Forgotten Emails: Richard Stallman & Death Grips | Ben Cunningham

Forgotten Emails: Richard Stallman & Death Grips

Written by Ben Cunningham · on April 29, 2017

Today I found an old email from Richard Stallman.

Yes, Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation and all things idiosyncratic in computing. I had asked him about Death Grips and their latest album, NO LOVE DEEP WEB. And yeah, Death Grips, presidents of Third Worlds Records and all things idiosyncratic in music.

I was a freshmen in college and about two months into my first computer science class. I asked him if there was hope for an MIS student in a world of Oracle databases and Excel. I told him about a recent class project and my new interest in contributing to FOSS. But I also asked him about Death Grips.

What is your opinion of the alternative hip-hop outfit Death Grips’ latest album, “No Love Deep Web?” I would surely be interested in your artistic evaluation of the record, but what I’m most curious about is your view on the group’s decision to release their album for free under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0) license. If you are unaware, Death Grips is a very prominent act on both the mainstream and indie music scene, so the group’s decision to release the album for free against the consent of their record label Epic could be seen as a very bold move. At least in my opinion, the act sets a very interesting precedent for future releases in the mainstream music industry.

Thank you for your time,
Ben Cunningham

Dr. Stallman responded. He told me he hadn’t heard the album, but isn’t a fan of hip-hop (Weird Al excepted). He told me he was nevertheless pleased to see it shared quasi-freely, but pointed me to some concerns he had with the license. I was enchanted by every word.

Though funny now, his sincere response to my genuine weirdness was a touching gesture. In a very strange way, I’m confident our mini-conversation guided me towards my career today.