Un-originality in Chart Hip Hop and RnB


so I was really struck by how much JR Rotem’s production of Ciara’s Level Up was just a key changed direct remake of DJ Telly Tellz’ Fuck It Up Challenge

now im not being willfully naive, i know this happens all the time and always has. i’m not even sure that i think the concept of originality is helpful or healthy in music. i love the way less capitalised genres such as dancehall maintain a folky-decentralised tendency to constantly re use and create deep webs of intersonic and intertextual reference.

and yet something about the politics of a rich white south african chart factory producer just literally copying a bedroom produced tune from an innovative, teenage, underground black producer from New Jersey just strikes me as… off putting.

does anyone know if Telly got paid royalites? or have any idea how i could find out?

what are people’s takes on this and what are some other striking examples !


This article by E! mentions the fact that Ciara’s track “samples the Jersey Remix of “We Are Young” (used in the “F–k It Up Challenge”)”.

This seems to imply that the sample was cleared and that some form of compensation occurred - I can’t imagine the average E! writer connecting the dots between Level Up and this track, so the sample information was probably passed along in the press release…but this is all conjecture.

I think the fact that the producer is some white, corporate hit-maker is lame, but I think Ciara is definitely a good match for this kind of production. It would be much more egregious if Level Up was a Post Malone track or something.

Basically, I think the song is good and I hope that Telly Tellz was appropriately compensated.


Update: Tidal credits:

2018 Ciara Universal Music Publishing Group/ (ascap), Theron Thomas TNT/BMG (ascap), JR Rotem Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC. (BMI). Fuck It Up Challenge (the sampled composition) written by Telly Brown JR. as used in “Level Up” (the new composition) performed by Ciara.



I agree its a good tune and Ciara fits with the production. Seeing credit to Telly makes me feel a lot better about it. I think this is an interesting thread conversation though and a good thing to monitor, and I’d love to see other people add to the examples and throw out this research !


less related to the discussion, but imo “unoriginality in chart hip hop” really ran rampant back in mid-late 2014. I used to listen to a lot of radio stuff back then (lol) and almost every single rnb / hip hop track was biting DJ Mustard in some way. That sort of declined as people hopped over to Metro Boomin style productions.


but now that kinda post-trap sound has too been oversaturated at this point no?


“Post-trap” isn’t a very apt description, but oversaturated might not be appropriate as well. Trap’s always been formulaic with drum patterns and types of drums as well. It’s just that stylistic trends pop up once in a while.


i think post-trap is a good name for this kind of popular hip hop in america. it still stems from the music of the trap innovators (ti, jeezy, gucci, etc.), but the lyrical topics are not limited now to just first person narratives of drug dealing, and the production now isn’t just crunk with faster drums and less supersaws. my friend made a good list explaining this:
it may be a retroactive label still in development but don’t forget that post-punk was too, in a similar fashion :stuck_out_tongue:
but even this is nearing its oversatuation point and i think we are due for some kinda “oldhead” movement in reaction soon :hushed:


That’s implying that there aren’t mad “oldheads” out on social media hating on almost all contemporary hip hop anyways. :rofl:


so off top what i see in this vid is that see see gave it a visual element that telly woulda never had the funds to create. telly’s at a “i recorded this in my bedroom and shit went viral” level whereas Ciara’s at that “i got label money let’s trick this sound out” level…sometimes un/originality is mining the hood for that authentic and blowing it up viral with hi producto bugeet dancers…same ol formula…they run this machine on emotion and connection, after all…


as i said i have no issue a priori with unoriginality. in fact i tend to think of originality itself as a pretty constraining concept that only really has much sensible currency in capitalist and commercialist economies of artistic production.

i’d never criticise someone for the act sampling, flipping, rearranging and/or re-using the cultural product of others in itself. but i do think in a world where big production teams like that of Rotem and Ciara have all the resources and there are significant barriers which make it difficult for small time producers in economically deprived areas to monetise their creations that its worth monitoring the practice and keeping a steady dialogue on it !!

no one should get ripped off, but most especially the kids on the street, who have always been the real avante-garde of dance music, should get as much of the pie as we can give to them always! imo


:+1: but whats fun for me aint about checkin priv, apologizing or conveying support of humans with less oportune systemic access, its enjoying the levelin up and seein where it goes!


commercial rap has been doing this for 38 (or more) yrs


knowledge and advocacy of social justice aint always fun but its always a prerequisite for everyone to truely be able to have fun


Agreed. Well said :slight_smile:


im aware ! as i said this isnt something i think is new


yeah i really agree with this i actually find it really difficult to enjoy things when the context is problematic in some ways. now that i know Telly was paid im having a lot more fun listening to Level Up. there ya go right !!


a dreamy r&b song for yall.