Home EDITORIAL Are Deceased Musicians Being Exploited?

Are Deceased Musicians Being Exploited?

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No matter the generation, we’ve all experienced the sudden loss of an artist we believed was taken from us too soon. An artist that we believe will forever live on through the music they left for us to cherish. Now on the heels of the new Aaliyah single “Enough Said” which features Drake, my question to you is, is there legacy at all tarnished when they are sampled so frequently? Or do you just appreciate hearing them again, even if it is just a sample of old material?

If they were true to their craft, musicians who left music behind probably intended on releasing it someday. Tupac still stands as the posthumous king, with most of his bigger hits having surfaced after he passed away. Since his sudden departure in 1996, Tupac has released almost 10 albums. But here we have an artist that was very vocal about how hard he worked, and how much he used to put into his work, so of course the right presumption is that he wanted to be heard.

On the other side of things, we have Biggie, who in his short and celebrated rap career released only 2 full length albums, but that was enough for him to be considered the greatest of all time because of quality. Granted, he worked hard but he wasn’t a studio rat per say. Big was a guy with the Brooklyn attitude; all about his money. If he was doing a song or two, it was to make money and not for the sheer love of music. BUT, just because he didn’t record as often doesn’t mean he would ever half ass his music. You think he would ever give the nod to “The Biggie Duets” from the Hiphop heavens? Or was that Diddy just cashing in on his best friend?

15 years after his death, Biggie is by far the most sampled Hiphop artist ever, and is in fact worth more now in his death, with his estate standing at 160 million, than he was in his short lifetime. Tupac Shakur with all the albums released and even a clothing line after his death, stands at 40 million dollars. The record companies recognize that the consumer’s interest seems to reach new heights when someone dies, but are they to blame for ceasing the opportunity?

Of course it doesn’t end with just Hiphop. Look at Michael Jackson for instance. Considered to be arguably the best entertainer to ever live, he left behind more than enough music for us to be satisfied with for generations to come, but yet his record label felt the need to release a posthumous album last year simply titled “Michael”, which till this day, family and friends have said they don’t believe those to be Michael’s vocals. Amy Winehouse, who in life struggled to overcome addiction, was a tabloid favorite for her antics. But in death it seems she is now more praised for her artistry as it should’ve been from the beginning. Not to mention she has a posthumous album of her own, that was released just five months after her untimely death, filled with material she recorded in 2002.

Whitney Houston who hasn’t been gone for a year yet, already had a new song on the radio less than two weeks after her death. Not to mention her new starring role in the remake of “Sparkle”. Originally slated for a late winter release, the movie’s release to theaters was moved up to this August after her death, and there has already been talks of a Whitney biopic.

All of our greats. They hold a place in our heart. Is it okay for Drake to make a song with Aaliyah? Sure why not. But does the value of the generation that came before decrease every time someone has a song featuring a fallen legend? You damn right it does. We live in a time where nothing is exclusive anymore. A 12 year old somewhere is now able to say they saw Tupac perform live! Why? Because of a tatted up hologram that moves, raps, and commands the stage like the late Makaveli. When I was 15, I was singing Eric Sermon “Music” featuring the late Marvin Gaye without a second thought. I just knew it was catchy, and although I knew who Marvin Gaye was, I wasn’t as familiar with his legacy as I’am now. Is the ultimate goal to have us feel as if these artist never left us? Do we just have a hard time letting go? Either way, while we figure it out, these record companies have money to make. Appreciate those artist now, cause like it or not weather in life or death, they WILL get in your pockets. Because as Neil Strauss famously said, “They love you when you’re dead”.