(CN) – Rapper Lord Finesse says in a $10 million lawsuit that 20-year-old rap star Mac Miller ripped off his 1995 hit “Hip 2 Da Game” to launch his music career.
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Lord Finesse (born Robert Hall) has been rapping since the late 1980s, and led the popular New York hip-hop crew Diggin in the Crates (D.I.T.C.), in addition to having a solo career and writing for rappers like Biggie Smalls and Dr. Dre.
In 1995, Finesse released his hit song “Hip 2 Da Game,” which is the subject of his lawsuit against Mac Miller in federal court in Manhattan.
“This is a case about a teenage rapper- Mac Miller- copying the music from a song written, produced and performed by Lord Finesse, a hip hop legend, changing the title and then distributing it under his own name in order to launch his music career,” the complaint states.
Mac Miller released his version of “Hip 2 Da Game” on a “mix tapes,” a term used to describe free music distributed by up-and-coming rappers.
The “mix tape” strategy has been favored by many rappers and hip hop producers in recent years. Rappers often record new rhymes over the instrumental tracks of older, popular rap songs and distribute the music for free.
Finesse, whose real name is Robert Hall, sued the website DatPiff.com, which is one of the best known distributors of free mix tapes from new rappers, and Miller’s label, Rostrum Records.
Miller’s real name is Malcolm McCormick.
“In 2010, Mac Miller recorded himself rapping over Finesse’s music and renamed the song ‘Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza’ (‘The Kool Aid Song’),” according to the complaint.
Miller signed with Rostrum in July 2010 and released a mix tape called “K.I.D.S.: Kickin’ Incredibly Dope Shit,” which contained “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza.”
The mix tape was released on DatPiff in August 2010, has been downloaded more than 500,000 times and has been streamed more than 450,000 times, the lawsuit states.
The video for “Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza,” which uses the beat for “Hip 2 Da Game” has been viewed nearly 24 million times on YouTube, according to the complaint.
Finesse says Miller has profited from the unauthorized use of his song.
The lawsuit cites a New York Times article from last November about Miller that explains how the alleged infringement is “part of a strategy to build a fan base.”
“‘First, the good news: A new generation of rappers is actively trying to build a new business model in which releasing oodles of free material online builds a fan base that paves the way for revenue streams: touring, merchandise, even something as old-fashioned as a record deal,'” the Times article said.
Finesse says he filed the lawsuit after DatPiff, Rostrum and Miller refused to respond to a cease and desist letter earlier this month.
The $10 million lawsuit alleges copyright infringement, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, interference, deceptive trade practices, and a number of related state law claims. Finesse also seeks a permanent injunction from the court.
The rapper is represented by Brian Levenson and Matthew Schwartz of Schwartz & Ponterio in New York.