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Numero Group Accuses Jay-Z & Kanye's Label Of Doing Syl Johnson Dirty

By Jon Graef in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 24, 2011 3:40PM

Photo by Rachael Barbash
On a blog post, Chicago reissue label Numero Group alleges that a sample of overlooked soul crooner Syl Johnson's "Different Strokes," which appears on "The Joy," the last track from Kanye West and Jay-Z's collaborative album Watch The Throne wasn't cleared by the rapper's sampling house.

This despite what Numero Group describes an exhaustive back-and-forth between the label and West record label Def Jam's sampling clearing house around the time "The Joy," -- initially leaked as part of Kanye West's "Good Friday" series -- appeared online.

As Numero Group explains, they contacted Def Jam's sampling clearing house to see what was what with Syl's vocal from "Different Strokes" appearing on "The Joy." The house said they weren't sure if 'Ye was using the track for what eventually became My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but that it might appear on the deluxe version of the record. Three weeks before 'Ye was set to put the pussy in music fans' sarcophagus, Numero gets an email frantically requesting clearance for the song.

And this is where the fun begins!

After a little negotiating, we came to a price and a verbal agreement (one that is completely standard.) Paperwork to confirm all of this was to arrive for counter signature. Weeks passed. Then months. No deluxe version appeared in the market place, and our emails and phone calls to Def Jam’s business affairs department went unanswered. 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.

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.

Fast forward to Monday evening, when Syl Johnson himself calls up Numero asking why they're credited as the publisher in the Watch The Throne album credits. Numero writes, "Wondering why we weren’t consulted on this new use, and baffled why we appear in the credits, for which we never asked, we contacted the sample clearance house. Even they cannot get a response from their own clients. Island Def Jam seems to think that Syl doesn’t have any fight left in him. We’re betting otherwise."

If nothing else, the post shows Numero Group isn't one to back down from a fight. It also shows that running a multimillion dollar record label with multiple divisions can be a huge, labyrinthine enterprise with potentially major legal ramifications. Here's hoping both sides come to an amicable solution soon.