Copyright and the death of Public Enemy’s sound
Matt Haughey, June 6th, 2004
Stay Free Magazine has a great interview with Chuck D and Hank Shocklee from Public Enemy. In it, they discuss how lax copyright laws of the late 1980s allowed them to produce thickly sampled songs for their first two major label releases. “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” and “Fear of a Black Planet” were revolutionary albums that changed the landscape of hip-hop, but due to groups sampling larger portions of songs, record companies came back against their own rap artists, demanding higher and higher license fees for each and every sample.
As Chuck D and Hank Shocklee attest, this change in licensing and law changed the sound of Public Enemy forever as license fees for samples became prohibitively high. They describe their more recent releases as sounding “soft” because they’ve resorted to recreating samples in the studio using live instruments, to get around master sampling license fees.