Sample clearances are common standard & practice in hip-hop. The genre was essentially built upon the back of smokey Staxx recordings and cuts from James Brown, drum stabs & more. Soul singer Syl Johnson may not be the most known figure in music but when it comes to lawsuits over sample clearances, he’s a legend.

In 1993, the singer sued Cypress Hill over the uncleared sample of “It’s Because I’m Black”. Now, the veteran soul singer is going to find a hefty pay day from Kanye West & Jay-Z over “The Joy”. Originally thought to be a bonus cut on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, the Curtis Mayfield sampled production from Pete Rock wound up as a bonus on Watch The Throne and discredited Johnson’s vocal use.

NumeroGroup, the label representing Johnson detailed the issue in a recent blog post as the process for getting Johnson’s song “Different Strokes” cleared by Def Jam & West got more convoluted as time went on.

We spent the better part of five months trying to get paid, and finally handed it to our lawyer who recommended not pursuing legal action as the song wasn’t actually being sold. Syl could have filed a more complex suit involving the use of his voice to promote the #1 album, but decided against it. Eventually Kanye was going to want to clear some other part of our catalog, and we’d get Syl his money with leverage. With only a non-binding email to solidify the terms, we began the arduous process of having the song removed from money making channels like You Tube, for which Syl was seeing nothing. We thought the song was dead and moved on. It happens all the time.

Johnson indeed has a point to try and go after what is rightfully his. He made the song, wasn’t properly credited for it and since the album has sold like water to a drought heavy area, has all the right in the world to properly fight this. Waiting until the right moment was a smart move considering that “The Joy” wasn’t up for purchase when it was apart of the Good Fridays series but is now.

More than likely, the end result from all of this will be an out of court settlement but that’s the business with sample clearances, veterans tend to go away. Hungry producers on the other hand who’ve felt like their copy has been infringed by big name rappers on the other hand? A bit more troublesome.

[via AlLindstrom]