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Saturday, July 20, 2024 | Back issues
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Producer Claims Blackground Records Cheated

ATLANTA (CN) - A music producer claims in court that Blackground Records owes him hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalties for his work with late R&B artist Aaliyah and others.

Jeffery Walker II sued Blackground Records, Black Fountain Music, Blackground Records founder Barry Hankerson, and his son Jomo Hankerson, in Fulton County Superior Court.

In his complaint, Walker claims he is "an award winning record producer, who is professionally known as 'J-Dub' and commonly referred to as 'the finisher' for his ability to professionally smooth out vocals and create chart topping and award winning records."

He claims that in 2000 he signed a management deal with Blackground Records, a California-based record label, and a publishing agreement with its then-subsidiary Black Fountain Music. In 2012, Black Fountain Music became a subsidiary of New York-based Reservoir Media Management, according to the complaint.

"On or around 2000, plaintiff was induced by Barry Hankerson to enter into a contract under which plaintiff would split royalties for songwriting, production and copyright of songs," the complaint states. "Contemporaneously, plaintiff was inducted [sic] to enter into a publishing contract with Black Fountain, a subsidiary of Blackground Records.

"The primary artist who plaintiff provided services to Blackground Records for was Aaliyah. At the time of the contract, Aaliyah was one of the hottest R&B artists, with numerous platinum and double platinum albums. Tragically, Aaliyah was killed in a plane crash in 2003. [Sic: She actually was killed in August 2001.] After her untimely death, plaintiff left Blackground Records, to pursue other projects.

"From 2003 to 2011, plaintiff received no income statements from Blackground Records, LLC, Barry Hankerson or Jomo Hankerson for royalty income received from EMI.

"In 2012, the Internal Revenue Service notified plaintiff that he owed taxes on approximately $262,580.00 income, which had been reported as 1099 income from 2004 to 2011."

Walker claims the Hankersons received and cashed royalty checks intended for him, and forged his signature so they could deposit checks in Blackground Records' account.

He claims they failed to provide an accounting of the royalties he should have received after 2003, never sent him 1099 forms, and refused to pay his share of the royalties.

He claims the defendants cost him more than $500,000.

He seeks an accounting and compensatory and punitive damages for breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and breach of contract.

He is represented by Kelli Byers Hooper with Hooper & Honore.

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