The vocal samples on “Harlem Shake” are unlicensed, and the original artists seek compensation
by Aaron Zorgel
March 11, 2013
Put yourself in Hector Delgado’s shoes for a minute. Five years ago, you gave up your career as a reggaeton artist named Hector El Father to become an evangelical preacher in Puerto Rico. One day, you’re on your way to a sermon, you flick on the radio, and you hear your voice. That’s weird, right? Later that night, you go home to do some Googling to try to get to the bottom of it, and soon find out that over 4,000 YouTube videos a day are being uploaded with your voice on it. You didn’t know it until today, but a song containing a sample of your voice is currently #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
A sample from Hector El Father’s “Los Terroristas” can be heard in the intro to Baauer’s pathogenic “Harlem Shake.” Because the now-insufferable “Harlem Shake” meme uses the intro from Baauer’s track, Delgado’s voice is like a rallying cry for late-to-the-game meme-ers and flash mobberss to get into their places before the song’s bass drop. Listen to the clip below to hear the source material:
“¡Con los terroristas!”
How about the vocal sample immediately preceding the drop? You know, the one the song is named after? Baauer chopped that sample from Philly-based rap duo Plastic Little’s 2001 song “Miller Time.” Listen below to hear the original in context:
“And do the Harlem Shake”
In both cases, Baauer and his label Mad Decent failed to clear the samples for use in “Harlem Shake.” The song was originally released as a free download in May of 2012, but as of last Friday, “Harlem Shake” had logged 816,000 paid digital downloads according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Legal representatives for both Delgado and Plastic Little are currently negotiating a royalty share with Mad Decent.