Jazz band leader files $100m lawsuit against rap stars over 'illegal sampling'
New Orleans musician Paul Batiste accuses artists including T-Pain, Rick Ross and DJ Khaled of stealing his band's music
On the rights track … T-Pain, one of the defendants named in Paul Batiste's suit. Photograph: Michael Caulfield/Getty Images North America
The leader of a New Orleans jazz band has filed a $100m (£64m) lawsuit against some of rap's biggest names, accusing T-Pain, Rick Ross and DJ Khaled of illegally sampling their music. Paul Batiste alleges that the rappers and their labels "wrongfully copied nearly every song" in the Batiste Brothers Band's decades-old catalogue.
Lawyers for Batiste filed his lawsuit in US district court last week. Court papers also named the rappers Ace Hood and Pitbull, as well as almost every major hip-hop label and publishing company, including Cash Money, Fueled By Ramen, RCA Records, Universal, Sony/ATV, Def Jam, Zomba, WB Music and EMI Blackwood. According to documents obtained by AllHipHop, the defendants "have released an immense number of songs infringing upon [Batiste's] catalogue … poach[ing] beats, lyrics, melodies and chords".
Founded in 1976, the Batiste Brothers Band describe themselves as "a major influence on the current New Orleans jazz scene". Certainly the Batistes are one of Louisiana's most important musical families, and until recently one of the state's top arts schools bore the Batiste name. Batiste siblings and children have had connections to groups including the Meters, David and the Gladiators, George Clinton, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Wynton Marsalis and Prince.
In addition to copying musical content, some defendants even stole song titles, claim lawyers for Paul Batiste: four rap songs, Freeze, Download, Overtime, and Boom, "have the same or nearly identical titles to [Batiste]'s songs, Freeze, Download My Love, Overtime and Bam There You Have It". And because many of the allegedly infringing songs have been released several times, Batiste's complaints begin to balloon: "Each release constitutes an independent act or acts of infringement." Hence the $100m in damages.
Because there isn't much Batiste Brothers Band music available online, it's difficult to get a quick sense of the legitimacy of the group's complaint. But a short listen to Batiste's synthy 1999 song Sportsman's Paradise does indicate a certain similarity to the 2008 T-Pain single Freeze.
Over the past 25 years Batiste has already fought several lawsuits concerning the unauthorised sampling of his compositions, including litigation against PM Dawn, Miller Beer and the Rebirth Brass Band, all of which were settled out of court. "Lawsuits are not fun," he wrote on his website. "The litigations took a toll and frustrated our efforts to grow in the music industry … They take up all your time and the results are sometimes little, but we had no choice but to claim what is ours."
The defendants have yet to issue a statement on this case.