Did you know that Led Zeppelin has significant street credentials in rap? All eyes have been on Led Zeppelin over the last weekend of February, as the band celebrated the 40th anniversary of their hit album Physical Graffiti. However, as the Beastie Boys are officially calling an end to their career as a band — a story about former 80s hair-band rocker, Axel Rose, angrily telling them they ripped off Led Zeppelin is recalled.
Is it true that Led Zeppelin was ripped off by the Beastie Boys at one point? Evidence has been compiled by Ultimate Classic Rock that seems to support Axel Rose’s statement, and it appears that Led Zeppelin was misaligned. Specifically, they state Led Zeppelin was told in 1988 by Axel Rose that the Beastie Boys stole a riff of Jimmy Page’s from “The Ocean” and a drum break sample from “When the Levee Breaks.”
About the claims that “She’s Crafty” or other songs from the 1986 rap classic “Rhymin and Stealin” had, in fact, done some stealing from Led Zeppelin was not exactly refuted in 1988 when Axel Rose confronted the Beastie Boys.
According to Adam Horowitz in an interview with GQ Magazine, “Axl Rose came, like, stepped to me at the party and told me to stop ripping off Led Zeppelin. I’m like, ‘How am I even … how is this even happening?’ You know, this thing happens to all of us, I would assume. [sic]”
Although years have passed since 1988, it seems as though the issue of infringement was never formally resolved (or brought up) between Led Zeppelin and the Beastie Boys. On the other hand, the story about Axel Rose will be a part of the upcoming book that Mike D and Adam Horovitz (the two remaining members of the Beastie Boys trio) will be publishing about their Beastie Boys memoirs.
To clarify how Led Zeppelin was stolen in the Beastie Boys song “Rhymin and Stealin,” in 2013, Esquire published an article stating the following.
“The two-bar break that opens ‘When the Levee Breaks’ is one of the most monumental pieces of rock drumming ever recorded, and one of the most widely sampled pieces of music ever, having appeared in songs by everyone from Eminem and Dr. Dre to New Age artist Mike Oldfield and Sophie B. Hawkins. Few have used it as effectively — or as blatantly — as Rick Rubin did on this Beasties classic.”
However, it is no surprise that Led Zeppelin is brought up in the context of rap or hip hop because Led Zeppelin has been relevant to that genre for awhile. Multiple media sources like Esquire and XXL Magazine have published top 10 lists with the best rap remixes or freestyles that use clips of Led Zeppelin songs. Lists like this come about in the first place because musicians have been lifting Led Zeppelin riffs and samples for decades.
In fact, from Portishead to Puff Daddy’s “Come With Me,” WhoSampled has hundreds of musicians listed that have used part of Led Zeppelin’s work in their own. The only difference between other rappers and artists that used Led Zeppelin’s music and the Beastie Boys is that Axel Rose claims they did it without giving Led Zeppelin sufficient credit.
A good recent example of a rapper using Led Zeppelin in their own work is Yelawolf. In early 2015, Yelawolf unapologetically dropped a single mixed with Led Zeppelin from his upcoming rap album Love Story that will be released April 21.
While mixing the 1969 song “Dazed and Confused” from Led Zeppelin with rap lyrics might sound frightening to some Led Zeppelin fans from 40 years ago, Yelawolf’s “Led Zeppelin Freestyle” has over 81,000 views in its first week of being posted to YouTube.
Led Zeppelin fans, I ask you: If all of this is not proof of Led Zeppelin’s status as a music legend — what is?
[All images from the referenced links.]