On Tuesday, we published an article titled "Atlantic Records Has Reportedly Called Albums 'Mixtapes' to Avoid Fairly Compensating Producers," which honed on in the experiences of ID Labs producer E. Dan, who has worked with the label for several years through his longtime friend and fellow Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa.
In an open letter response to our piece, E. Dan wrote, "I have absolutely no reason to believe it’s a common practice by Atlantic or anyone else," but in the 18 hours since the article was published, countless producers—including Sonny Digital, Rook of J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League, Benny Cassette and DJ Burn One—have reached out to DJBooth with stories of similar experiences with all three major labels.
Matthew Alexander Washington p/k/a Marvel Alexander is a 29-year-old rapper, producer and DJ from Hackensack, New Jersey, who currently is DJing for Florida rapper Smokepurpp. In 2013, Alexander placed a beat he co-produced with Snugsworth on A$AP Ferg's RCA Records debut, Trap Lord, which would eventually become the album's second single, "Shabba." To date, the single has been certified Gold by the RIAA and its corresponding music video has racked up nearly 67 million views.
Initially, Alexander and Snugsworth were led to believe that the song would be used for a "commercial mixtape," but Ferg and the label decided instead to use it for his formal, full-length debut. Due to a combination of label politics, misinformation, and naivety, as a result, the pair ended up splitting a measly $1000 for the beat placement, which Alexander says he fought for almost a year but to no avail.
To get a complete picture of the events that unfolded that led to Alexander's unfortunate predicament, DJBooth reached out to the LA-based creative for the complete story.
DJBooth: What were your contributions to the record?
Marvel Alexander: I co-produced the record. I did all of the drum programming. Snugsworth found the sample, chopped it up and sent it to me to work on and I swapped his drums with mine and sent it off.
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Just to clarify, you tweeted that you and co-producer Snugsworth were asked to split $1000?
Yes, we were told that we had to split the $1000. I asked one of the associates at the label if we were assigned $1000 each and she informed me that we would be splitting it.
Did the label initially approach you as if the song would be used for a "commercial mixtape" and then pivot to say it would be for the album?
Yes, they did pivot. Initially, when I gave the beat to Ferg I was under the impression that it would be for a mixtape. They released the record without the permission of Snugsworth or myself and sent us paperwork shortly afterward that they urged us to "sign immediately." Luckily for me, I took a contract law class in college and I knew that I had the leverage because they released the song without my permission. I didn't sign anything until the publishing splits were where I wanted them to be. But when it came to the advance, they told me that because Trap Lord was slated to be a mixtape it had no budget even though they were releasing it as a commercial album.
Do you regret anything?
I absolutely regret signing a producer declaration—signing over all of my rights to the song as a producer to the label. At the time, I thought it was normal and everyone had to do it. Later I found out that it wasn't necessary. They threw terms at me like "industry standard."
What could you have done differently, if anything?
If I were to do anything different, I would have replayed that sample or not sampled at all because the rights holders took 50% of publishing. The label tried to get us to sign off on us splitting 18% of the remaining 50%, but because I knew I had leverage I told them I wouldn't sign anything until we got 25% of the remaining 50%. I thought that was fair. That pissed off Ferg and the label but I didn't care because I knew we were getting robbed of the advance. Ultimately, we each ended up getting 12.5%.
Update: In the original version of this article, published January 3, 2018, references were inadvertently made to the professional performance of the entertainment attorney, Adam Zia, in connection with his legal representation of Mr. Washington. DJBooth has no direct knowledge of the transaction referred to above, and we hereby retract those statements.