“Harlem Shake,” the song written and produced by American DJ Baauer, is front and center of a compensation claim by two artists who allege the record label behind the hit uses their voices without permission.
The song triggered an Internet dance craze following its uploading in February 2013 to YouTube, and mass appetite for the dance meme which has since been homaged by thousands.
Now, former reggaeton performer Hector Delgado and rapper Jayson Musson want a piece of the commercial action that has seen “Harlem Shake” ascend to the top of Billboard’s 100 singles chart for its third week at the time of writing, and reach 98 million streams in Billboard’s new Streaming Songs Chart.
“Harlem Shake” begins with the vocals of Delgado, now a evangelical preacher based in Puerto Rico, saying “Con los terroristas,” used as a hook on his 2006 single “Maldades.”
The line “Do the Harlem Shake” originates from the the 2001 song “Miller Time” by Plastic Little, Musson’s former Philadelphia rap group.
“It’s almost like they came on my land and built a house,” Delgado told the New York Times, adding that he was surprised when his former manager, Javier Gómez called him three weeks ago and said his voice was on “Harlem Shake,” a now viral Internet hit sitting atop the pop charts.
On the tsunami of viral videos that were made, the vocal beginning switches to Musson’s voice commanding “Do the Harlem Shake” before costumed dancers proceed to do just that.
Baauer, 23, christened Harry Bauer Rodrigues, has not commented on Delgado and Musson’s claims. However, last month he did admit to finding Delgado’s sample online. As yet, it’s unknown exactly where Bauer first heard the Plastic Little song.
Musson says that after he learned of the sample from a former bandmate, he personally called Baauer to thank him for “doing something useful with our annoying music.”
“Harlem Shake” entered the Hot 100 at number 1 two weeks ago, prompting Billboard to add US only YouTube video streaming data to its chart.
It has climbed to pop culture dominance following copies of the dance meme by groups as disparate as the English National Ballet, chef Jamie Oliver, Fox’s The Simpsons, the Norwegian army, Georgia University’s men’s swim and dive team, indie duo Matt and Kim, passengers on a plane, Australian mine workers, and Saturday Night Live.
Currently, Delgado’s music publisher, Machete Music, and Musson who works under copyright control are negotiating with Mad Decent over payment for the samples.
It seems those negotiations are friendly ones. Neither contesting artist has provided specifics about what they are asking for. Musson said: “Mad Decent have been more than cooperative during this.”