Tory Lanez’ fourth studio album, Chixtape 5, boasts 17 earworms built on the back of classic samples. As the fifth installment in the Chixtape series, Tory continues his trend of flipping old-school and iconic R&B samples. For those keeping score at home, this means bringing Chixtape 5 to DSPs is logistically incredible and likely came with a hefty price tag.
Listening to Chixtape 5, hearing the samples (T-Pain’s “I’m Sprung,” Pretty Ricky’s “Your Body,” and many more), and being sucked into a vortex of nostalgia, we at DJBooth had to ask: How, on God’s green earth, did Tory Lanez’ team clear all the samples on this record? And once they cleared the samples, what did the bill look like?
In the spirit of journalism, we decided to find out. Speaking with Tory Lanez’s team—Managers Philip Payne, Troy Dubrowsky, Sascha Stone Guttfreund, and Lauren Corcoran, and Kwame Kandekore from legal—we got the exclusive behind-the-scenes look at how Chixtape 5 came to life in all its sampling glory.
Our conversation with the team, lightly edited for content and clarity, follows below.
DJBooth: Thank you all for taking the time to break this down for me.
Sascha Stone Guttfreund: Thank you. We prepared some bullet points: We cleared 17 samples, there was a total of 19 different lawyers we had to clear things through. Ironically, the artists that performed did not get paid feature fees. Obviously, there were some expenses associated with clearances, but the artists did not charge a fee. I have to say thank you to Todd Douglas and Todd Johnson at Interscope, who we worked with, and we called many, many times per day. There were also 29 songwriters, not including the sample writers.
How long did it take to clear all the samples?
Philip Payne: It took Tory ten months, creatively, to do the album. In [those] 10 months, five or six were dedicated to us clearing the samples, all the way up to a month out.
Kwame Kandekore: It was about, May through October.
Which sample was the most difficult to clear?
Sascha: It wasn’t that there was any specific sample that I think was hard to clear. Every dynamic between the songwriter and the rights holder is very different. In some situations, some things were quick, and some things that required more phone calls. What was interesting [was] the artists and the labels wanted clarity, in writing, that Tory would give them a feature and would participate on one of their songs. We realized, through this process, that as much as they were helping us, and we appreciate it, everybody on that side was grateful to have Tory to bring these records alive. And also to go and work with these artists on their new music.
It was a situation based on reciprocity?
Sascha: Oh, yeah! None of the artists charged Tory to perform on the song. There was an interview [Tory] did where they kinda summarized it as a loss leader. There were costs associated with specific clearances, but none of the artists charged to be featured on the song.
In an interview with Ebro In the Morning, Tory labeled Chixtape 5 as a loss leader. Based on the album’s first week SPS total, how close is the album to breaking even?
Sascha: We can’t speak [on] that, but I can tell you this is not a loss leader, and this will be a profitable album.
Were there any samples you were unable to clear?
Sascha: No! Tory went in at the last second and wanted to add more songs. But there was no song that we set to clear from the initial tracklist that didn’t get cleared. He tried to add some things at the last second that didn’t quite make it, but the original tracklist made it all the way.
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Sascha: Totally, and it takes a lot of work. Everybody on this call… This was our life—a very time-consuming process for everybody. Special shoutout to Astrid Taylor for her work on this.
Philip: Shout out to Tory, because when we put him on the phone with these artists, he came in super humble, super respectful. He was just like, “Yo, it’s an honor for you guys to be doing this.” He made sure all the people he wanted to be part of this project, who inspired him to do the project in the first place, knew how much it meant to him. I think that’s why everybody was so on board.
Kwame: I agree with Philip. Tory was more involved in the clearance process for this project than I’ve seen him involved in previous projects.
Did that make a big difference?
Sascha: We said this a lot in our meetings with different DSPs: Tory’s ambition in doing this was inspiring for all of us. How the fuck can we not clear it? This kid just got every artist he idolized when he first started making music to jump on their songs. How can we not do our part? It was inspiring for all of us.
Philip: Tory knew he had to come with something unique and something very, very special. We always had that dream of “What if we could get the [sampled] artists to be involved in this record?” With the T-Pain song, he ended up doing another record for T-Pain and then recorded “Jerry Sprunger” probably a year ago. The clip went viral, and once T-Pain gave him the blessing and hopped on the record, it kinda felt like: “Hold on… Maybe we can do this.” It was an ambitious dream.
Was there any point where any of you encouraged Tory to do something, anything, else with his album?
Philip: Everybody was like, you know, “Fuck!” At the same time, like Sascha said, when you see the leader going full steam ahead… He went and got all the features. He put the ball in our court. We had to step up to the plate. There was no not doing it.
Troy Dubrowsky: We had this chart that laid out all the samples, writers, publishers, who the master-owners were, the writers on all the original samples. The document was eight pages long. When we went through it, it was pretty daunting. But then you start diving in [asking] “Who’s our connection there? We have to hit this person up and push it through. Then have this person follow-up on this end.” Using all our connections, we went out texting, calling, emailing people, and pushing it all from all directions. Those people on the other end must’ve known, “Let’s just get this done.” If you sit back and let it go through the typical channels, it doesn’t get done that fast. For us to make this project a reality, and it still took six months, we had to hit every single person we knew.
Lauren Corcoran: To chime in, in total it was 97 writers, including the sample writers.
Sascha: That’s crazy! But also, mind you, Tory wrote every single lyric of his own on the album. We cleared 97 writers, none of which wrote a single verse for Tory.
Did Tory have to contribute to the cost of making the album? Or did Interscope pay the entire bill?
Sascha: Interscope contributed, but they didn’t cover all our costs. Tory is not afraid to invest in himself. I’ll tell you that. Myself and Philip have been working with Tory since 2011. You picked up on the love we have. We’re a family. Philip, Tory, and I used to live together for a year and a half in Austin, Texas. Philip and I went to college together, so we’ve all been working together for a long time, and we’re proud of Tory. It seems like this album is changing the conversation.
Biggest lesson learned from getting this record out?
Sascha: You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.
Philip: I learned there’s not one closed door that a good relationship can’t open. That’s for sure. Because of our relationships, because we are known for good character and came in respectfully and humbly, we got to hit up people and ask for favors… People held us down, for real.