By Nathan S.
Aspiring rappers envision spending their money on bottles of champagne and flashy cars, but the truth is superstar rappers spend more money fighting off lawsuits than booking flights to the Bahamas. This is America after all, the land where if you can't get rich yourself, you might as well try to sue someone who is. Right now there's no one more visible than Drake and so it should be no surprise that everyone and their mother are lining up to try to get in on the lawsuit action against Drake, but now a true major player has stepped up and it looks like they're going to easily be able to cop some of that "So Far Gone" cash: Playboy.
Yep, that's right. The execs over at Playboy obviously read my column about the financial power of publishing rights and have been busying buying up the rights to obscure songs - or more accurately, songs that were obscure until Boi-1da samples them for Drake's breakthrough hit "Best I Ever Hard". Playboy is claiming that Drizzy used "Fallin' In Love," by Hamilton, Joe Frank and Dennison/Reynolds, for the intro to "Best I Ever Had" without clearing the sample. One listen to both tracks reveals Playboy's absolutely right.
I'm not a judge, but that's pretty much case closed right there. Copyright infringement 101.
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Ironically, Playboy is not f**king around on the lawsuit. (Get it? Nevermind.) They want a complete injunction, meaning sales of the song would have to be halted immediately, a piece of all "profits, gains and advantages made from the song", plus, just because they're pissed, they want Drake to pay their legal fees. While I'd be surprised if it came to that - most likely Drake will cut em a fat check and they'll settle out of court - Drake doesn't exactly have a lot of leverage here. If they choose to fight this it's pretty much a done deal.
Of course when I say "Drake" in the paragraph above I mean whoever owns the publishing rights to "Best I Ever Had" (almost definitely some combination of Young Money/Interscope). Aubrey Graham himself likely won't pay a cent, nor should he. That song was originally on a mixtape - a.k.a. a free album - and since it was free Drake couldn't be sued for copyright infringement. However, the second they started selling "Best I Ever Had" and "So Far Gone", every sample on that album should have been cleared, and someone at the label obviously f-ed up badly for not doing their due diligence. Oops.
The lesson? Rappers, make sure you clear your samples, and do everything you possibly can to keep your publishing rights. Now I have no idea who Joe Frank and Dennison/Reynolds are, but I think it's safe to say they're not raking in piles of money off their music. If they had kept publishing rights they're be suing Drake and clearing some serious cash instead of watching Hugh Hefner build another pool on the Playboy Mansion property.