Virginia artist D.R.A.M. says that his track, “Cha Cha” was ripped off by Drake’s “Hotline Bling”. Let’s do some analysis to see if he has a case.
First, lets introduce the track that “Hotline Bling” samples, Timmy Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Live Together”.
Now a listen to “Hotline Bling”.
Hotline Bling video out now.
It’s very straight forward, not a ton added here – it’s bare, sparse and atmospheric. As soon as “Why Can’t We Live Together” begins one can’t help but hear “Hotline Bling”. There’s new drums and a few ethereal synth leads added, but that seems about it. It’s a clear, sample-driven track.
Now onto the track “Cha Cha” sampled -or more accurately it seems, re-interpreted- “Star Road- Super Mario World” which was composed by Koji Kondo.
And now “Cha Cha”.
There’s more going on here for sure, it doesn’t sound like a direct sample, but perhaps a layering over the sample or a reinterpreting of it. There are various 8-bit bursts throughout the track and a Caribbean drum pattern. It’s much busier than the “Hotline Bling” beat.
In comparing the two there are clearly similarities, but they’re not overtly striking. The chord progression on each of the respective samples is alike, but the vibes of each track are nearly diametrically opposed. “Hotline Bling” features an open and decidedly dark-pop soundscape and “Cha Cha” is about as lively and filled to the brim as possible. The two share a very similar drum pattern and a BPM right around 135, and the way the vocals come in on each hook are somewhat alike. There is something to D.R.A.M.’s claims that,
Yeah, I feel I got jacked for my record…But I’m GOOD.
— DRAM (@BIGBABYDRAM) October 20, 2015
And the fact that, apparently due to some confusion “Hotline Bling” was accidentally put out as a remix to “Cha Cha” originally, does not help quell suspicion that the track was -at the very least- partially influenced by “Cha Cha”. And Drake does not refute that the tracks are alike, comparing his approach to Jamaican artists who record vocals over the same drum patterns saying to Fader Magazine,
Imagine that in rap, or imagine that in R&B. Imagine if we got one beat and every single person—me, this guy, this guy, all these guys—had to do a song on that one beat. So sometimes I’ll pick a beat that’s a bit, like, sunnier, I guess is the word you used, than usual, and I just try my hand at it. And that’s kind of what ‘Hotline Bling’ was. And I loved it. It’s cool. I’ve been excited by that sort of creative process.
But, with all of that said, the tracks, to me, are not that similar. They share some very minor vocal elements and certain lines have similar arrangements, and the beats are, I guess one could say cousins – but not close cousins, 2nd cousins. The chord progressions on the samples are definitely alike – there’s some influence here for sure. And I can see where D.R.A.M. would be a bit frustrated about being constantly questioned about “Hotline Bling,” but I don’t see this as Drake jacking the track. D.R.A.M has a case, but not a strong enough one to convict.
by Jesse Mechanic