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Thursday, February 29, 2024
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, February 29, 2024 | Back issues
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Gospel Singers Sue Jay Z,|Dr. Dre and Rick Ross

CHICAGO (CN) - Two gospel singers sued Jay Z, Dr. Dre and Rick Ross, claiming the rappers "hijacked music and lyrics" that were meant "to be performed only as spiritually uplifting gospel music" and turned their song into a vile, sex- and drug-ridden vulgarity.

Clara Shepherd Warrick and Jimmy Lee Weary claim the defendants sampled their song, "I'm So Grateful" in the hip-hop ditty song "3 Kings," singing vulgar lyrics over music meant to glorify God, without permission.

Named as defendants in Federal Court are William Roberts II aka Rick Ross, Andre Young aka Dr. Dre, Shawn Carter aka Jay Z, Jacob Dutton aka Jake One, Universal Music Group, Universal Music Publishing Group, Island Def Jam Music Group, UMG Recording, and Songs of Universal.

The plaintiffs say they wrote the lyrics and music for "I'm So Grateful" in 1976, and recorded and performed it with their gospel group, Crowns of Glory.

In 2012, defendants released "3 Kings," featuring Ross, Dr. Dre, and Jay Z, which sampled plaintiffs' song, with new lyrics, according to the complaint. It was released worldwide on the album "God Forgives - I Don't."

"Defendants hijacked music and lyrics that were written by plaintiffs to be performed only as spiritually uplifting gospel music and have laced plaintiffs' gospel work with unsavory language such as '[i]f you real motherf***er scream cheers,' '[i]f the b**ch bad I got her in red bottoms,' 'I only love her when that a** fat,' '[c]ome and suck a d**k for a millionaire,' 'Ni**as couldn't f**k with my daughter's room,' 'I whip the coke [cocaine], let the lawyer beat the case,' and 'spray these ni**as baby just like daddy taught ya,'" plaintiffs say, quoting lyrics from the song.

"None of the defendants contacted either of the plaintiffs to ask for permission to use plaintiffs' song (lyrics or music) for the 3 Kings song.

"Neither of the plaintiffs has ever filed any type of written document with the U.S. Copyright Office transferring any of their rights to any of the defendants or defendants' predecessors.

"The 'God Forgives - I Don't' albums lists Weary as one of the writers of the 3 Kings song. Weary, however, was not contacted for permission to use his name or likeness on the defendant's album," the complaint states.

Defendants allegedly produced a writers' agreement signed by James Weary, but Weary says his name is Jimmy Lee Weary and he has never signed his name as James.

Plaintiffs also object to the "3 Kings" music video, which "includes very graphic depictions of drug use, vulgarity, nudity, gun violence, criminal conduct, actions demeaning to women and many other items that are certainly inconsistent with plaintiffs' wishes for how plaintiffs' song would be portrayed."

"God Forgives - I Don't" was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Rap Album, and featured on a Grammy telecast that was seen by more than 1 billion people, the plaintiffs say.

"Due to a recent Grammy nomination for the Rick Ross album containing plaintiffs' work, the likelihood of irreparable harm to plaintiffs has been greatly enhanced," plaintiffs say.

Weary and Warrick seek an injunction and punitive damages for copyright infringement.

They are represented by James Montgomery Jr.

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