Baauer‘s “Harlem Shake” is primarily composed of bass wobbles, trappy squelches and a well-timed, beastly roar, but the two chances for listeners to sing (er, speak) along maximize their small shred of screen time. Those two vocal samples — “Con los terroristas” and “Do the Harlem Shake” — became synonymous with the “Harlem Shake” viral craze, but both cuts were used by Baauer without permission. Now that the track has blown up, the creators of the respective originals are seeking compensation.
The song’s trademark line, “Do the Harlem Shake,” comes from a line in “Miller Time” (hear it around the 3:50 mark), a 2001 track by Philly rap crew Plastic Little. Jayson Musson, the MC behind that particular line, spoke with The Fader last month and when asked about the the uncleared sample said, “I’m cool with it.” Musson is now seeking payment from Baauer’s label, Mad Decent, according to the New York Times. But Musson still personally thanked Baauer for “doing something useful with our annoying music,” and says Diplo‘s imprint has been friendly and “more than cooperative” throughout the process.
The author of the other sample, though, is taking a bit of a tougher stance.
The song’s opening salvo, “Con los terroristas,” originates from Hector Delgado’s 2006 track “Maldades,” recorded under the name Hector El Father. “It’s almost like they came on my land and built a house,” Delgado told the Times. Lawyers for Delgado’s label are now negotiating with Mad Decent for payment. Now, it’s worth noting that he’s not looking to bring a lawsuit. But Delgado’s former manager, who is involved in the current negotiations, said, “We can turn around and stop that song. That’s a clear breaking of intellectual property rights.”
The “terroristas” sample is simultaneously obscure and a known quantity. “The dude in the beginning I got somewhere off the Internet, I don’t even know where,” Baauer told The Daily Beast of the introductory yelp. According to the NYT, that particular Delgado sample was used in a few dance track remixes by DJs in Philadelphia in 2010 and 2011. Delgado’s camp has yet to pursue any legal action regarding those earlier uses of his song.