In the last few days, a curious new beef has arisen at an interesting intersection in the electronic music realm, and the wrath of a large community of underground artists has engulfed one of today's most prominent producers.
The well-known and Hardwell-sponsored producer, Dyro, released a new track entitled “Good Feelin” in late August, and soon after, major accusations of plagiarism ravaged his social media accounts. The Dutch DJ/producer who has been ranked as a Top 30 DJ according to the DJ Magazine Awards three years in a row from 2013 to 2015, and 93rd in 2016, has been accused of stealing ideas in a far-too-similar manner from two songs, “Ghost Machine” by Culprate & Zenji, and Culprate's remix of Clockvice, Raine & Vorso's “Tudiskava.”
Before diving into our analysis, this is what you need to hear in order to make up your mind:
The song, which comes in a simple build/drop/break/build/drop/outro format, has two major sections, the repeated build and drop. The drop in this song essentially has two elements; the rising side-chained chord progression being the first, leading into the stabby 'neuro' sounding Serum-style bass line second section. Keeping the first drop from 0:53 to 1:22, and the second drop from 2:22 to 2:52 in mind, we can now dissect the two songs which have allegedly been ripped off:
The side-chained chord progression in the first section of Dyro's drops in “Good Feelin” can be heard in the final drop of this song from 2:03 onward. With the “Tudiskava” remix having been released 6 months ago, it is hard to dismiss the similarity of the two tracks.
Furthermore, the first drop in Culprate & Zenji's “Ghost Machine” has an almost identically sound-designed stabby synth and a very similar groove to the second part of Dyro's drops on “Good Feelin,” albeit faster at 140BPM. This track was also released over 3 months ago as a part of Culprate's Unity project.
The whole ordeal can be summarised through this privately uploaded comparison:
With these uncanny similarities in mind, the underground community has had a lot to say; a barrage of angry comments has been hitting the “Good Feelin” Soundcloud, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Dyro's Wikipedia page, while many people have been blocked from his social media accounts. The list of artists who've joined what has become a war between the underground and mainstream EDM producership includes everyone from OG trendsetters to bass music's rising stars including Billain, Habstrakt, Hurtdeer, Kursa, Seppa, DFNKT, Chee, Grey Code, Smigonaut, and many more.
This situation begs the question that if the accusations are not true, why are all the comments being deleted and people blocked from Dyro's page? Why is the discussion essentially being censored? Beyond the major blocking of comments, Dyro has promised to upload a video of his project file when he is done with his China tour in a few days. But what does seeing a project file mean in this situation? Does this situation exemplify the trend of oversaturation and consequent inevitable similarity between songs, or is it a straight case of ripping off underground artists and trying to get away with it?
With regards to the oversaturation issue, these claims are well-reported when they reach big budget legal battle status in the pop music world, if you'll recall Robin Thicke's “Blurred Lines” fiasco, and Tom Petty ending up with a writing credit on Sam Smith's “Stay With Me.” Keeping in mind the Everything is a Remix documentary from some years ago, there is always the argument that much of music is inspired by what comes before it, even groups as famous as Led Zeppelin have gotten away with dodgy cases of ripping off other artists. So, what is the big deal? Is the issue a lot more significant when it is a "Top 100" DJ 'stealing' ideas from a lesser known tastemaker?
It can be counter-argued that the scene that Culprate & Zenji and all these protesting producers come from does certainly have an influential impact on electronic music as a whole. Being a part of the Inspected label, which also includes KOAN Sound, Asa, Sorrow, as well as the global neuro/tech bass music scene, Culprate is certainly a 'your favorite producer's favourite producer' type of artist, and his avant-garde Deliverance album is commonly lauded as one of the most impactful projects of this decade, placed alongside Amon Tobin's ISAM at a boss-level of music production.
Similarly, “Tudiskava” is out on the Upscale label, whose artists have had their songs dropped by the likes of Aphex Twin, Noisia, G Jones, Bassnectar, and more, and who regularly get support from Skrillex's NestHQ. With this in mind, it is obvious that someone from the mainstream such as Dyro may be inspired by artists from this community i.e. Culprate & Zenji, and try to implement some influences in his own music, but where can the line be drawn? Is the “Good Feelin” issue crossing the line?
We need to remember here that Dyro's slate is not exactly clean either. In 2014, Deadmau5 and Pegboard Nerds called out Dyro for ripping off their songs. The issue with the previous beef may be that with mainstream EDM music, a lot of the music does sound samey and catered for the same crowd anyway, therefore allegations of ripping off become a lot less pronounced. However, tracks like “Ghost Machine” and “Tudiskava” are catered for the connoisseurs, and they are dense gold mines of ideas with evolving sections beyond the simple build/drop format. Artists who make such state-of-the-art music risk mainstream success not because they are not capable of writing pop-sensible songs, but because of believing in the true value of the art and experimentation, hence the extent of uproar when their ideas are so blatantly 'borrowed' by commercial producers. Consequently, it can be argued that the line is hard to draw but when it is a rather famous producer stealing from lesser known legends, it becomes more apparent.
“Good Feelin” certainly crosses this line and while Dyro has confessed that the song "has similarities" and he "understands Zenji's frustration" and aims to fix this issue, he has yet to comment on whether the track is based on “Ghost Machine” Culprate & Zenji and the “Tudiskava” remix by Culprate.
Overall, it will be interesting to see how this issue will pan out. The community seems determined to email just about anyone in the industry until they find answers, or raise even more questions across the board. However, disregarding the outcome of this specific situation, the music machine including platforms such as the DJ Mag needs to address these issues and take it into consideration when compiling their contested and often divisive top 100 DJ lists and putting artists on podiums. Subsequently, mainstream publications need to give more respect to trendsetter artists like Culprate and help to bring their work to the public sphere and I hope one of the outcomes of this situation will exactly be this.