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Dr. Dre's War On Chronic

Lawsuits fly over the use of the name The Chronic as labels release competing compilations

July 21, 1999 12:00 AM ET

Dr. Dre has filed suit against his former labels Priority and Death RowRecords|, which is distributed by Priority, in response to the recent DeathRow-released album The Chronic 2000. The lawsuit accuses Death Rowand Priority of everything from false designation of origin and falsedescription to statute common law trademark infringement, fraud and breachof contract.

As the owner of the common law trademark to the title The Chronic,Dr. Dre and his label, Aftermath Entertainment, are suing for an unspecifiedamount, as well as to halt the manufacture, distribution, advertisement andsale of The Chronic 2000.

"The title The Chronic is associated in the minds of tens ofmillions of people with [Dr. Dre]. Fans of rap music and music criticsgenerally consider that [Dre's] groundbreaking work on The Chronicsparked phenomenal popularity of that genre of popular music," states thelawsuit.

In light of the album's massive musical and cultural impact, it's a claimnearly impossible to dispute. On top of selling millions of copies, TheChronic kick-started the career of one of the most successfulrappers of the '90's, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and defined the "G-Funk" sound ofgangsta rap, spawning a legion of imitators.

The suit, filed on Thursday, July 15, also claims that Priority and DeathRow named the album The Chronic 2000 only after learning of Dre'splans to release an album entitled The Chronic 2000 in the nearfuture. (After he learned of Death Row's plans, Dre renamed his compilation The Chronic 2001.)

"In a nutshell, the world knows exactly who made The Chronic ahousehold word in the hip hop community," says lawyer Howard King, who filedthe suit in Dre's behalf. "It's really unfortunate, because we thought we'dcome to a satisfactory agreement with Priority over the use of the title. Wefound out earlier this year that they planned on releasing a record called[The] Chronic 2000 with unreleased Dre tracks and even tracks fromthe original record," he continues. "We got in touch with them to say thatwe'd sue if they even thought about it. In the end, both sides agreed thatwe'd allow the other to use the title, and then let the public decide whichone they preferred."

The troubles started once Dre and Aftermath began putting together theiralbum, Chronic 2001.

"After their album had finished it's chart run, Priority suddenly decidesnot to honor their end of the agreement, and threatened to sue us if we usedthe title," King elaborates. "At first we just laughed, but it's seriousbusiness. This album is coming out, and it will be called Chronic2001. With this lawsuit, we're just making sure that nothing impedesthat process. If we have to, we'll just seize all profits from their album."

"It's too bad," he concludes. "You'd think there would be some sort ofhonor between men, especially men that once worked together."

At press time, Priority had yet to return numerous calls in reference tothe suit.

In related news, Heavyweight Records has filed their own lawsuit againstPriority Records over the use of tracks featuring rapper Short Khop.Initially contracted to appear on two songs with Ice Cube, on his recentlyreleased War and Peace Vol. 1 album, Short Khop shows up on no lessthan seven of the album's tracks without credit.

Heavyweight Records obtained the exclusive recording rights to Short Khopas a result of the dissolution of Ice Records, which had been a jointventure between Heavyweight and the now defunct A&M Records.

The suit reads, in part, "Priority further breached the agreement when itfailed to recall The War Disc after January 27, 1999, and insteadissued a revised album without the seven Short Khop master recordings."

Heavyweight is seeking an undisclosed amount for, among other charges,breach of contract, intentional interference with contract, and declaratoryrelief.

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