As we await news of Drama and Cannon’s legal situation, keep your eyes on the News section of the Gansta Grillz website for continuing updates:
“Police raiding the Aphilliate office and going on television and saying, ‘DJ Drama and Don Cannon are bootleggers.’ [Given] what mixtapes have meant to hip-hop in the last 25 years, this is a travesty. With what I’ve come to have as my career, to get to the levels of that and to get arrested … I am an artist, a businessman, and more than anything I am a mixtape DJ with pride, so I took the fall for the game. After that I said, ‘I took the fall for hip-hop.’ I said, ‘I stand here before you stronger than ever. Watch what happens next.’ “
“I saw cops jump out, M16s drawn, and they put me directly on the ground,” Drama recalled. “They were screaming and yelling, causing a ruckus. It was a shock, really. My first reaction was to stay cool, calm and collected. Under the circumstances, you got an M16 to your head, you follow directions. Really, I was confused. I didn’t know what was going on. I thought it was a mistake until I was moved over from where my vehicle was and the cop said, ‘Tyree Simmons, you’re under arrest under the RICO law.’ I was shocked.
“They took me away, and I noticed Cannon was being arrested, too,” Drama added. “They brought the dogs in there, basically asking, ‘Where are the guns and drugs?’ You tell them a bunch of times, ‘Nah.’ As you’ve seen on the news, they confiscated everything in the building. At this point, I was at the police station, so I saw it on the news like everybody else.”
“I don’t know, man,” he said when asked why exactly the Recording Industry Association of America had targeted him. “All I can say is, ‘Where do we go from here?’ Now I’m in the position to help the game, help the youngsters, let people know mixtapes are vital to the game, vital to the streets.
Yesterday’s Sunday Times Magazine features an article about the on-going DJ Drama drama:
“Drama and Cannon’s studio was not a bootlegging plant; [...] they were part of an alternative distribution system that the mainstream record industry uses to promote and market hip-hop artists. Drama and Cannon have in recent years been paid by the same companies that paid Kilgo to help arrest them.” — Hip-Hop Outlaw (Industry Version), Samantha M. Shapiro, The New York Times Magazine, February 18, 2007.
Why hasn’t anyone at the RIAA been fired over this yet?
This right here is an Op-Ed piece I wrote about the situation for the Boston Globe. It’s kind of playing catch-up at this point, mainly because the original version focused more 50/50 on Drama/Cannon & the 2 Boston guys. I wanted to use the “hoax” to more specifically point up the similarities in lack of corporate comprehension/benefit of the doubt, etc., between that case & the mixtape case.
As it is, the piece may feel a little L8 for those who are following the case, but I’m glad to have brought it to the attention of part of the populace who might not otherwise have been paying attention. Hope you like it.
It’s good to have a dude like MattSoReal on the case. He dug up some unreal text from the RIAA’s anti-piracy files:
TIPS FOR CONSUMERS: STEERING CLEAR OF ILLEGAL CDs
· Remember the Adage “You Get What You Pay For”: Even if you are hoping to get your favorite albums at a discount, new or used, extremely low prices might indicate pirated product.
· Watch for Compilations that are “Too Good to Be True”: Many pirates make illegal “dream compilation” CDs, comprised of songs by numerous artists on different record labels.
· Read the Label: If the true name and address of the manufacturer are not shown, it is most likely not legitimate product. These products often do not contain a bar code. Furthermore, if the record label listed is a company you’ve never heard of, that should be another warning sign.
· Look for Suspicious Packaging: Carefully look over the packaging and beware of products that do not look genuine. Packages with misspelled words, blurry graphics, weak or bad color should all raise red flags. Inferior quality print work on the disc surface or slip sleeve cover, as well as the lack of original artwork and/or missing label, publisher, and distributor logos on discs and packaging, are usually clear indicators that the product is pirated.
· Watch for Product Being Sold in Unusual Places: CDs sold in non-traditional venues, like flea markets or street corners, are probably not legitimate.
· Trust your ear: The sound quality of pirate CDs is often poor or inconsistent.
These guidelines describe just about all the best recordings I’ve ever known. From now on I’m ONLY going to buy CDs on street corners with “too good to be true” tracklists, blurry graphics, and misspelled words from record companies I’ve never heard of.
It’s 2007 – now can I please get some blurry graphics and “dream compilations”?
“Mainstream analysis” continues: Today’s NYT features another well-informed, somewhat sympathetic piece on the Drama drama. This one was written by Jeff Leeds, who’s shown himself to be a pretty sharp industry analyst of late. Plenty of juicy quotes in there, though some could be juicier. For example, rather than naming names, we’re left with Leeds telling us –
The police said lawyers representing an array of artists sent cease-and-desist demands protesting the unauthorized use of their music, though they declined to identify the artists.
– but what really takes the cake is the quotation with which Leeds concludes, straight out the mouth of everybody’s favorite “executive vice president for antipiracy” (i.e., major wanker), Brad Buckles: “This is a world,” says Mr.Buckles (Mr.Buckles!),
where everything just careens out of control once it’s created.
Exactly. Now that’s what I’m screamin. Sounds to me like a vibrant model for (or simply an accurate description of) free/creative/participatory culture.
“No one will ever be able to explain to me why the hell a SWAT Team of at least 30 strong went charging into the Aphilliates Music Group studio as if they were doing a major drug or an illegal arms bust? Why did they need to put my brother Tyree (DJ Drama) and his cohorts face down on the ground with guns to their heads? Did the agents need to ransack the studio, confiscate cd’s featuring artist sanctioned original music not bootlegs, disc drives, computers, cars, ultimately stripping the studio of everything with the exception of furniture [? ...]
Based on the January 16, 2007 Fox Atlanta News edition, when one of the agents said “Usually, we find other crimes during these types of busts.” Clearly the agents expected ( possibly wanted) to find drugs and/or illegal arms. K-9 dogs whose noses are trained to sniff and find drugs, were ultimately [bored] with nothing to do.
So the question for me and the rest of the Portnoy-Simmons-Thwaites family is was a SWAT team needed? Was this solely about mixtapes? Would this have happened if this wasn’t a Black run company?”
Everyone who cares about participatory culture should be confronting these same questions. The dominant music industry strategy represents racism and neocolonialism. Hip-hop is powerful enough to step out from under the shadow of this oligarchy and build a new media industry. No more trying to hustle the hustlers. Walk it out and watch the old guard try to survive without your creative vitality.
As the news of the RIAA’s raid on Drama and Cannon makes its way across the net, it’s clear that people outside of hip-hop simply don’t understand mixtapes. Case in point, consider the following comment from digg.com:
Just a guess here… but it sounds like they were probably rapping over music tracks of other people’s copyrighted songs (the instrumental versions, maybe?)
NEWSFLASH: that’s illegal!
In these litigious times, it’s easy to forget that the law exists to preserve and protect the values of a society. When the law no longer reflects the values and cultural practices of a community, it is outdated and needs to be changed.
Needless to say the law moves more slowly than hip-hop. The RIAA is further extending this lag and abusing anachronistic legal structures to protect a dead business model. These shortsighted attacks are making criminals of artists and entrepreneurs.
Brad Buckles, executive vice president of the RIAA’s Anti-Piracy Division in Washington, D.C is quoted in another MTV article vaguely declaring war on the mix tape scene.
We don’t consider this being against mixtapes as some sort of class of product. We enforce our rights civilly or work with police against those who violate state law. Whether it’s a mixtape or a compilation or whatever it’s called, it doesn’t really matter: If it’s a product that’s violating the law, it becomes a target.
The MTV article goes on to suggest that “RIAA has targeted 12 cities as ‘hot spots’ for pirated material” and vaguely references a RIAA company newsletter. With some digging we were able to track down this letter and thought the mixtape DJs in these cities might like to know:
Accding to this MTV spot, Lil Wayne, among others, appears totally unwilling to challenge the RIAA’s position on mixtapes (despite them playing an essential role in launching or revitalizing many a rapper’s career).
Pull quote via the Diplomats’ DukeDaGod:
If they had a mixtapes seminar, that would be hot. Have the RIAA come in and say what you can and what you can’t do.
No, Duke, that would not be hot. That would be LAME.
Now, I know hip-hop’s been ambivalent about its complicity with the record industry for a long time. Dovetailed hustles and whatnot. And certain millionaires out there aren’t really interested in rocking the Titanic. But here’s the thing: the boat is sinking. Too many middlemen on the take, too much ballast. And hip-hop can float on its own. Time to abandon ship, y’all.
(See also, Davey D on the power struggle between the industry and the DJs.)
[M]ixed tapes are compilations of recorded material that has been reproduced without the consent of the record labels that own the music…..The true labels of the artists are Interscope Records and Def Jam recordings among many others.
Right, because not like the artists own their music or have any say in this. That’s just not the way it works with the Recording Industry Backstabbing Middlemen of America.
On 12/19/2006 Affiant called investigators with the RIAA  to advise them of the illegal sales of music at the Kiosk at Southlake Mall. Investigators with the RIAA advised affiant that the sale of these “mixed tapes” is of huge concern for the Recording Industry Association of America and takes away legitimate sales from the true owners of the music.
While at the Kiosk we learned that the supplier of the “mixed tapes” was “DJ Drama”. He takes songs from numerous artists and puts them on his own CD. Several CDs were purchased and confirmed through affidavit by the RIAA that these CDs in fact are not authorized…
Hmm so since when did the po-po become the RIAA enforcement arm?
The CDs had artists such as Beyonce, Micheal [sic] Jackson, Gnarls Barkley, and Christina Aguilera. All of these artists are under contract with major record labels such as RCA Records, Universal, and Sony Music. This music is copyrighted and was reproduced without the consent of the owners of the copyright. These CDs contained numerous performances of RIAA member company artists.
On 01/12/2007 I met with members of the Recording Industry Association of America and showed them the CDs that I had purchased from “The Aphilliates”. They certified to me that the CDs are pirated material and do not have the permission of the true owner of the music to be reproduced.