Why Does Drake Need Kanye West's Permission to Clear 'Say What's Real'? An Explainer

In 2009, Drake released his celebrated mixtape So Far Gone. The tape was instantly dubbed a masterpiece because of his decision to unabashedly wear his heart on his sleeve, while also exploring his talents as a precocious rapper/singer. Not only did Drake seamlessly weave original tracks such as "Best I Ever Had" and "Successful" into the fold, but he also used other artists' beats, such as Jay-Z's "Ignorant Shit" and, most famously, Kanye West's "Say You Will" (for his own "Say What's Real") to nimbly craft his musical offering.

On Thursday (Dec. 13), Kanye West revealed on Twitter that Drake sent a clearance request for "Say What's Real," sharing a message texted to him by an unnamed person. “Drake sent in a clearance request for ‘Say What’s Real’. Do you wanna clear?” read the text. After a lengthy rant on Twitter and a phone call with Drake, West ultimately decided to deny the rapper his request for the sample clearance. 

For Drake, the 6 God's decision to reach out to West despite their mangled relationship could be because So Far Gone's 10th anniversary is en route. Released in February 2009, the project cracked opened the mainstream doors for Drake with "Successful" and "Best I Ever Had," which climbed all the way to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Though Drake released a condensed version of the project in 2009 -- the EP only features six songs in comparison to the original mixtape's 18 tracks -- he failed to include his standout track "Say What's Real." Billboard reached out to Drake's reps for comment in regards to a potential reissue of So Far Gone.

West's resounding denial on Twitter may have flattened Drake's chances of providing fans his lauded mixtape in full on streaming services. Because "Say You Will" -- which "Say What's Real" samples -- was originally produced by West and is from his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak, Drake needs West's approval in order to have his rendition live on any streaming service. If Drake chooses to do so without West's permission, he can find himself being sued and taken to court.

Last month, Wiz Khalifa freed his breakout mixtape Kush & OJ to streaming services, but with a caveat. For Khalifa, though he was finally able to liberate his 2010 project, two of the tracks -- "The Statement" and "Never Been" -- were labeled as remixes, considering they failed to get sample clearances. Khalifa's Demi Lovato-sampling "We're Done" was also ousted from the reshuffled project.

In an interview with HipHopDX earlier this year, Khalifa's producer Sledgren mapped out the obstacles behind "Never Been" and why he had no choice but to rework the beat. "I don’t think they’re budging though so I’m trying to remake it as best I can," he said last September. "It’s just taking some time." He also touched on the difficulties he faced with Khalifa's Cabin Fever hit "Phone Numbers." "This company is just like we’re not clearing shit, basically," he said. "We’ll give y’all all the money for it. Just clear it so we can give it to the world."

In the end, Sledgren reworked "Never Been" and "Phone Numbers," respectively, because the samples were never cleared.

With West refusing to clear "Say What's Real," Drake is now in a precarious situation. Because his feud with West has reached its boiling point, the chances of him receiving that sample clearance appear bleak, and if he does elect to remake the track, the same zeal and luster that was on the original might be hard to recapture on a reissued project, if he truly intends to go that route.