A while ago, I tweeted about how “this “cover” thing stays confusing a nigga”, it was not really cos I didn’t know how to differentiate, and it was borne out of “concern” for the way “Nigerian Upcoming Artistes” approach it. So I decided to re-enlighten myself and then share some of the light.

According to Wikipedia, “In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece.”

In the American and some European music industries, the use of samples is somewhat controversial, an artiste and or producer could get sued if proper legal clearances are not obtained for samples before they are used. However, I do not think that is the case in Nigeria since sampling is not as rampant or used “commercially”.

In America, usually, when sample(s) are used on mixtapes, they are “illegal” sort of like M.I’s Illegal Music mixtapes cos they contain samples that are not legally cleared. The owner(s) of the original recordings don’t usually sue the artiste for the illegal use, however sometimes they do; Lord Finesse recently sued and later dropped charges against Mac Miller for the use of illegal samples on a track off his mixtape.

A more recent, obvious and popular use of sampling in our own music industry would be on Modenine + XYZ’s album; “Alphabetical Order” on several tracks including “Flow For The Streets” produced by XYZ on which he sampled Nas’ “Hate Me Now”. Sampling is most prominently used in the hip-hop and rap genre when compared to other genres.

A sample can consist of the song’s rhythm, or vocals, or instrument(s) pattern, or a combination of any of the aforementioned.

The cover of a song and the remix of a song are two very different things. Frequently, some artistes confuse entirely different tracks over the song’s instrumental with the remix of a track.

A cover version or “song cover” is the performance and or recording of a previously recorded and released song by someone other than the original artist. Most times, cover versions are recorded by new artists. If executed well, they can garner some and even enough attention to  get signed (Karmin is a perfect example) or significantly increase their fan base, one thing they however fail to realize is that the comments they’ll get for it range from “its good,…but not as good as the original” to “this *artiste’s name* just ruined this song for me”. Cover versions are rarely better than the original tracks; I’ve definitely not heard one out of Naija.

It is important to note that covers are not limited to upcoming or other artistes. An artiste can cover his own song.

“A cover is a song that uses no actual audio from the original, but is derivative of the original arrangement (the composition of the melody and harmony, plus any lyrics). The audio can be from both the master track or separate track stems.” Hence, any artist that records over the original instrumental of a track cannot tag the track as a “cover”.

Covers range from an exact duplicate of the original song (e.g. Beneath Your Beautiful by Tiwa Savage & Dr. Sid) to a reworked version of the original version to suit the artiste’s “taste” (e.g. Marvin Room Cover by Simi/Fucking Problems by Saeon). Song covers are more popular in the R&B/Pop scene than the rap/hip-hop scene.

Taylor Swift during some of her concerts in 2011/2012 covered a couple of rap songs including Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”.

Song covers are usually done by artistes at the popular singing competitions (Nigerian Idol, The Voice, etc.) at home & abroad, also on the popular TV show; “Glee”.

“A remix is a track that has taken portions of the actual audio recording from the original track and used them in a new creative song recording”. A remix is a song that has been edited to sound different from the original version. There are many versions of a song that can be considered a remix; however, radio edits are not remixes. Another difference between remixes and covers is that remixes usually contain audio pieces of the original recording while covers do not.

For example, Rukus’ “freestyle” over D’Banj’s “Oliver Twist” instrumental is exactly what it is; a freestyle and NOT  a remix, but when it is edited and “combined” with Wale’s Oliver Twist Freestyle  and some parts of the ORIGINAL Oliver Twist track like **, it becomes a remix though its unofficial.

Unlike sampling, there’s no such thing as an “unauthorized cover” UNLESS you’re going to make money from it by putting the track on an album or say offering it for sale on iTunes like some singing competitions (The Voice) do, unofficial remixes however are NOT to be put up for sale as a single or included on an album, that is why they are usually included on mixtapes (which are free).

On the issue of where does sampling “stop”, personally, I think sampling is one of the great things that has happened to music production, but it is not utilized in this part of the world (The Paper by Mo’Fame or Lord V is another example of a great track containing a sample of Biggie’s Dead Wrong, produced by the SugarKing). Using America as a “case study”, using a sample on a mixtape or free EP does not necessarily require sample clearance (cos the artists or their estates choose not to sue), but on an album, it is absolutely required, else it can lead to lawsuits filed against the producer(s), artist and even the record label.

However, in Nigeria, sampling of our own songs (songs by Nigerian artists) on albums is very rare, but I think there are copyright laws protecting the hard work of our artists, hence the same laws should apply. For unofficial remixes, they should NOT be included on albums, they however can be included on mixtapes or free EP’s (I’m On Remix on Griot XL’s Soul Therapy EP)

Sampling is however not for everyone, it takes a certain special kind of finesse (pun intended).


  1. Jay vick · June 1, 2016

    Great, cool write-up mehn, i gotta commend you….!!

    Im a nursery hiphop artiste (at presently); i just got to be clear with this-
    What if i record a mixtape album with unfamiliar instrumentals downloaded from beat sites at randomly would it be illegal ? i.e if for example i go on a google search for rap instrumentals and then i get referred to some unknown site and download it’s insrumentals; would it be illegal if i record songs in a non-commercialized mixtape album with such instrumentals?
    Thank You.

  2. Tony Michele · June 9, 2016


    Thank you for reading. I hope you at least got some knowledge from reading the article.

    As for your question, it can be tricky.

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