When most people heard “Old Town Road” from Lil Nas X, they had no idea that the whole thing was based on a sample from Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts album, specifically “35 Ghosts IV.”
A Dutch producer named YoungKio grabbed that banjo, added some beats and then uploaded it for sale online. Lil Nas bought it for $35, wrote the melody to “Old Town Road” and–well, you know what happened.
What we haven’t heard is what Trent Reznor felt about all this. And did he get paid?
Rolling Stone has the whole interview here, but let’s just jump to the meat of the matter. I quote:
“The way it was presented to me originally is I got a call from my management saying, ‘We got a call from a panicked manager saying they had used the sample of something off Ghosts,’” Reznor recalls. “‘They should have cleared it, but it didn’t get cleared. It’s picking up some steam on the viral Spotify charts. What do you think about that?’ And I said, ‘Look, I’m fine with it. I get how stuff goes. They’re not saying they didn’t sample it. Just work it out, but don’t be a roadblock to this.’ I hadn’t heard it yet. Then a few weeks later, I was like, ‘Holy shit.’”
And if you look up the entry for “Old Town Road” on Wikipedia, note the songwriting credits. Trent’s gettin’ paid.