Sampling In Hip-Hop: The Fantastic 5, Frankie Cutlass, And 'Puerto Rico'

Sampling In Hip-Hop: The Fantastic 5, Frankie Cutlass, And 'Puerto Rico'

Published Thu, July 11, 2024 at 8:00 AM EDT

Hip-Hop has had a complicated relationship with sampling since the first recorded rap records. "Rappers Delight" by The Sugar Hill Gang is regarded as the first commercially successful rap recording, and it was the subject of a lawsuit by Nile Rogers and Bernard Edwards of Chic, for the unauthorized interpolation of their 1979 hit "Good Times".

De La Soul, Biz Markie and countless others have had lawsuits brought against their record labels for the unauthorized usage of samples. The usage of pre recorded pieces of music is the foundation of rap music, but what about when the sample comes from a cassette tape of a performance by a group who wasn't signed to a label? Is there a statute of limitations that exists for a sampled artist to make a formal complaint? Who owes the sampled artist, the label or the producer who sampled?

Grandwizzard Theodore & The Fantastic 5 Grandwizzard Theodore & The Fantastic 5

Grandwizzard Theodore & The Fantastic 5

In 1978 Grandwizzard Theodore and The Fantastic 5 (Rubie Dee, Kevy Kev, Master Rob, Whipper Whip, the late Dota Rock, and DJ Kevy Kev Rockwell) performed at The Celebrity Club on 125 st. between Madison and 5th avenue in New York. The group had a large Puerto Rican following, due in part to the fact that members Whipper Whip and Rubie Dee are both Puerto Rican.

During the performance Master Rob yelled "Puerto Rico", and his brother Kevy Kev (later known as Waterbed Kev) screamed out "Hooooo". The chants of Rob and Kev were random events, even when the party was bootlegged on vinyl in 1982 for Live Convention '82 on Disc-O-Wax Records.

13 years later DJ Frankie Cutlass sampled Rob and Kev for his hit "Puerto Rico", on Hoody Records. A year later a vocal version and video was released on Hoody with distribution by Moon Roof Records. "Puerto Rico" charted on the Top Hot Dance Billboard chart at number 42.

Cutlass started as a DJ at the age of 15, and later moved to production, eventually becoming a member of Funk Master Flex's "Flip Squad", and DJing on New York's Hot 97. He has produced for Fat Joe, The Notorious B.I.G, Shaggy, Uncle Luke, Rayvon,Mad Lion, and Akinyele.

"Puerto Rico" became a hit song that actually went beyond Hip-Hop, and reached popular culture via the film Gloria starring Sharon Stone, and Jennifer Lopez's 2003 DVD, Let's Get Loud. In 2001, Lopez opened up her Let's Get Loud concert with "Puerto Rico" at the Roberto Clemente Coliseum in Puerto Rico. The concert was also televised on NBC.

Who owns DISC-O-WAX records??? Did Disc-O-Wax compensate Rob, Kev, and Theodore?

- Producer Diamond D on IG

Master Rob did a few stints in correctional facilities over the years. On a recent IG live with MC Sha Rock of The Funky 4 + 1, Rob explained why he is now addressing the sampling situation, and why he believes that he is owed. "Mind you I was in and out of the system, and in '94 I was on Rikers Island," he explained.

"I did four state bids. and the last one that I did was from 2017 until 2020. I came home in 2020," he said. Every time I go into a store, I'm hearing my voice - everywhere I go. I started doing my research, and I'm wondering why this guy [Cutlass] ain't reach out to me to compensate me for something I created."

Rob explained that he recently reached out to Cutlass on IG, and that Cutlass responded immediately, and that they had a telephone conversation in May of this year where Cutlass says that he didn't make any money from the song. Rob says that Cutlass eventually offered him $5000, with a promise to pay another $5000 in the near future.

Rob says that Cutlass also encouraged him to go after Moon Roof Records. Rob says further that Cutlass said "I took it from a mix tape, it didn't have a barcode on it, I shouldn't give you a dime." Rob says that he agreed to the sum of $10,000 to get the situation behind him, but that Frankie's communication started to get inconsistent with failed promises to return phone calls.

Frankie Cutlass joined the IG call and explained that he sampled Rob and Kev's voice from a mix tape. "There was no writer or publisher information. When Premier samples a record, there's a record company name, and writer and publisher information, so that the label can clear the sample and license it. This was a tape, we didn't have any of that."

"I was trying to do good by you, and I told you that I felt what you were saying in the videos that you posted [about the situation]. I wanted to get this [behind us]," Cutlass said to Rob. "But the problem with you Rob is that every time you text me, you expect me to get on the phone. I can't do that, I have a family and outside of this Hip-Hop shit, I have a life."

Cutlass maintains that he was always transparent, and assured Rob that he wasn't going anywhere, but felt that Rob had been a bit disrespectful in a few conversations. When Sha Rock asks Frankie why he never reached out to Grandwizzard Theodore upon sampling the the Live Convention snippet, he replied, "this is gonna sound real stupid, but I was young and I didnt really pay any mind to it. I didn't think there was anything wrong with [sampling the snippet] to be honest with you."

He continued, "years later after the record started getting popular, and I learned the business and found out that he had a situation with that, I said in my head that hopefully we could sit down and put this in back of us. I'm not arguing that he should not be compensated, but don't get it twisted, it's not from me. I really didn't make a penny from "Puerto Rico". Will Sacolov and Moon Roof Records is who you have to go after."

Ultimately Frankie hasn't paid Rob, because he says that his lawyer is in the process of drawing up a contract, and Rob hasn't been patient. "The solution is, and I don't care about how anybody feels, you have to talk to my lawyer from now on. I'm outta this shit, I already said my piece," he said. "If you feel that you have a legal situation, then take me to court," he said. Master Rob says that he feels that Frankie Cutlass stuck him up without a gun.

Check out the IG live below.

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