» » Kanye West’s ‘Yandhi’ ringtones appear to be a scam, and they’re now gone


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Kanye West’s ‘Yandhi’ ringtones appear to be a scam, and they’re now gone
Kanye West’s Yandhi briefly appeared online after its release was pushed back multiple times in 2018, but in an unlikely place: as iTunes ringtones. Reddit users discovered the Yandhi ringtone snippets, which linked back to West’s artist page on iTunes, prompting reports from outlets like Vulture and Heavy to speculate that this is how Kanye intended his new project to roll out. Unfortunately, evidence suggests the ringtones are a scam, scraped from leaked copies of the original tracks, with none of the money headed back to West himself. The ringtones were recently removed from iTunes, likely because they were not official.

There has been incredible anticipation around Yandhi, with people going as far as to crowdfund the purchase of song leaks, encouraging those with access to works in progress or a studio session to illicitly distribute them. West also has a history of sharing works in progress and bucking industry norms when it comes to releasing music, so the idea that he could have uploaded Yandhi as ringtones wasn’t impossible.

Image: iTunes
The clue that suggests these ringtones weren’t official is in the metadata. They all listed ENZO Label as the copyright holder, an unknown entity that isn’t associated with any of the usual players West releases music through, like Def Jam Music Group or Roc Nation Records.

ENZO Label also appears to have a history of populating Apple Music and other streaming services with illegal copies of existing songs. The label’s pattern is to keep the song name intact but tweak the artist name, and label all of its releases as "alternative,” regardless of genre.

In fact, Kanye isn’t the first artist that ENZO Label seems to have ripped off. The Verge was able to find ENZO Label attached to a rip of the classic ‘80s rock song "Rock You Like a Hurricane” by Scorpions under the artist name "Felix,” as well as a copy of "Junk of the Heart” by The Kooks under the artist name "Tony Hoffer” (who actually is a real producer and songwriter that worked with The Kooks). Here are many other examples of dubious ENZO Label releases on Apple Music.

While Genius picked up on the unusual label name associated with the ringtones, it pointed out that there’s also a label named Enzo Recordings, run by British musician Chicane, but there doesn’t seem to be a connection — Enzo Recordings operates as an above board label for Chicane’s own releases. It’s common for artists create their own label in order to put out and distribute their own songs, and Chicane is an acclaimed dance music producer with top ten hits in Europe and Australia. But there’s no reason Chicane would be releasing ringtones for Kanye or renamed songs for the Kooks — he’s never worked with either artist. Additionally, his label as a company is registered as Enzo Recordings, not ENZO Label.

Image: iTunes
Is it possible that these were legitimate releases? Perhaps, but that chance is very, very slim. One of ENZO Label’s listings on Apple Music is "Gud Vibrations (Nitti Gritti Remix)” by Nghtmre and Slander, labeled instead as "Gud Vibrations” by Nightmare. The Verge reached out to Will Runzel, co-founder of Prodigy Artists, the company that manages both Nghtmre and Slander. When asked if this could be a legitimate licensed version of the song, Runzel said it was "totally impossible.”

Image: Apple Music
So, how does an entity like ENZO Label upload these songs to services? Probably through any normal distribution service like TuneCore. "Just give it a new code and upload it,” Kevin Casini, Entertainment Law Professor at the Quinnipiac School of Law, tells The Verge:

Whatever you input is whatever they have. I could rip a CD my mom has of Huey Lewis and the News, pretend it’s a completely different band, change all the metadata, upload it, and it’s out there. It’s up to the content rights holder to find this thing and tell the streaming service or distribution channel, "Hey, that’s mine.” And changing the artist name is indicative that [ENZO Label] know[s] what they’re doing.
Even though Kanye West’s Yandhi hasn’t been officially released, the album has been incrementally leaking online for some time. According to Highsnobiety, this is reportedly due to a "movement of Kanye fans crowdfunding to leak unreleased demos from the upcoming album.” So, it’s not entirely far-fetched to see the tracks appear on iTunes, especially as ringtones, which only require a clip of each song and not the entire thing.

The Verge has reached out to Apple Music and Universal Music for comment.

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