Yikes, Yeezy: This is not a good look. According to a new interview in Pitchfork, Aphex Twin alleged that Kanye West tried to steal his song "Avril 14th" to sample in West's 2010 single "Blame Game," which appeared on his highly rated album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." If you've never noticed the similarities between "Avril 14th" and "Blame Game," trust me — "Blame Game" is super similar to the melody of Aphex Twin's 2001 single.
"[Kanye] tried to fucking rip me off and claim that he’d written it, and they tried to get away with not paying," Aphex Twin — whose real name is Richard D. James — said in the interview, before adding that he "tried" to be civil and offer a version of the song that was slightly sped up to the speed West was using in "Blame Game," but that West's group denied it.
"Is it a sample? I actually don't know what it ended up being in the end, I'm so slack...I was really helpful, and when they first sent it to me, I was like, 'Oh, I can re-do that for you, if you like,' because they'd sampled it really badly and time-stretched it and there was loads of artifacts. I was like, 'I'll just replay it for you at that speed if you want,'" he continued. "And they totally didn't even say ‘hello’ or ‘thanks,’ they just replied with, 'It's not yours, it's ours, and we're not even asking you any more.'"
Yikes. Let's backtrack a bit, though: Yes, "Avril 14th" (which appeared on the Marie Antoinette soundtrack and in some trailers for Her) has a history of being an expensive song to sample. Back in 2007, Andy Samberg and the Saturday Night Live crew ran into some issues when it used "Avril 14th" without permission in a Digital Short titled "Iran So Far" during an episode of SNL, but the problems were eventually straightened out and SNL secured the rights to play the song during that specific episode and any re-airings of it. But, when Samberg and his The Lonely Island bandmates Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer were putting together the tracklist for their 2009 debut comedy album "Incredibad" and tried to use "Iran So Far," they faced a very expensive roadblock. From an interview with The Lonely Island on UGO:
UGO: Why isn’t “Iran So Far Away” on the album?
Jorma: There were some sample clearance issues. For that song I sampled Aphex Twin’s “Avril 14th” and his publishing company wouldn’t give us the rights.
Andy: Well, they would but…
Jorma: They cleared it for SNL. If we ever make a Best of SNL Shorts DVD we can put it on there, it can be on repeats of SNL, but it wasn’t cleared for the album.
Andy: It could have technically been cleared for the album…
Jorma: But they asked for an outrageous amount of money.
Andy: For the record, Aphex Twin was super cool about the whole thing. It was the label.
This kind of backs up James' claim about being "helpful" when it came to trying to assist West — but that might be grasping at straws. And sure, it's expensive...but West can afford it. I mean, he reportedly once spent $5,000 on curry.
Anyway, as James said, it's not clear whether or not the melody used in the background of "Blame Game" can still be considered as matching "Avril 14th" — it's a bit convoluted, really, and hard to tell where the differences begin and the similarities end. But, they certainly do sound close enough alike, and, as The Guardian points out, "liner notes for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy do however state that Blame Game “contains elements of Avril 14 by Richard James”, so there is an acknowledgement and therefore a possibility that West did comply and compensate James."
So, how similar are the tracks? See for yourself: