Editor's Note: This is a guest editorial written by Oklahoma City emcee Josh Sallee. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or position of DJBooth and its editorial staff.
Last Friday, immediately after I woke up, I queued up Kanye West and Kid Cudi's new KIDS SEE GHOSTS album. Ye and Cudi are two of my favorites artists, so I had been looking forward to it since the announcement.
After pressing play on my phone, I opened up the Twitter app and started to scroll through my feed. That is when I came across the following tweet:
Naturally, I shrugged off the tweet and just continued scrolling. But then I made to it track number five, “Reborn,” and instantly, I knew what the tweet meant. Not only are the keys eerily similar, but at the beginning of the track, Kid Cudi lets out a deep “awayyyooowayyy” chant. Obviously, in a much cooler, Cudi-like way, but nonetheless, they are similar.
Specifically, the portion in question begins 15 seconds into "AWAYO," and 4.5 seconds into “Reborn.” The beginning melody on "Reborn" also has similarities to the hook on "AWAYO," which comes at 1:44.
Sampled? Recreated? Reaching? Here, take a listen:
It was at that moment that I paused the album stream, hopped out of bed, and called the producer of the song, Blev (aka “Bleverly Hills”). Blev and I grew up together and we've been collaborating on music for the past eight years. Together, we spent more than an hour listening to both songs over the phone. “I definitely think they sound familiar," Blev said to me. "And I mean, if they used our song that’s amazing."
Why would Kanye and Cudi sample us? The thought seemed just as ridiculous then as it does now as I type it out. However, despite the fact that Blev and I are next-to-no-name musicians from Oklahoma, based on metrics alone, "AWAYO" is our biggest song to date. Additionally, the song has circulated around much loftier circles than those we normally occupy. Shortly after the song's release three years ago, we received a call from a Shady Records A&R, who expressed interest in the song for one of his artists. We sent them the beat with the hook, but we never received a reply.
Later that day, a friend sent me a link to a story about Berlin artist Kareem Lotfy’s single “Fr3sh” being used on ye, without the sample being cleared by the label. The song's co-writer, Francis and the Lights, claimed responsibility for the uncleared sample, but the fact that it happened at all let us know that we weren't crazy. The same thing could have also happened to us.
But rather than jump to conclusions and throw out accusations on social media, I decided to the let internet do its thing. I fired off a tweet with a side-by-side comparison of the two songs, with the caption: “Did @kanyewest sample our song @seeblev? What you guys think?”
Couldn't hurt, right? Why would we not want to know if two of our favorite artists made a fantastic record using or inspired by a song we made? Honestly, I was just genuinely curious if others would also hear the similarities between the two songs.
Again, here are the two full-length song streams:
I also sent the two audio clips to several music writers whose opinion I really respect, asking them for their thoughts. I figured we would be given a bunch of soft no's, but instead, I was treated to an overwhelming heap of "You need to look into this" replies. Some even said they thought it was a near-identical match.
In the first 48 hours, the video racked up around 6,000 views. Then, on Monday (June 11), it was removed for “infringement of copyright.” That evening, I reuploaded the video, but once again, it was deleted with the quickness.
Maybe they recreated Blev’s keys? Maybe they randomly heard the song and subconsciously replayed it? Maybe I’m delusional? Maybe we’re on the same wavelength as Kanye when he suggested Deadpool 2 used Kanye-inspired music? I’m really not sure.
Blev and I both live simple, pleasant lives in Oklahoma, making music every day for a small living. When DJBooth approached us with the idea of writing a guest editorial about the song similarities, I was hesitant because I thought it would be embarrassing. If they did somehow use or riff off “AWAYO,” this would represent the moment we’ve both been working relentlessly toward for years. Graduation is a masterpiece. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is literally my favorite song. “Soundtrack 2 My Life” helped my life. To say I'd be honored if Kanye and Cudi released a piece of music that we played a small part in making would be an understatement.
Do I think they did? Honestly, probably not. But I do believe the songs sound undeniably similar, and that alone was worth a discussion. Maybe an expert in music theory will be able to shed some additional light. Either way, it was fun to dream.
I’ve always been proud of that record.