How Q-Tip Helped Jonah Hill License Classic Hip-Hop Records for 'Mid90s'

“People show up because they respect him.”
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Sample clearances have delayed and upended many a rap project. Of course, clearance issues aren’t limited to album releases. Take Jonah Hill’s newest film, Mid90s, which built its story on the bones of classic rap songs. 

In a new interview with NPR, Hill explained both the trepidation of using classic '90s cuts and the major assist Q-Tip provided to keep the licensing deals coming.

“The scenes were written to those songs,” Hill said. “Every single one. So I walked the financier and the producers through, like, this song for this scene, this is the song for this scene. And one of our producers was like, classic hip-hop, like '90s hip-hop is notoriously impossible to get in movies because you have to pay the artists that they sample ... So we really worked hard at a time with very little money. And what really helped us. I got to give a major shout out to my friend and one of my heroes, Q-Tip, because I knew that he was going to give us a song and if he co-signed it and Tribe [Called Quest] co-signed it, you get one in like people show up because they respect him.”

Certainly, with a venerated legend like Q-Tip in your corner, it likely gets easier to clear samples. As Hill noted, Q-Tip naturally demands respect, and with that comes lifting the weight of getting the necessary music into the film.

In the event you do not have a Q-Tip in your corner, there are real people behind the scenes who work to clear samples and make sure the art can be heard. If you happen to have a workable budget, like Logic’s in-house producer 6ix, you also have the option of spending more money to make sure the music sounds perfect.

Even so, there are still plenty of songs lost to the void of the internet because of sample and licensing issues. Somebody call Tip, it seems like he’s got some work to do.

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