On Tuesday, Noah Ryan Murphy, an 18-year-old who makes music as deadman死人, experienced severe whiplash. One of his productions, “Omae Wa Mou,” debuted at Number One on Spotify’s Viral 50. But the same day, Murphy was hit with a copyright infringement claim, which led to the removal of the track just as it was poised to reach a wide audience.
“I was in a super bad mood,” Murphy says. “Holy hell. This is one of the worst-best days of my life.”
The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it success of “Omae Wa Mou” seems like yet another anomaly in a TikTok-mad world that whips from one musical whim to the next. Murphy found a perky, weightless Japanese bossa nova track in a meme on Instagram in 2017. He couldn’t understand the lyrics, but he liked the song, sampled it, added the hi-hat-heavy drum programming that is as common as air in modern pop, put the new version online, and moved on with his life. Two years later, another meme-wave and a TikTok dance challenge lifted “Omae Wa Mou” to new heights. Murphy isn’t sure what, exactly, sparked the latest round of interest, but the surge of enthusiasm put him at odds with the law.
Strange as “Omae Wa Mou”‘s story is, the track sits squarely at the intersection of two trends in modern pop. Cheap technology and beat-sale sites make it easier than ever for an unknown artist to obtain an instrumental with an ear-catching sample. At the same time, the hit-making apparatus in 2019 moves with such speed and ferocity that young artists are often forced to obtain legal clearance for those samples at the same time as their singles rocket up the charts (Juice WRLD and Lil Nas X both ran into this problem).
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“Omae Wa Mou” also fits in with an odd burst of bossa nova references from young artists of note in rap (Kota the Friend, Juice WRLD), R&B (Hope Tala, Tei Shi, Lucky Daye) and pop (Cuco, Iyla) in the last six months. Japanese tributes to bossa nova have benefitted along with Brazilian-made tracks: Freddie Dredd’s TikTok hit “Cha Cha” samples “Sway It, Hula Girl,” a song by Japanese bossa singer Lisa Ono, and the source material for “Omae Wa Mou” is a Japanese album titled Toho Bossa Nova 2.
How did a track from the obscure Toho Bossa Nova 2 find its way into a clip featuring Tay-K? Murphy doesn’t know, and it didn’t matter. When he saw the video on Instagram, he asked about the identity of the song in the comments. Someone told him, and Murphy completed his “Omae Wa Mou” instrumental roughly two hours later.
At the time, Murphy was 16, and he was making a small amount of money by selling what are known as “type beats” — beats made in the style of a famous producer that aspiring musicians can buy cheaply. (Sometimes, type beats become famous in their own right; a notable example is Desiigner’s “Panda,” which was sold as a “Meek Mill – Ace Hood type beat”). Murphy put “Omae Wa Mou” up for sale on September 22, 2017 as a “Lil Boom x anime”-type beat.
Roughly three months later, the actual Lil Boom — a young rapper whose song titles include “Fuck Steph Curry,” “Fuck Taylor Swift,” and “Fuck Kyrie” — bought the beat for $25. He turned it into a song titled “Already Dead.” Lil Boom is not well known (11.2 million streams total this year), but he is far better known than Murphy, who had only 20 YouTube subscribers when he made “Omae Wa Mou.” By July, “Already Dead” had earned around 65,000 views on YouTube.
Murphy is not certain what lit a fire under both “Already Dead” and “Omae Wa Mou” in July. He noticed that the meme page Animescoop, which has close to 90,000 followers, posted a clip soundtracked by “Omae Wa Mou.” “That started spreading,” Murphy says. “Then it got to TikTok, and that’s where it really blew up.” There are now nearly 250,000 clips set to the track on the video app; recently it has been attracting popular users like Jorge Garay, who has over three million fans.
Lil Boom was the first to benefit from the “Omae Wa Mou” mania: “Already Dead” debuted at Number 32 on the Spotify viral chart on August 8. But this week, Murphy’s instrumental version leapfrogged Lil Boom and debuted at Number One. “The day that happened, I got a copyright infringement notice from the distribution service I use, Routenote,” he says. On Wednesday, the song still appeared on Spotify, but U.S. users couldn’t listen to it. By Thursday morning, it vanished from the service. “That shit was heartbreaking to me,” Murphy says.
(Lil Boom’s version is still available on Spotify; he did not respond to requests for comment. Spotify also did not respond to requests to comment. Curious listeners can find “Omae Wa Mou” on YouTube.)
Murphy thinks the “happy nature” of “Omae Wa Mou” makes it well suited to a TikTok dance craze. But he recently found out that the carefree bossa nova lilt disguises a song about romantic angst. “In the comment sections of the videos, people are like, ‘this [music] really cures my depression,'” Murphy says. “But I looked at a translation, and it’s about being upset because someone’s not liking you back.”
In a weird cosmic twist, this is also Murphy’s current situation: He loves the sample in “Omae Wa Mou” — and the streams it is bringing in — but the owner of the original remains oblivious to his affection. “I’ve gotta get the sample cleared, but I don’t have a good way of reaching Shibayan Records, the person who made the song, because of the huge language barrier,” Murphy says. He recently found Shibayan’s Twitter account and sent a direct message to the user in Japanese that he copied and pasted from Google Translate. Shibayan Records has yet to respond to him (or to Rolling Stone).
Meanwhile, the major labels, including Columbia Records, have started to reach out to Murphy this week. But as “Omae Wa Mou” sits in limbo, it’s the producer’s turn to go silent. “I haven’t gotten back to them yet,” Murphy says. “I don’t really know what to say.”