Jay-Z and Kanye West Threatened With Copyright Lawsuit for Watch the Throne Track

Mogul BFFs Jay-Z and Kanye West must be pretty pleased with themselves.

After so many late nights spent studying one another's awesomeness in the Roc Nation executive penthouse, Jay and Ye's collaborative vanity project, Watch the Throne, has played out precisely as planned -- selling 613,000 copies, kicking ass for consecutive weeks on the Billboard 200 album chart, and going gold like its motherfucking cover.

Still, Crossfade has gotten snarky about Watch the Throne and its soulless single "Otis." And we aren't the only ones rankled by Jay and Kanye's new record.

Today, 75-year-old soul singer Syl Johnson and archival record label Numero Uno Group called out the raptastic duo for copyright infringement.

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The dispute stems from the unauthorized sampling of Johnson's 1967 song "Different Strokes" for Jay-Z and Kanye's "The Joy," a bonus track off the deluxe edition of Watch the Throne.

Syl Johnson's "Different Strokes"

Kanye West & Jay-Z's "The Joy"

In a blog post titled "SYL JOHNSON VS KANYE WEST/JAY-Z," Numero Uno Group provided a detailed history of the case:

Last summer we took a call from Syl wondering if we knew anything about his vocal appearing in Kanye West's "The Joy," which had been making the rounds on the internet via Kanye's "Good Fridays" series.

We approached the sampling house clearing the record (whom we've worked with on several projects) about getting it cleared. They weren't sure what was happening with the track, but it was rumored to be included on a deluxe version of his upcoming album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. About three weeks before MBDTF was to be released, we got a frantic email requesting the immediate clearance of the track. After a little negotiating, we came to a price and a verbal agreement (one that is completely standard.) Paperwork to confirm all of this was to arrive for counter signature. Weeks passed. Then months. No deluxe version appeared in the market place, and our emails and phone calls to Def Jam's business affairs department went unanswered.

We spent the better part of five months trying to get paid, and finally handed it to our lawyer who recommended not pursuing legal action as the song wasn't actually being sold. Syl could have filed a more complex suit involving the use of his voice to promote the #1 album, but decided against it. Eventually Kanye was going to want to clear some other part of our catalog, and we'd get Syl his money with leverage. With only a non-binding email to solidify the terms, we began the arduous process of having the song removed from money making channels like You Tube, for which Syl was seeing nothing. We thought the song was dead and moved on. It happens all the time.

But nope, the saga of Syl vs. "The Joy" wasn't done.

Late last night, we received a phone call from Syl--who was nearly in tears--asking if we knew why The Numero Group appeared in the credits to a new Kanye West/Jay Z album called Watch The Throne. We had no idea. The credits mis-identify Numero as the publisher of the sampled song ("Different Strokes"), which of course we are not, and any routine search of the BMI database would show otherwise. Wondering why we weren't consulted on this new use, and baffled why we appear in the credits, for which we never asked, we contacted the sample clearance house. Even they cannot get a response from their own clients. Island Def Jam seems to think that Syl doesn't have any fight left in him. We're betting otherwise.

Sounds like Jay and Ye are gonna need to call up the lawyers, break out their empty briefcases, and slip into some million-dolllar courtroom attire. It's lawsuit time.

Follow Crossfade on Facebook and Twitter @Crossfade_SFL.


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