by Brent Murphy
bachelor of public relations, Humber College
There’s little that is more fulfilling for a Canadian music lover than having the opportunity to write about local talent. In the same way that we are all patriotic about, what we’ll call, the Canadian way of life, I am passionate about our great, north talents. It is especially awesome when those talents come in the form of a full, unique body of work. Our Toronto boy Memorecks has just released a remix album entitled “Stop Killin’ Em,” a ten-track collection of greatness. I have a lot to say so I’ll try to keep this as neat and organized as possible.
I think it would be a mistake to review this body of work without discussing the legal implications it alludes to, as well as the state of the music industry at least briefly. Appropriation in the form of samples, remixes, bootlegs (like this entire collection), re-fixes, covers, etc., is so prevalent in the music industry, especially in the underground, online music scene. For the purpose of this blog I’ll focus on bootlegs. A bootleg is usually created when the DJ/producer is unable to legally obtain the stems from the track. The stems refer to the various parts of the track (beat, instruments, vocals), which can be individually manipulated. Remixes are often done legally and are usually more unique, new versions of the original. Bootlegs are done by simply taking the track in its entirety and layering other things on to it – finding interesting and debatably more challenging ways to make a new version. Bootlegs are less heard of today because it’s become much easier to digitally (and sometimes illegally) extract and repurpose the stems I’ve referred to. My thoughts are that Memorecks intentionally has done a bootleg collection to flex his creative muscles and produce something different from the online norm. Memorecks, as per the purchase page, did pay for the release and use of these tracks, but it is interesting to discuss the other side of this debate. SoundCloud recently removed a large amount of music from its site in cooperation with copyright infringement laws. Many DJs and producers who are new to the music scene have created names for themselves by remixing things illegally. While most don’t receive any income from these releases, they do garner respect and often gigs as a result of them. The music industry today is not what it used to be, in that the amount of money made solely from record sales just isn’t the same. Many of the DJs and producers people have come to love likely started out by remixing other artist’s works without the rights to do so. Now they have the money and the knowledge/skills to create new bodies of work, or at least pay for samples contractually. Creative Commons, an organization trying to remedy this situation, is only helpful if the original artists are willing to attach the Creative Commons licensing to their property. An artist who releases their work under the Creative Commons licensing (which is rare) is allowing fellow musicians to cover, remix, bootleg or change the original in any way they see fit – provided credit is given where credit is due.
All of the above being said, I’d like to get back on track and discuss the music. All legal and moral implications aside, Memorecks has created a special body of work that I’d like to praise.
The early 2000’s brought a surge of hip-hop/RnB music that was more widely celebrated (in my opinion as a, at the time, teen on-looker) than any other genre of music in my personal lifetime. If you ever owned Phat Farm shoes, a Roca Wear sweater, or a 2-piece velour sweat suit then you don’t need me to explain this any further. The only thing that comes close to that time period, in my opinion, would be the most recent uprising of electronic music. Remixes/bootlegs have often been a way to pay respect to what has passed while incorporating what is to come. I can’t say that I have seen an incredible amount of that time’s genre utilized in recent music via blogs or streaming sites. Memorecks, the subject of this article, has successfully and impressively brought people like Nelly, 50 Cent, Mya, and Twista back to life in a great way. I’d be lying if I said my inner teenager isn’t reminiscing about teen dances or playing some b-ball outside of the school.
There are, of course, some clear standout frontrunners from this unreal collection. For me, personally, “Would You Mind” takes the whole cake. I found the additions to this track were by far the most left-of-centre. “Remind me” was exciting to see on the track list; while, after listening, I’m sure there’s one-hundred-and-one mixes of this track I haven’t heard one and wondered why that isn’t the case – this song was in need of some 2015 upgrades. If we were discussing this album in terms of singles and radio power, then “Welcome Back” would have to take the prize. This song has festival, club, and radio power all in one.
As I said, Memorecks does have the rights to these tracks, but many people are operating illegally. What are your thoughts on giving artists the ability to create without boundaries? What is more important – originality or rights to property? Why? I personally believe art, fashion, and music have constantly been a replay of things of the past, and that proper use and re-use of things should be permitted.