Pioneering moguls, rapper Erick Sermon and music executive Tom Silverman (of Tommy Boy Records) have helped launch Tracklib– the first-ever music platform that enables producers and music lovers to select, customize and license recordings. Sermon boasted Tracklib and utilized the platform to create two tracks alongside his fans through the Kickstarter campaign which funded his forthcoming LP, GO. The cutting-edge online service makes it easy and affordable for artists and producers to clear samples legally.

Tracklib’s catalog features over 50,000 tracks and continues to evolve alongside hip-hop production greats to include Questlove, Prince Paul, Statik Selektah, and more. The original music available stem from songs recorded in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and are available starting at just $1.99, with sample clearance for as minimal as fifty dollars. “What iTunes did for downloads, and Spotify did for streaming, Tracklib is on track to do for sampling. We can’t wait to hear what people will create using Tracklib,” said Tracklib CEO and co-founder Pär Almqvist.

Erick Sermon, Tom Silverman & Rockwilder connected at Def Squad studio for a one of a kind private session. The EPMD emcee highlighted Tracklib’s innovations, GO, and its supporters, Method Man, Pharrell Williams, Snoop Dog, Erykah Badu, Ice Cube, and Big K.R.I.T. While Silverman & Rockwilder discussed Tracklib’s global advantages, the state of production, and why creators can now easily access and purchase music samples. Check out what the trio had to say below.

Tom Silverman

Can you explain to consumers why Tracklib is revolutionary?

Historically, it has pretty much been against the law to sample old music into new music. People do it, but it is a long and arduous task. It is painful! I had to do it with De La Soul, Naughty by Nature, and most of my groups for thirty years.

Now I am thinking, “What can I do to make it easy for people to get access to music?” So, we created a way where we gain access to [record] labels and the publishers and can say, “Give us everything that you want to give us, and we will make it available pre-cleared.” That way people already know in advance what it is going to cost.

And, [creators] can clear it online in five minutes, for as little as fifty bucks, without a lawyer. It changes the game. We will build it into ProTools and all of the digital audio workstations. So, you do not even have to leave the place you make your music.

Instead of discouraging people from sampling, we are going to encourage people to sample. There are thirty million songs that never get played anymore. Ten percent of the records get ninety percent of the play on Spotify. But, what about the other ninety percent of the records?

You can find 8 seconds in [a song] that can make a new record into a hit. And some of that original money will go back to the rights holders and the artists. It is like a second chance for old records to be a hit again.

If you look at the top ten most sampled records of all time, four or five of them were not hits. They were b sides of deep tracks. They were mid-chart records at best. Somebody flipped them in a way that gave new context to a hit record. There are a million people that are creating music out there. They are just one beat away from having a top ten record.

And if that top ten record is an obscure record from the past, that song comes with it. That artist and the label that put out the original will benefit from that. So, now we create a marketplace where everybody gets paid. And, you can breathe new life into old music.

To me, that is revolutionary. We are going to change the way music sounds. Everything is digitized and quantized.  People are using beats that everybody has access to. So, you hear [music] that is similar.

But, once you have access to tens of thousands of records, you can find 10 seconds that make your song sound more unique than anything. So, every record can start sounding original again. If you really listen to the first fifteen or twenty years of hip-hop… records were very unique.  

There are still records that breakthrough that sound unique, but there are tons of records that sound the same. Now everyone has access to these tools. So, somebody who is just starting out can create what can end up becoming a top 10 record, now, especially considering streaming services.

It is all coming together. We think it is a revolution. We did some research and identified that thirty percent of the top 100 in Billboard has samples in it. Most of which, are not cleared. We think about ninety-five percent of the people that sample, do so illegally. They do not clear the sample.

I would not clear a sample [if I were them] because it is too hard.  It is going to cost thousands of dollars. It can take two to three months to clear, and that is if you can even clear it. Why would you do that when you can just put it out? They probably will not catch you.

They may catch 5 percent of the people [using samples] because they were in the top 10. By then, those people have the money to pay. And, they have already used it, so, it is way easier to cheat than it is to do the right thing.

With Tracklib, we make it so easy that you would only want to do the right thing. You know in advance what the record is going to cost. No one can hold you up for an extortion deal. If I want to use a fifty dollar sample, I know what it is going to cost. I will have to give up 10 percent. No problem!

Okay, I want to use a twenty-five hundred dollar sample, but it is “Impeach The President,” the eighth most sampled record of all time. I [will] have to give up twenty-five percent. Okay, but at least [they] know what it is.

Now when you sample you do not know what it is going to cost. You do not even know if you can clear it. So, the game is changing. To me, the future is about fast, easy, and affordable. Tracklib is exactly that.

Erick Sermon

How will this forthcoming album differentiate itself with Tracklib in place for your two records?

Tracklib is just a blessing because it came late, but I wanted to be able to use it. Also, I wanted to be able to promote it, too. So, I was able to release a record with Method Man, [Craig Mack] and Mr. Cheeks called, “Come Thru.”

I was able to use another track called “Tomorrow,” with Tracklib. I think it is dope. I wrote about what is going on today with the Vegas, and Florida [tragedies]. I want to do more of that [kind of hip-hop]. But, the song is about how tomorrow never comes for some people. It is written in regards to those who may not get to say goodbye to their loved ones, or become sick, or [people who] suffer from a tragic accident. Those are the two songs that I wrote using Tracklib.

Tracklib improves the sampling process. Have you ever fell in with a recording and found out you could not get the sample cleared? It seems like an arduous process.

It is crazy. I’ve been sued before, but it never stopped a record from coming out. The record was out, and the label took care of [legal matters]. Eric Clapton had got me for [sampling], “I Shot The Sheriff.” We diffused it.  

It was a [process] with Warner/Chappell Music. The publishing company dealt with all the Parliament-Funkadelic records. They held my money for five years one time. It was a half a million dollars.

Later on in life, it was like, “Wow! A half a million dollars coming back to you is kind of cool if you forgot all about it.” But, sampling never stopped a record from coming out. So, I did not have that exact experience.

Fans have not seen you in a while. What can they anticipate from this forthcoming album?

I used my grandmother’s name in it because when I was writing, she kept coming to me a lot. I think GO has some of my dopest work. Artists always say, “This is my dopest work,” and then the album is bad, but I really like this CD. GO will feature Pharrell [Williams], Ghostface [Killah], Kid Capri, AZ, Styles P, of course, Redman, Method Man, and Big K.R.I.T.; I was trying to make something great.

My first record was called “#ThingsWeDo.” That is me Rockwilder and Kid Capri. I am very proud of this record. Fans can look forward to a dual album I am making. It is an album featuring the best duals in hip-hop. It consists of twenty songs, so, all the groups from Run The Jewels to De La [Soul]. It features every duo group that made a statement in hip-hop. I am doing a whole CD on that.

Also, I have Craig Mack, he started Bad Boy Records, and it’s been several years since he’s been out. I am going to shock the world by bringing him back. Again, my Kickstarter [campaign] is why I began all of this. I wanted to make a change and bring the [quality] music back. I wanted to make a change for people thirty-five and older. That way we will not have to be doing what our kids are doing.

All the R&B records that Tyrese is making like, “Shame,” or even what Bruno Mars is doing with the whole 24K Magic, those are all records that we know. Those records feel good to us. We are not dead. People in their forties and fifties still want to buy music, but they can’t. There are not artists making music for them. We want to fill that void. It is going to happen. God showed me this. This is where we are at.

Okay, do you have a tentative release date for GO?

I am trying to come as quick as April. The first single is called, “#ThingsWeDo.” You are going to love this song. I am mixing it up right now. There is going to be a comedian named Majah Hype. He is an Instagram star and plays the lead in the video. It is entertaining and about your cell phone. It’s a great video, and the song is fun, too.


Why do producers need to have Tracklib?

Well, producers need to have Tracklib, first of all, for the license and clearances. That option alone is kind of the eighty percent of why you should have Tracklib. [Laughs] You know? All music now, being that sampling is refined, by these companies, makes Tracklib helpful. They are coming for the synths [in the song]. The companies are coming for the plays [of records] and all.

It would be good to have a platform that levels sampling [for creators]. And, producers can feel like, “Okay! It is cleared. Nobody is coming back!” You do not have to [fear a] Pharrell Williams and Mavin [Gaye family lawsuit], situation, at all. Tracklib definitely left leverage for the producers. Also, the platform assists the producers that interpolate, like myself. They now have a place where they can really grab music. It inspires the producers. Also, it is a great foundation to be in– economically it is progressive in regards to song clearance and affordability.


By Bianca Alysse Mercado | February 2018

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.

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