Where's The Beef?

The Weeknd Denies Sampling Portishead

By Claire Lobenfeld / July 17, 2013

Earlier this week, we posted a brand new video from Abel Tesfaye, bka the Weeknd, for a cut from his upcoming debut full-length Kiss Land called “Belong To The World.” Tom noted in his post that it samples the drums from Portishead’s “Machine Gun” but that band member Geoff Barrow immediately acknowledged that they had denied Tesfaye permission to use them. Barrow kicked off a mini rant by saying, “When someone asks to sample you and you refuse they should have the respect as a fellow artist to not use it.”

That same day, we also posted excerpts from an upcoming Complex cover story: Tesfaye’s first-ever interview. The reporter on duty, Damien Scott, mentioned he “heard Portishead drums” on the track and Tesfaye responded, “Yeah, that was the inspiration behind that. I wrote a letter to the producers of Portishead and let them know this album is inspired by them.” The quote tows the line between innocent fawning and an exercise in covering your own ass. He doesn’t mention “Machine Gun” by name, nor the nature of the letter, so it can go either way. Barrows complaints continued:

And after the Weeknd Task Force mobilized, slinging insults and conjecture that Barrow and Portishead should feel honored (many of which he retweeted):

While we have no evidence of it as this time, it seems that Barrow, et al. have been told that this is not a case of uncleared samples but just influence that not enough to warrant royalties:

The other single we’ve heard from the LP is its eponymous first single. Its original version, before it was tweaked for the video, sounds identical to Bay Area cloud rap duo Main Attrakionz’s “Nothin’ Gonna Change” because, well, it is. This circumstance is far less dubious, as the song’s producer Silky Johnson was complicit in its usage and no other parties involved seem to be upset about the matter.

We’ll have to stay tuned for more developments. What this immediately recalls to me is Kanye West’s monologue at the end of The College Dropout closer “Last Call” where he tells the story of what led to him getting his own album, including his first beats for Jay-Z, where he admits that the genesis of his style was stealing from Dr. Dre for Jay’s “This Can’t Be Life”:

“I made this one beat where I sped up this Harold Melvin sample. I played it for [Roc-A-Fella A&R Kyambo "]Hip [Hop" Joshua] over the phone, he’s like, ‘Oh, yo that shit is crazy. Jay might want it for this compilation album he doin, called The Dynasty.’ And at that time, like the drums really weren’t soundin right to me. So I went and um, I was listening to Dre Chronic 2001 at that time. And really I just, like bit the drums off “Xxplosive” and put it like, with it sped up, sampled, and now it’s kind of like my whole style.”

Kiss Land is slated for release this year via Republic.