Me and my many sneakers…
Celebration of 1 year of South Sudan’s independence
Wiz and Curren$y at Major in DC…
I almost bought a t-shirt long ago with the famous quote: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Long attributed to Picasso, this quote perfectly epitomizes my thoughts on the copyright issues presented in the documentary RIP. Anyone can copy something, but to take something that already was, and make it something new is truly artistic and should be encouraged because it benefits all people that consume culture in its many forms. As a fan of hip-hop, it would be almost sacrilege for me to have a problem with remix culture. Hip-hop is built on taking other types of music and combining them into something different. Some of the largest stars in hip-hop (Kanye comes to mind) built their careers on this. With the growing access to programs that make producing music even easier, new artists are able to gain a popularity that would only have been previously possible through the music industry.
Frank Ocean is a great example of the benefit and beauty of remix culture. Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra mixtape took him from being an unknown songwriter, to one of the biggest names in music. The mixtape made use of a number of samples and remakes to put together something that while it uses music already created, was uniquely touching and honest, which is all anyone can ask of art. It samples or reinterprets songs by Coldplay, Radiohead, MGMT, and The Eagles. Ocean’s “American Wedding,” a deeply introspective look at marriage and relationships in today’s society, caused a huge uproar and prompted legal action from The Eagles for its use of their hit, “Hotel California.” While he went on tour performing songs from the mixtape, he was threatened with a lawsuit if he ever performed his version of the song live again. This benefits no one. While Ocean’s version does build off of the song by The Eagles, it adds another layer to the song, and makes it something else, something new. He should not be punished for this, especially since he gives credit where it is due. It is almost as if The Eagles, or those that actually “own” the music, are afraid that they will be left behind. They fail to realize that good art is never forgotten.
The beauty of Ocean’s music lies not only in what he says and how he says it, but also in how the music is composed. This is the attraction of the remix. Using the technology that is now at everyone’s disposal, one is able to easily take something that he appreciates for whatever reason, and build upon it to both create something new and bring a new light to the original. While nothing previously made by someone should be just taken wholly and capitalized on financially, there should definitely be room to build off of the past without fear of legal reprisal. With the abundance of both technology and access, it only makes sense that if we want to continue to grow culturally, there should be a means by which those that have something to add to society can do so without being labeled criminals. It is impossible to stifle creativity, and attempting to do so will only push things “underground” when they could be out in the open, benefiting us all. That being said, copying should always be punished, if not just because it is lazy, but also because it shows no growth and does nothing for the culture; however, “stealing” to make those around you better, whether it be through art, music, or technology, is what we all should be promoting, and is the basis of a society that thrives culturally.