In reporting the inner-workings of the industry, lines become blurry. Deciding what's right and what's wrong is a daily task. I reported a few weeks ago that Juke Ellington stole a song in some capacity and passed it off as his own. We don't know if he purchased the song from Soundclick and passed it off as his own, or downloaded the track from Kid Urban, slowed the tune down, and renamed it to act as if he produced it; nobody ever clarified what happened. All we're sure of is that a producer on the rise that had tons of love and respect in the industry had his entire catalog in question because of one "mistake."
I felt odd about being the one to post this information, as I've always had positive interactions with him. Juke Ellington just had a child. Despite the hatred that I hold for those that hinder fairness and legitimacy within this industry, being the one to ruin the career of a new father and generally good dude is not the thing that anyone with half a heart wants to do. But the flood of people that reached out to me after this article went live was a bit overwhelming.
My post a couple weeks ago was shared around and talked about more than I would have ever imagined, and actually led to dozens of people telling similar stories. I'm working on a handful of them at one time, and will slowly start to uncover the foul practices within the industry at all levels. It's much bigger than just Juke Ellington, and reaches to producers that you know and love. Producers that aren't actually making the records that are turning them into superstars. But as I flush out those stories and build these cases, I thought it to be prudent to finish the story that started these conversations.
¡EL CUCUY! is a producer living in Portland that you may or may not be familiar with. His work has been ferocious for quite some time, and he's been nothing short of slept on. He has been jumping between genres, creating some next level records that you could classify if you wanted to. It's all bass music, and all of it is ridiculous. So when someone that's familiar with his work hears a record like "Dippin," it makes complete sense:
Then we hear the "collaboration" between Juke Ellington and ¡EL CUCUY! on "Dippin Trappin." It isn't far from being the same exact track: "Dippin" was sped-up and hats were added. Outside of that, there is no difference between these two tracks. The sequencing is exactly the same. The vocal samples land in the same exact place. And though this is nothing more than an edit, it was released by Juke Ellington as a collaborative track:
Though this record has since been removed from Juke Ellington's SoundCloud page, you can find "Dippin Trappin" all over YouTube if you peek around. Anyone can feel free to debate what the ethical move is when two people contribute to a record. The bigger question to me was why ¡EL CUCUY! would wait until now to say anything about this. His explanation actually makes a lot of sense.
"His [Juke Ellington's] explanation was that he like the original arrangement & didn't want to take away from the song as it was. It was one of my 1st collaborations as well & since he didn't make the song worse, I sort of went with it. I didn't say anything because the track was well received by DJs/blogs and I knew I had written it. My fan base grew. My name was out there. I just moved on to the next track & didn't make a fuss. But I definitely felt like I had to share my story once the original story broke."
You might think this is ridiculous, but his explanation makes perfect sense. Juke Ellington is one of hundreds of producers that have my personal contact information. It's easier for them to place tracks in my hands than it would be someone that I have never heard of, and I'm sure it's like this with tons of other blogs. ¡EL CUCUY! has a better chance of his work being heard if someone that has a little leverage pushes the track. As the risks and rewards get bigger, so does this practice. You may start to notice how many big name producers collaborate with people that you've never heard of. There are hundreds of producers that will willingly give away their work to a producer that has a following in order to get recognized. And as most big blogs and sites don't have writers and curators that know how to dictate what's good, leaning on the proven producers seems like a logical move if you want to get some kind of recognition in this game.
Though there is debate in the morality of this practice, the next producer that contacted me seals the deal with Juke Ellington. Skulltrane is producer from San Francisco that has been making wonky trap and juke records for the past year. She gave stems to a record called "TalktheTalk" to Juke Ellington and heard nothing back:
Months later we hear the same exact drum work on a remix that Juke Ellington released for DJ Azamat & NXTLYF. It's essentially an edit that is built from the stems of two different songs. The vocals were removed from the Skulltrane record, and a couple elements from the DJ Azamat & NXTLYF record were added. Skultrane was never credited:
In the original piece I wrote on Juke Ellington, I spoke on blacklisting any producer that we caught in the act of passing off someone else's work as their own. The response on this sentiment was split. Though my personal feelings about muddying legitimacy are unwavering, we saw comments like "give the man a break...he is human," and actually considered them. Juke Ellington apologized, and swore that he was going to change and put in work.
We have no clue what Juke Ellington actually produced anymore; his whole catalog is in question. I had his tunes removed from TrapMusic.NET (because I curate content there), and won't be posting his records on any site I work for ever again. He is the first on a long list of frauds I'm aware of in this industry. And though you can't do much more than walk away and shake your head, this situation speaks on bigger issues. How do you credit a track that two people worked unequal amounts on? How can we as bloggers and content curators let unknown producers know that we will post their content no matter how many followers or plays they have? What does poking holes in industry practice do to your reputation within the industry? All of that will be settled in the following months. This producer might be done, but my quest to uncover those at the top that are doing the same exact thing has just begun.