In March, Kendrick Lamar dropped To Pimp a Butterfly, his highly anticipated follow up to his critically-acclaimed 2012 sophomore album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. Heavy on the social commentary, To Pimp a Butterfly is a soulful reminder that K.Dot is one of the best artists in the game without rubbing it in everyone’s face.
The ninth track on the album is called “Momma.” It’s a introspective musical letter to his mother that reflects on his childhood in Compton, enhanced with vocals performed by Lalah Hathaway and Bilal.
Pay attention to the beat? Good. Now listen to this track released in 2013 on Soundcloud by Christian Deshun, an unsigned hip hop artist from Louisiana:
Yep, that’s the same beat. Note how the Soundcloud timestamp on Christian Deshun’s track is from a year ago. So… how did a beat used by an unknown rapper in March 2014 end up on what’s going to be one of the biggest hip hop albums of 2015?
The beat is by Knxwledge, a producer with dozens of instrumental beat albums on Bandcamp over the years. I talked to Christian Deshun about the uncanny similarity. It all stems from him buying a lease to use the track off Bandcamp a few years ago, long before Kendrick discovered the exact same beat from Knxwledge. It wasn’t “stolen” or something like that, just a coincidence that another artist used it on a track a couple years earlier. Now it’s beautiful backbone of a Kendrick record.
It’s not the first time it’s happened, it’s not the last time it will happen.
I talked to Christian Deshun last week. He explained it in his own words:
“It’s crazy that it ended up on this project. It solidifies that I was definitely on the right path,” he tells me.
“I didn’t get offended by it because I didn’t outright own the track. I just bought the lease off his Bandcamp. I wish I would have known that Kendrick Lamar was going to use it, because then I definitely would have bought the exclusive.”
I asked him if Knxwledge would have known about his use of the beat before releasing it to Kendrick:
“Nah. Me and Knxwledge never really spoke about the track. He definitely knows I bought the lease because on Bandcamp is definitely shows when you purchase a lease. But when I bought the track, I bought it because I really just like the beat. I actually had no intention on releasing that track. I released my whole project, Simplicity, and then I released “Thank You” because I wanted to release something and it was a throw away track. That track was a throw away track I had no intentions of releasing, but my supporters were on me about not releasing anything for a while. So last March I released it.”
“What’s crazy about that track is that I sent it to a couple of industry friends who like ‘ehhhh… it’s cool, but it’s nothing special.’ But then fast forward to today the same people are like “I love that ‘Momma’ track!”
He has a good attitude about the whole thing.
“I’m not upset at all. When I heard the [Kendrick Lamar] track, I was excited. I was like, “Bro, I just did something before Kendrick Lamar did!” He’s one of THE most creative individuals in hip hop right now. The fact that I did something before he did was like the coolest thing to me. I rented a good beat that Kendrick Lamar is on a year later. That’s mind-blowing.”
“My supporters started hitting me up after his album dropped and asking me if I heard it. Then they were like ‘He stole that song from you!’ But I was like ‘Nahhh, he didn’t steal anything from me. Kendrick outright owns that track. I have no ill-will towards Kendrick. If anything, I feel a lot more motivated and inspired to create something cool. If they like that Momma track, what I’m working on now is going to blow their minds.”
So what is Christian working on now?
“I’m working on this project called For The Weekends. It’s one of my most personal, most creative projects to date. I feel like this one is definitely going to be the breakthrough project that will put me over the edge. If they love To Pimp A Butterfly, they’ll love this thing.
And finally, I asked him if there’s even a remote possibly that K.Dot heard his track after he put it on Soundcloud.
“If Kendrick came across that track and was like ‘OK, let me hit up Knxwledge’ and get that beat off him,’ that would be crazy. But I don’t think he has the time to even listen to my track. But I’m sure Knxwledge was in touch with someone at his label and whatnot.
But if he did, that’s tight. But if he didn’t, that’s cool. But I don’t think he did…”
Here’s the latest track + video Christian Deshun just dropped: