LOS ANGELES (CN) - Rapper Jay-Z and producer Timbaland took the stand in court Wednesday to defend against claims that they failed to clear rights to use the decades-old Egyptian song "Khosara, Khosara" in their hit "Big Pimpin'."
Dressed in a black suit and tie and white shirt, the 45-year-old rapper and entrepreneur covered lots of ground during his testimony - talking through his life and career, his creative process and the origins of "Big Pimpin'" - the 2000 hit at the center of the legal dispute.
Producer Timbaland, 43, real name Timothy Mosley, was also present in court dressed in a white button-up shirt.
In 2007, Egyptian Osama Ahmed Fahmy claimed Jay-Z did not ask for permission when he sampled the composition "Khosara, Khosara" written by Fahmy's uncle Baligh Hamdi. His lawsuit sought damages for violation of federal copyright laws.
The length of the litigation and what Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, knew and when he knew it were the focus of much of attorney Peter Ross' examination on Wednesday morning and afternoon.
Ross asked Jay-Z, over the objections from the rapper's attorney Andrew Bart, if he had been "lax" and "reckless" in making sure that he had the rights to music he sampled.
Jay-Z admitted at his deposition last year that he did not know who had composed "Khosara, Khosara," even though the lawsuit was seven years old.
"Timbaland is known for not using samples," Jay-Z said by way of explanation in court, admitting that he left it to other people to clear rights.
"That's not what I do; I make music," the rapper said, adding that he did not know there was a sample in the song when he recorded it.
During a tense exchange, Ross asked Jay-Z how many times he had performed the song live.
"I have no idea how many concerts I did with or without it," Jay-Z said. "I don't keep track."
Ross also asked the rapper if he would be concerned if he had learned that someone had bootlegged or used his music without permission.
"Yeah, I wouldn't like that," Jay-Z said.
Though the rapper generally kept his answers short and to the point, he expounded a little when Ross asked him if he agreed that the lyrics to "Big Pimpin'" were sexually explicit or vulgar.
"It depends on your definition of vulgar," Jay-Z said. "Art can be vulgar. Photography can be vulgar. The statue of David can be vulgar."
Jay-Z also gave a glimpse into the making of "Big Pimpin,'" a track from his 1999 album "Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter." Other versions of the track appear on the albums "Jay-Z Unplugged," a Jay-Z and Linkin Park mash-up album, the "Fade to Black" documentary and "Jay-Z Hits Vol. 1."
The rapper said he had been teasing producer Timbaland when they sat down to make the track, joking that he had not come up with anything good lately.
"We challenge each other. He tells me his beats are better than my raps. I tell him that my raps are better than his beats," Jay-Z said to laughter from Timbaland and the audience in the gallery. "It's an ongoing battle that I keep winning."