Hey, Lil Wayne is having legal problems again! This one stems from a lawsuit last year, when Wayne was sued by folksinger Karma-Ann Swanepoel for sampling her song "Once" on pre–Carter III mix-tape track "I Feel Like Dying" (one of his best, by the way). That suit is still pending but apparently has merit. Now Wayne is attempting to sue his way out of it by going after Rebel Rock, the company that produced the song, claiming they were the ones responsible for clearing the sample.
This is noteworthy, because the assumption thus far has been that if a sample is used on a song not being produced directly for profit — as on the countless mix tapes rappers release every year — it doesn't have to be cleared. But Swanepoel’s lawyers argue that, while "I Feel Like Dying" never generated direct profit, Lil Wayne did use it to promote Tha Carter III "by singing that song in concert and allowing fans to download it for free on his website." Which, come to think of it, is standard operating procedure right now for all rappers: Put out a ton of free stuff with a bunch of unlicensed samples and beats, then try to parlay whatever buzz it accrues into sales of official albums, concert tickets, T-shirts, whatever.
Hip-hop sampling's last major watershed moment came in the late nineties, when the Turtles sued De La Soul for sampling their 1968 song "You Showed Me” on 3 Feet High and Rising and producers found out they couldn’t just nab whatever they wanted. It put an end to great overstuffed sample albums like 3 Feet and the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, and created a must-clear-first precedent going forward. This isn’t quite that, of course — this one lawsuit isn’t going to stop unlicensed mix-tape sampling. But it’s noteworthy that the artists being sampled are becoming at least somewhat more aware of what’s going on. Can someone explain again how the hell Girl Talk hasn’t been sued yet?
Lil Wayne Sues Song's Producer [Billboard]