an hour.” (United States Court of Appeals, P: 27, 2016).

Songs similarities:

“Finell testified that nearly every one of the 130 bars of Blurred contains at least one of the elements of Give that appears in the lead sheet. ER666. The numerous common elements and the way they interrelated with each other created a “constellation” of similarities she found “stunning” and “highly unusual.” ER581–82. For example, the “heartbeat” of the song—the interlocking bass and keyboard—“drove each song.” ER559. She identified seven elements found in both Blurred and the lead sheet: the signature phrase, the hook, “Theme X,” the bass melody, the keyboard rhythms and chords, word painting, and the parlando/rap section” (United States Court of Appeals, P: 34, 2016). “[O]ut of the four notes from the Give hook and four notes from Blurred, three are identical in their scale degrees.” ER600-01. The hook of Give repeats 12 times within the lead sheet and the hook in Blurred repeats 14 times. ER602. The four-note hook melody in Give contains scale degrees 6- 1-2-1; the four-note hook melody in Blurred contains scale degrees 6-1-1-1. SER868-70. Finell also testified that the rhythmic placement is similar in that two of the notes are before and two are after the bar lines in each song“ (United States Court of Appeals, P: 36, 2016).

“In an attack on this testimony, ten musicologists have filed a brief that purports to start the analysis from scratch, with a very crabbed interpretation of the lead sheet and assertions unconstrained by the record or tested by any form of cross examination. App. Dkt. 20. To the extent it merits any consideration, this amicus brief at most shows that experts may regarding substantial similarity, creating a triable issue of fact” (United States Court of Appeals, P: 40, 2016).

Jury conclusion:

“We will not second-guess the jury’s application of the intrinsic test.” Three Boys, 212 F.3d at 485. Regardless, the trial record here more than adequately supports the District Court’s conclusion that it “cannot be found, that the jury’s conclusion that the two works have intrinsic similarity was against the clear weight of the evidence.” ER29” (United States Court of Appeal, P: 79, 2016).

Gaye’s estate get damages:

“The Gayes accepted the District Court’s remittitur of the jury’s award of $4 million in actual damages to $3,188,527.50 and its remittitur of the jury’s award of $1,610,455.31 in profits against Williams to $357,630.96” (United States Court of Appeal, P: 86 ,2016). “Based on her analysis applying industry custom and practice and her vast experience, Stern concluded the use of Give by Blurred would have resulted in a 50% licensing fee being granted to the Gayes if a license had been negotiated before release of Blurred” (United States Court of Appeal, P: 89, 2016).

T.I. also liable:

“It is undisputed that Harris and the Interscope Parties were part of the chain of distribution for Blurred. This includes Harris’s role as a owner of the copyright who authorized the distribution. It follows that if Blurred infringed the Gayes’ copyright, which the jury found it, Harris and the Interscope Parties were liable as a matter of law” (United States Court of Appeal, P: 95, 2016).

Jury award Gaye’s estate:

Here the jury’s award of actual damages and lost profits to the Gayes means the jury necessarily found that Blurred infringed the Gayes’ copyright. Only confusion as to which parties bore the responsibility for that infringement can explain its failure to find Harris and the Interscope Parties liable. The District Court reasonably concluded that failure to give an instruction clearly defining the scope of distributor liability caused the inconsistent verdicts, and that the verdicts could be corrected in a way that followed both the law and the jury’s intent” (United States Court of Appeal, P: 96,2016).

So one of the biggest producers of our times have got a verdict of copy infringement of used material in this case, use of a song from Marvin Gaye; which happen to create one of the biggest hits of 2013. Pharrell Williams as the Producer of the beat, Robin Thicke as the main singer and with feature of T.I. or Clifford Harris Jr. that we’re all part of the hit song. The one song that both Pharrell and Williams claimed to be inspired by Gaye, still the song after analysing and use of musical expertise show how similar the tracks are.

Later after the first litigations that lead to this and after first verdicts of copyright infringement he told the press this: “Thicke had a great answer for his GQ interview, telling the lawyer, “With all due respect, I was high and drunk every time I did an interview last year.” In fact, Thicke said, “Every day, I woke up, I would take a Vicodin to start the day and then I would fill up a water bottle with vodka and drink it before and during my interviews.” Robin says he’s now drug free, telling the Gaye family lawyer, “I’ve been sober for the last 2 months … When your wife leaves you, it gives you good reason to sober up.” (TMZ, 2014). So the musician now tries to deflect the facts of how they we’re inspired to make the track, now that the process we’re in action than he was a drinking and doped artist who didn’t know what he was saying. His lifestyle we’re blurry to take responsibility for the inspiration behind the blurred lines hit. Which is a beautiful feature, but doesn’t make the courts sing and dance; the evidence and the affidavits do.

So the verdict of the Ninth Circuit Court of California clearly followed the line of the musicians taking inspiration, we’re doing more than so and didn’t licence the rhymes and beat of the Marvin Gaye “Got To Give It Up” when making the “Blurred Lines”. If the guilty party who is under Thicke Parties had asked for permission and licenced by the Gaye’s estate like Recording Artist do all the time. They use their Recording Companies and their legal teams together with publishing agents who fix the use of a sample to create new songs. That shouldn’t be new for either party in the Thicke Party. Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and T.I. has all been on records that are sampled and has gotten permission to use parts of other tracks into making a new hit record.

The same could been done by the men behind “Blurred Lines” instead they tried to copy somebody else’s work without permission and without licence. If they had offered in advance 50% on royalty on sales the Recording of the hit song would been fine and fixed. Instead they wanted to legally battle the Gaye’s Estate. Something they righteously lost. Peace.

Reference:

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT – ‘PHARRELLWILLIAMS, MOREWATER FROM NAZARETH PUBLISHING, INC. VS. FRANKIE CHRISTIAN GAYE, ET AL’ (22.12.2016) – Appeal From Judgment Of The United States District Court For The Central District Of California (Hon. John A. Kronstadt, Presiding).

Ludovic Hunter-Tilney – ‘The Life of a Song: ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’ (10.04.2015) link: https://www.ft.com/content/fbf3bec4-ce64-11e4-86fc-00144feab7de

TMZ – ‘I WAS TOO WASTED ON VICODIN To Write ‘Blurred Lines’ (15.09.2014) link: http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/15/robin-thicke-drugs-blurred-lines-alcohol-vicodin-marvin-gaye/

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