Diplo has cleared unlicensed samples that Baauer used in “Harlem Shake” in a bid to help his Mad Decent artist avoid legal entanglements. The producer and label head worked out an arrangement with Jayson Musson and Hector Delgado after the artists, who were sampled in the the viral hit, said they hadn’t been compensated.
“We didn’t know there were any samples in the song to begin with,” Diplo told The Huffington Post. “But when it came to clear the samples – because otherwise he would make negative money – we wanted to help him out.”
Some of the song’s most memorable elements are drawn from samples, particularly the repeated phrase “Do the Harlem Shake.” That’s a sample from “Miller Time” by the rap group Plastic Little, which counted Musson – better known as Internet comedian and art critic Hennessy Youngman – among its members. “He hit us up and said the album never got licensed or published, so we just cut a deal where he could make some money off that,” Diplo said.
Another notable sample came from Delgado, a Puerto Rican reggaeton artist who is now an evangelical preacher. The “con los terroristas” line that starts “Harlem Shake” is from Delgado’s track “Maldades,” and he also reached out for compensation. “The Puerto Rican guys, they kept calling me because I know everyone in Puerto Rico, so I just sorted that out,” Diplo said. “It wasn’t even them, it was Universal Publishing.”
Mad Decent gave the record to Warner for distribution after passing on Universal, which led to more complications. “But we had enough clout that we sorted it out,” said Diplo. The track has been a massive success for Mad Decent and reinvigorated the label. “Honestly, that record was the thing that saved the label, because a year ago we were going to fold because we couldn’t figure out how to make money,” Diplo said. “Then we just started giving music out for free and it worked out.”