Syl Johnson Speaks On Jay-Z & Kanye West's Uncleared Sample On "The Joy"

Legendary Blues & Soul musician Syl Johnson explains how Kanye West "blew it," saying he should have known better than to not clear a sample that appeared on his album.

Blues and Soul artist Syl Johnson recently spoke with NBC in Chicago to speak about a qualm he has with Kanye West. Johnson said Kanye West "blew it" by not obtaining proper permission from him to use his sound in the recording of the Pete Rock-produced "The Joy," a track originally released through Yeezy's G.O.O.D. Fridays series and later as a bonus cut on special editions versions of Watch the Throne, Ye's collaborative project with Jay-Z. 

“I think Kanye West, kind of, he blew it," he said of West. "He knows me, he knows my daughter, Syleena Johnson. And hey, for a few, you know, a small amount – do it in front like Kid Rock, Wu-Tang Clan and all the people behind me.”

Syleena Johnson was featured on West's debut College Dropout as the singer on "All Falls Down." She rerecorded Ms. Lauryn Hill's vocal sample and was featured on the official release. On the track, West compares Syleena Johnson to "the safe belt" for "saving" his life.

When asked if he feels West stole from him, Johnson responded by saying he was not compensated for the track in any way.

"Well, they didn't pay me. They used my style, my sound, my likeness...without my permission." 

Understanding copyright laws, Johnson says he feels law suits are not his "thing," but that "this is the law."

"I hate to sue people. I've sued quite a few people. But, it ain't my thing to sue them. But, this is the law. This is a country of laws." 

For more from Johnson's interview with NBC, check below.

RELATED: Syl Johnson Planning To Sue Jay-Z and Kanye West For Uncleared Sample On "The Joy"


  • gully

    4 those of u who dnt know thts not his voice u hear on the sample tht's "Curtis Mayfield- The Makings of You"....

  • bloody bastard

    Yo, I honestly think this was an oversight, but some lawyer at Def Jam/Univeral who works on this is definitely getting fired. They will settle on this as they are clearly in the wrong and it will cost them much more $ then it otherwise would have(how much we'll see...) from reading the other article about this, I think what happened is Syl believed his label to be going behind his back with the clearances and got upset, and then the label and the artist had no choice but to seek legal recourse. And get paid. Rightly so. For all those J-Offs saying it isn't worth hardly any dough and that Syl is greedy, Do the knowledge. Kanye and Jay know who this man is, you "fans" should be opening up your ears to the influences of the artists you like. It's great music, you won't be sorry. I know it's a small sound bite, but he has a legitimate right to his work, he put in a lot of years creating the foundation your favorite artists stand on today, and he deserves to be paid and determine how his music is used. Syl Johnson is unfuckwittable and there is clear precedent in this case, as many people have done similar things with small bits of James Brown vocals, for example. They gotta pay up. Now they uffed up and they gotta pay extra. End of story. Respect to Syl!

  • datguyroe

    I get it that this man should be paid...but for this reporter to turn a Page 7 article into a 7 min interview is ridiculous!! Plus he's feeding him reponses!! GTFOH!!

  • Anonymous

    You all ripping Syl are really crazy. First off, Ye knows better and furthermore, Def Jam/Universal knows even better and has a department for for just this. How does this happen, somebody needs to lose their job because while they could have maybe cleared with 5,000, now he can sue and get ALL the publishing income from the song. Or did he refuse to approve the clearance knowing that the idiots will probably use it anyway, then its on. There are rules to this eesh. You sample (which is using someone else's stuff) you get permission first. These are actually (copypright) laws, its not dude just being greedy. So stop knocking him. Kanye was the idiot here. And there is no such thing as "using the corporation's fund" to clear samples. Artists get charged for damn near everything. So yeah, they'll front the upfront cash, but best believe you'll see it on your royalty statement. Regardless of how you feel, dude is not in the wrong, my only problem with him is that with them being stupid and not clearing, Ye handed him a lottery ticket, so he needs to get the %*# outta here all acting like he hates that its come to this. He's happy.

    • yodaddy01

      Yes, its not personal, its business. The artist does not "always" have to pay everything (I acknowledge that some do). Def Jam should have known better than to not pay for the sound recording even if its a "ugh" sound.

  • wtf?

    his part of the song is not even a fuckin factor I dont see why Kanye and pete rock wouldnt just take that lil part of the song out I was confused at first cause I had to go back and listen to the actual songs and im like geez what is he really due? $500 dollars


    whatever pay the man

  • Aba

    He hates to sue people put he has "sued quite a few people"..? Idiot. I can't stand people who are greedy for money. This man doesn't need it, he's at the end of his life!! What's the point? All this just for a "ugh" growl on a song that's a bonus cut and not even on the actual album??? STOP BEING GREEDY. He would have even heard the sample himself if they hadn't of credited him! It's that small..Just be glad people were listening to your records at all, because God knows you were never a star... My parents and they're parents don't even know who this dude is.


      your parents must be 28 my pops know who dude is

    • Aba

      I cant believe the responses to this... This is some petty bullshit plain and simple. That "ugh" is barely a factor in the song. Dude is either greedy or wants people to think hes important by suing. People on the internet are already calling him "a legend" when he was never no fucking legend. This guy is full of horse shit...and you are buying right into it. He's not going to get anything for a sample of a freaking grunt...believe me. If the courts make them pay for that, America is fucked up.

    • think

      you hate when people are greedy for money? well, think of it this way b/c your view point is totally backwards. it's the people who released the song (Kanye West) that is greedy for money if he didn't want to pay the man for his work. And to charliehorse - you are exactly right...they sampled him..he did not say check out this beat with my old record and please record over it. and yes if the sample wasn't important it wouldn't have been used...he very well may hate suing ppl but if you steal his sh*t what other options does he have. I hate fighting people but if a mofo swings on me they getting knocked the f*ck out....same concept

    • yodaddy01

      well... Def Jam has the funds to clear the licenses to utilize a "sound recording" so why not use that corporation's funds to clear it. I figured its greedy to go after smaller independent labels/artists who lack the funds to clear every sample they use. Btw do you know that some samples costs thousands to clear. Your thoughts are preconceived. Educate yourself first before you judge.

    • ChrleHrse

      What do you mean? THEY SAMPLED HIM. That means you have to pay...period point blank. It doesn't matter how small the sample is if it really wasn't that important then they could've done w/o his "growl" then right?

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