Drake Settles Publicity-Rights Spat on Eve of Trial

MANHATTAN (CN) – A self-styled music impresario who was set to face off against rapper Drake in court Monday reached a confidential settlement to head off their New York trial.

The 2-page consent order does not specify the terms of the settlement but does say Aubrey Graham, which is Drake’s legal name, can expect compensation from music publisher Hebrew Hustle and its owner Stephen Hacker.

Drake had made his demand for damages back in 2014, accusing Hacker of violating his publicity rights by including his photograph on the Hebrew Hustle homepage. The photo showed Drake posing with fellow rappers Lil Wayne and Birdman, and clicking the image brought up a caption that touted Hebrew Hustle’s supposed role in a Lil Wayne song.

Another reference to Drake appeared on a page of the website dedicated to Hacker’s bio; it said Hacker “played a heavy hand with his clients in the creation of hit songs for the likes of Eminem, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Drake, Nicki Minaj and others.”

Drake’s case had been set to go to trial after U.S. District Judge William Pauley III denied dueling motions for summary judgment this past May.

Hebrew Hustle’s attorney Anthony Motta did not respond to a request for comment, but Drake’s attorney Christine Leper confirmed the deal.

“Under this settlement, Hebrew Hustle and Stephen Hacker will pay Graham an agreed amount of money, and will be enjoined by the Court from further use of Graham’s name and image,” Leper said in a statement Monday.

Over the weekend, Drake also reached a separate settlement with Instagram model Layla Lace to resolve his 2017 lawsuit claiming that she made false pregnancy and rape claims in an attempt to extort him for millions of dollars.

In the case with Hebrew Hustle, Canadian-born Drake had brought his damages demand as a counterclaim to a copyright suit initiated on behalf of the Estate of James Oscar Smith, a jazz legend who died in 2005.

Smith is regarded as having pioneered the Hammond B-3 organ as a jazz instrument but, in a spoken-word track that appeared in his 1982 “Off the Top,” held little esteem for other then-emerging genres.

“All that other bullshit is here today and gone tomorrow,” Smith had said, reacting to the nascent breakthrough of hip-hop into the mainstream music industry. “Jazz is the only real music that’s gonna last.”

Some three decades later, Drake sampled these lyrics for the track “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” on the album “Nothing Was the Same.”

Though Smith’s estate alleged infringement, Judge Pauley dismissed the suit last year after finding that Drake transformed Smith’s words enough to qualify for fair use.

Drake’s settlement of his publicity-rights counterclaims meanwhile has no bearing on the right of Hebrew Hustle and Smith’s estate to appeal their copyright case.

Smith was a canonical veteran of jazz labels like Blue Note and Verve Critics, but released his “Off the Top” comeback album while with Elektra Records, a mainstream major label.

Forbes Magazine estimates Drake’s net worth at $100 million.

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