LOS ANGELES (CN) – Hip hop icon Dr. Dre says WIDEawake Death Row Entertainment, the post-bankruptcy version of the label he cofounded but left in 1996, has refused to pay royalties on its unauthorized reissue of his classic debut solo album “The Chronic.”
Dr. Dre, whose real name is Andre Young, released “The Chronic” in 1992, ushering in the “g-funk” era of west coast hip hop. Before that, Young was a member of the short-live, but influential rap group NWA. Young helped launch the careers of Snoop Dog and Eminem and, with Suge Knight, co-founded Death Row Records, home of Tupac Shakur, Warren G and Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez.
Founded in 1991, Death Row housed some of the highest-profile hip-hop acts of the ’90s. It landed in the grave after a Los Angeles bankruptcy court ordered Knight to pay a third Death Row co-founder, Lydia Harris, $107 million to settle her claim that Knight forced her from the label.
According to industry lore, Knight also refused to pay royalties to Death Row artists, dangled Vanilla Ice from a 15-story balcony for refusing to sign with Death Row, and helped spark the feud that culminated in the deaths of Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
Young split from Death Row in 1996 in a highly publicized move that left the label the rights to distribute “The Chronic.” The agreement allowed Death Row to use the same artwork, master recordings and mixes as the original, but required it to pay royalties, the federal complaint states.
Young says Death Row had no rights over digital distribution of the album.
In January 2009, Lara Lavi and her company, Ontario-based WIDEawake Entertainment, reportedly bought Death Row in a bankruptcy auction for $18 million.
Lavi promised to turn a new page at Death Row’s alleged history of cheating its artists.
“I don’t think anyone could do as bad as the last guy,” Lavi told AllHipHop.com in August. “Failure to pay royalties and whatever craziness went on, that’s not my way. It’s ethically wrong. I can’t do that.”
But Young claims Lavi’s promises are a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
Young says Lavi has never paid him any royalties for the original “The Chronic” album. Lavi, who has referred to herself in interviews as a “Jewish soccer mom,” also released a greatest hits album without Young’s permission, and reissued “The Chronic” under the name “The Chronic Re-Lit,” that added bogus “re-mastered” versions of the original songs, Young says.
“Whether you get thugged or the check just doesn’t come, it’s all the same – someone else has your money,” Young says. “And whether it’s a platitude-spouting, self-proclaimed soccer mom or a supposed gangster who isn’t paying you, it doesn’t change the fact that you’re not getting paid.”
Young wants damages and an injunction stopping WIDEawake Death Row Entertainment, WIDEawake Entertainment Group and WIDEawake Holding Company from marketing, distributing or selling “The Chronic Re-Lit” and the greatest hits album. Young is represented by Howard King with King Holmes Paterno.