We hear all the time about how an artist turned down a record that later became a hit for someone else. In a new interview for Spotify’s Secret Genius series, English recording artist James Blake admitted to grappling with the decision about whether or not to allow Drake to sample his music.
Blake originally sent Drake’s camp a handful of song ideas for the two to work together, but he didn’t appreciate the response he eventually received. Drake merely wanted to rap over a sample of a beat Blake sent, instead of collaborating in a more organic way, and to Blake, a seemingly cold request for him to just approve the record was off putting.
“I got an email the day before “0 to 100/The Catch Up” came out. And it just said, 'Hey we're using this beat you made from like four years ago,'” Blake remembered. “I only sent it as a collaborative idea, not to be sampled on a record. 'Hey we're using this. Just quickly send me your approval so we can just put it out.' I was like 'No.' So I got them to take it off.”
Blake later asked his publisher how much money he lost out on from refusing the sample clearance, spitting out his drink upon hearing the answer. He admits he further regrets the decision because he actually liked how Drake sounded on the song.
“It is good, it sounds good on the track. I just did it as a matter of principle at the time. I really liked it,” he said. “And I think had they come to me beforehand and said 'We really want to use this, what do you think?' I probably would have said yes.
“Just because someone has an impressive amount of clout and a global platform, I don't give a shit about that, I just want to make good music with people,” he continued. “And it was good music. But just ask me. And you know, I'm over it. If anything, I could actually do with the track being out, I did like it, but I don't regret the decision. So, for anybody who wondered why a version of that came out and then never made it to the record, that's why.”
A song being shelved or reworked because of the inability of a publisher to clear a sample is nothing new, but the refusal is quite often from older artists or rights holders who block the sample because of lyrical content, profanity, or a general lack of appreciation for rap music. This particular instance is interesting because the rights holder, Blake, is one of Drake’s contemporaries and he turned down the opportunity not because of the music, but because of poor communication and apparent stubbornness.
The Blake refusal marks the second fascinating behind-the-scenes story of “0 To 100/The Catch Up.” Diddy previously alleged to have sent the beat to Drake to have a song ghostwritten for him, and he was furious when Drake kept the song for himself. The dispute led to a physical altercation at a party.
Listen to the full James Blake interview with Spotify here.
By William Ketchum III, aka @WEKetchum