Have you ever listened to a song and thought, “Hey, I have heard someone say that before?!” In hip-hop we have a term for such an occurrence, its called ‘biting’. In the same breath an emcee can spit of another emcee’s line in respect to the emcee and that is called ‘quoting’. Let it be noted that there is a difference.
Sadly, when you hear a line there aren’t quotation marks to distinguish a bite and a quotation, so as it’s delivered, the immediate reaction is reminiscing on the original line. One question though, do rappers intentionally say a rhyme knowing full well someone else has said it first?
If rapper number 1 says, “I got more paper than Rotatrim” – it becomes known as his line without any legal deeds or ownership; it’s law within the culture. Rapper number 2 comes out and says, “Rotatrim knows I have more paper than them.” That qualifies as a bite regardless of the paraphrasing.
I have seen this paraphrasing occur in SA music. Is it a matter of belief that as listeners we won’t pick it up? I certainly hope our local artists don’t think this way. With the rise of this phenomenon it is becoming apparent that some rappers don’t respect the listener’s ears and time, as they insult our intelligence by assuming we don’t listen to their international influences.
Even sadder is when the fans that will praise rapper number 2’s skill with the line not knowing that it’s originally not theirs. Do they know that their favorite rapper is a thief of another artist’s creative content? When a line is put on record, who ever said it first owns it. Anyone else who paraphrases it is a biter.
There is however ONE special case where a similar line was paraphrased in the same song. Heavy 8 by Zubz had 7 emcees including Zubz. Neither one of the 7 emcees knew who else was on the song. Mawe2 said, “I speak like my mouth is situated where my heart is” and ProVerb said, “I’ma open my chest and put the mic in and speak from the heart”. Both of these lines have the same meaning, although it’s the delivery that make the difference.
It’s a sad occurrence as these artists have garnered fans and respect from the industry because of their talent and hard work. Undoubtedly, a bite can’t be evidence of criticising an artist but it is a seed of doubt in an industry that is barely getting loyal buying supporters. A friend said to me, “They bite? This is equal to counterfeit goods. I can’t take anyone who fails to think for themselves seriously”. With such a mindset we are building an industry based on lies. Obviously no one will come out and say I bit a line to fit into my verse’s train of thought. Rappers especially, know how a big of a felony biting is. Matter fact they are well within their rights to oust a biter.
Sadly in SA, we are close-knit industry and we overlook such crippling misdemeanors.
I have a few exhibits of biting and paraphrasing. I hereby state this as no attack but rather a wake up call to SA artists. If we want to export our music, we shouldn’t give the internationals what they already have, let alone their words.
So without much further ado….
Ludacris – “I’m a heavy weight you nigga’s is lighter than my complexion” (“Grew Up A Screw Up” 2006)
L-Tido – “We heavyweight a lot is lighter than Mshoza’s complexion” (“Stay Scheming Remix” 2012)
Mshoza went light skinned under the allegation of plastic surgery. Ludacris is light skinned. A case of replacing one light skinned reference with a local one. Not the slickest idea huh.
Royce Da 5’9: “Too many Indians and not enough chiefs” (“Microphone” 2009)
L-Tido: “Too many Indians and not enough chiefs” (“On Point” 2012)
This is a direct bite. Royce flipped the saying, “Too many chiefs not enough Indians” and L-Tido took it as is for his benefit. The fact that even with the reversed brilliance exhibited by Royce, it’s a huge felony that this was quoted verbatim.
Crooked I: “Now I’m feeling like Black Jesus, wrong nigga to cross” (“Get Up” 2012)
Blaklez: “He is not Christ but they still wanna cross him (“Hush” 2012)
Paraphrasing. We might be able to let it slide but the fact is the references are too similar.
Kayo – Tippy Toe
Da L.E.S – Tippy Toes
The concepts are too similar, the choruses as well. The videos also show the similarities in the dances. It may be argued that they were both released in 2008, but who jacked whose style is up for debate.
These are some of the cases where similarities and straight bites are discovered. When one artist steals another’s content it is a felony in hip-hop, especially, if said artist is a local. As a growing industry we need to embark on true originality and ensure our music is truly proudly South African. Anything with other imprints all over it is not our own.
I hope these are the last occurrences.
Written By: Siphiwe Zwane (@SDotJR_)