It’s becoming a familiar tale — call it “Grey Album Syndrome.” First, an enterprising DJ creates a new piece of art by collaging and re-contextualizing creative (if technically not quite authorized) samples of one or more popular albums. Next, lawyers representing the source artist(s) swoop in and serve the DJ with cease-and-desist letters prohibiting the project from being sold or distributed. Then, if the project is actually any good, a minor press frenzy ensues. The latest victim/beneficiary of this routine is Terry Urban’s Southerngold, which lays beats based on samples from Santigold’s excellent 2008 debut underneath vocals from Southern rap hits by the likes of Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, and Young Jeezy. Cool concept, clever title, fun cover art, murky legal underpinnings: Southerngold hits all the bases for full-blown Grey Album Syndrome, and sure enough, Terry Urban says that Santigold’s label, Downtown Records, just hit him with the old C&D. Let the buzz begin!
I’m no lawyer, but I can’t for the life of me see what Downtown would gain by shutting down Southerngold. As Urban recently wrote: “I’m not selling this… I’m not making a dime… I’m encouraging everyone to BUY Santigold’s album.” Free promotion for an album that came out well over a year ago — where’s the harm in that? I reached out to Santigold’s camp this morning to see if she’s aware of this situation; they haven’t gotten back to me yet. We’ll see how this shakes out, but for now, Southerngold is still out there on the Web for anyone who cares to look for it, and it’s pretty great at times. I particularly recommend the track that blends Santigold’s “Lights Out” with Rick Ross’ “Hustlin’,” as well as the one that pairs Santi’s “Shove It” with Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin’.” What do you think of this little controversy?
FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: Santigold has responded to yesterday’s reports, and she doesn’t sound too happy about her label’s reported actions. Here’s her statement in full, issued last night:
We’ll keep you updated as any further information emerges.