January 7, 2023 Musicology No Comments

First Blush Prima Facie Hot Take: It’s a whole lot the same alright, but it might not be a sample, and it might not be copyright infringement. We’ll explain. Won’t take long:

Today we learned that Lil Uzi Vert, is being sued for what might be an illegal sample in his 2020 track Strawberry Peels, which also featured Young Thug and Gunna. Sun City Publishing’s complaint says it controls the copyright to the recording of Dim Da Lights by Blackout.

Dim Da Lights is a really cool beat. I don’t remember hearing it sampled before and that seems weird. It’s got all that Memphis darkness.

Here’s Blackout’s “Dim Da Lights.”

And here’s Strawberry Peels.

Maybe you heard the similarity right away and maybe you didn’t. It’s this: as soon as that initial (I think it’s Chaka Khan?) high note stops, five seconds in, the groove kicks, and it’s very definitely the one from Dim Da Lights, but it’s a half step up in key and ten beats per minute faster, give or take. It’s almost exactly the same.

So, am I saying I think they’re guilty? Actually no, not yet, but there’s something going on here.

The plaintiff is Sun City Productions and in the complaint, they claim to own the recording. From what I can tell that’s true. The song though appears to belong to Blackout, a producer and composer whose name is Damien Mondale Graham, and he’s not listed as a plaintiff.

I like to try to have a hot take on the day these things hit the news, so here we are. I took a quick look at this; nothing too fancy. The hot take, for now, is this: It’s super alike, but I can’t yet say it’s definitely sampled. On the contrary, I have my doubts. Don’t be too surprised if it turns out they licensed the composition from Blackout and recreated (re-recorded) the parts themselves.

Samples, interpolations, and sample recreations are all different things by the way. A musicologize article that clears all this up, if you’re interested.

Written by Brian McBrearty