Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and their hit ‘Thrift Shop” have nothing to fear from “legendary jazz musician” Paul Batiste’s latest lawsuit.

New Orleans jazzer Paul Batiste is evidently suing Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, claiming he hears his own work in their hit song “Thrift Shop.” So of course, I was anxious to see if there was anything to it. And after some careful listening to Batiste’s “Hip Jazz” and “World of Blues,” no. There’s was no “Thrift Shop” to be found there. None.

See for yourself if you like… watch out for bad words.

That youtube video has over a billion views by the way.

And here are a couple of Paul Batiste tunes that Mr. Batiste believes influenced Macklemore and Lewis.

Frankly there wasn’t enough musicologically significant material here to even bother with. Batiste’s tracks contain relatively little protectable IP at all. And nothing can be found in ‘Thrift Shop” that bears any noteworthy resemblance to any either of them. 

So I have to wonder, who wrote the complaint? Was there really a musicologist who encouraged litigating this? I’m skeptical.

The Vagaries of the Complaint

Then I got a hold of the actual complaint, which you can check out for yourself. You’ll find no musicology anywhere in it. There is no mention of notes, phrases, or sections from the allegedly infringed works. It’s broad to say the least. I might paraphrase the complaint as reading, “They misappropriated all kinds of stuff of ours.”

They use the term “sample” here and there, often oddly. As in:

"Defendants, without authority have willfully copied and digitally sampled many protected elements of the Plaintiff’s copyrights..."

They’ve sampled elements of the copyrights? That’s not a thing. But perhaps I’m being unduly mean just because spurious lawsuits aggravate me. What aggravates me more though is the idea that a musicologist might’ve blessed this delusion.

Honestly, the material on a Bastide record is hardly conducive to sampling in the first place, unremarkable synthesizers and drum machines, blues jams. And consider this also… off the top of your head, what is on “Thrift Shop” that might’ve been sampled? That sax line of course!  But not only can’t find the Thrift Shop sax line in the allegedly infringed tracks. There isn’t an isolated sax note anywhere in those tracks!

On the other hand, this line took me five minutes in my own studio using a stock sax patch that is included in Apple’s Logic Pro software. It might even have been the same tool Lewis himself employed.

So, I ask you, if I can get that in five minutes, what would motivate me to sample, isolate, and manipulate to hell Mr Batiste’s music to get that simple line?

So to sum up. In my opinion, there’s nothing; nothing sampled; no similar melodies; no similar accompaniments; no apparent influence nor inspiration; nothing of note whatsoever, except that someone bothered to file the complaint in the first place. That is sadly fascinating.

Written by Brian McBrearty