DJ Khaled Clearing a Fugees Sample is Lowkey Fascinating

By | Posted July 28, 2016
One of Khaled's most impressive feats was somehow convincing every member of The Fugees to clear a "Fu-Gee-La" sample.

I'm fascinated by the ways creativity gets funneled through business, and so I'm fascinated by sample clearances. As we've covered before, there's no clearer example of just how confusing and uncertain cramming music into a legal and financial box can be, and DJ Khaled's letter to The Fugess thanking them for clearing a sample on his upcoming Major Key album is a giant window into that world. 


#letterTOtheFugees I remember the 1st time I heard the angelic voice of Lauryn Hill singing Ooooh La La La...It was like a voice from heaven. Alongside the genius musician/artist Wyclef and Pras they formed the iconic and one of my favorite groups The Fugees. The Fugees pushed the culture forward and was an inspiration to me as a fan of great music and an inspiration to this day. Dj Khaled feat @nas title of the song is (Nas Album Done! )Just the title alone let's you know it's serious!! And trust me it's serious!!! So I'd like to extend my tremendous appreciation to The Fugees for giving me their blessing with Fu gee La. To Ms. Lauryn Hill I want to say thank you so very much for allowing me to create Nas Album Done utilizing your angelic voice that we sample from fu gee la Thank you for blessing me and fan luv and the millions of fans of yours and The Fugees and music fans world wide. Ms HILL I also want tell u not only am I a huge fan I play the song ZION to my son that's in my queens belly ! I want my son to hear and feel your powerful amazing iconic voice and the amazing love coming from that song ! if I could sing that's the song I would sing to my son so I play it every chance to my son in my queens belly���� .. To Wyclef my brother, thank you for always seeing my vision and going out your way to help make this possible. You said it best "We use to be number 10!!!! Now we permanent at 1!!!!!" Thank you for giving me your blessing. Thank u for being my brother we came along way !! I will always remember me u at FULLY LOADED in Jamaica we made history !!!!! To my brother Pras, I seen you the other day pullin off in the wraith!!!! You made time for me and came to the studio to catch a vibe. I appreciate you so much. Thank you for giving me your blessing. I appreciate that!!! Bless up!! I wrote this letter to show u my appreciation for clearing the sample for my rec wit @nas #NASALBUMDONE��������������. #MAJOR�� #JULY29 @wethebestmusic ������������. Oh yeah I'll never forget the show wit all y'all performing at the cameo in Miami wow it was historic !! #MIAMI!!! The promoter was humble lion ! @wyclefjean @ms_laurynhill @prasmichel

A photo posted by DJ KHALED (@djkhaled) on

So how do you clear a sample? You convince the people who own the publishing rights. And how do you do that? WHO KNOWS, WHAT YOU GOT? Sample clearance might mean a sterile negotiation with a giant corporation like Sony/ATV or Warner/Chappell, or it might mean personally tracking down every member of a group and saying whatever you have to say to get that signature, or signatures, on the dotted line.

And to be clear, he does have to get everyone's approval. If Lauryn was eager to do it for some much needed money but Wyclef or Pras weren't, no deal. If Wyclef and Pras loved it but Lauryn decided she wasn't vibing with the song, no deal. (I have to imagine the sample being used in a Nas song, and not some Future trap-banger, helped there.) The Fugees may have broken up over a decade ago, but they'll be tied together through publishing until they day they die, and beyond.

Jay Z famously lied to the playwright about seeing the play Annie as a kid and loving it to clear the "Hard Knock Life" sample, and RZA pulled off an extremely rare Beatles sample only because he befriended George Harrison's son, and then that son lobbied Harrison on RZA's behalf. Knowing Khaled, he probably bought a condo next to Lauryn's house and brought her home-baked muffins for a year. Sample clearance can be as much about personal relationships as business, and apparently no one in the game does personal relationships better than Khaled. 

How much did clearing that sample cost? WHO KNOWS, WHAT YOU GOT? Cost depends on how prominent the sample is, a brief snippet won't run you as much as a sample that serves as the song's hook, but while there are general guidelines, there are no hard and fast rules. Khaled could have signed over 100% of the publishing on the song to make it happen, or could have Svengali-ed his way into using it for free, or at least some home-baked muffins.

Sample clearance can be one the most complicated tasks in all of the entertainment industry, but if I had to bet on anyone to clear a seemingly unclearable sample, I'd bet on Khaled. When it comes to convincing people to help him make his album, he truly is the best. 

By Nathan S, the managing editor of DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter

Photo Credit: Instagram

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