“All Samples Cleared!”: An Investigation into the Aesthetic Consequences of Grand Upright v. Warner”
In 1991, Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Biz Markie for sampling his song “Alone Again (Naturally),” in Markie’s rap, “Alone Again.” This lawsuit, Grand Upright v. Warner, would become a landmark case for music copyright and audio sampling, and is commonly acknowledged to have ended the “golden age” of hip hop. In order to better understand the case’s significance, I will conduct a corpus study of rap songs that charted in Billboard magazine from 1988-1993, with the goal of determining the average number of samples before, after, and at the time of the lawsuit. Combining this quantitative data with statements from industry professionals and musicians who were affected by the decision, I will assess the impact of the Grand Upright decision on subsequent sampling practice, and interrogate the case’s broader significance for the history of hip hop aesthetics.
Supervisor: David Brackett