The destructive freedom of hip-hop struck fear in copyright vampires since the beginning. Who triumphed?

O’BRIEN: When rap started out it was all mixing and scratching, but I think that they got the idea immediately that copyright was going to prevent them from putting all of these records together on record. So they went to duplicating what they did with records with a studio band. “Rapper’s Delight” was taken right off a Chic record. At least the horn parts were.

McLAREN: Oh yes, and later of course Afrikaa Bambataa, when he used Kraftwerk. I suspect that put fear into the heads of the record industry, that that technique would develop to such an extent that how the hell would they work out the copyright problems?

O’BRIEN: Actually rap may very well have some kind of effect on the copyright set up. In a tribal society, you have perfect riffs and everyone can use them, they don’t belong to anyone. But here every musician takes that riff and thinks, “How can I change this?” It’s already perfect, so you get weaker music.

McLAREN: You can only change that by changing the industry itself, and I don’t think you’ll ever change that because it’s been born out of the idea of selling seltzer and vinyl and everything else. The day of the record and all of those things is going to be over soon. People want to experience real things. It’s in that system that I think you’ll find copyright less significant, because music will become very much a part of the weekend itinerary.

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