Phase One Network, the asset management company overseeing the catalog of Boogie Down Productions, has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Kanye West.
The lawsuit, obtained by Rolling Stone, alleges that West sought licensing permissions for the “South Bronx”-sampling Donda track “Life of the Party,” but later retracted his request only to utilize the recording anyway on the anti-streaming playback device, the Stemplayer.
In the complaint filed in the Southern District of New York on Nov. 7, Phase One Network cites the replication of particular horn hits, melodic figures, and drum fills from the 1986 single created by KRS-One and DJ Scott La Rock as evidence of infringement.
According to the complaint, West’s initial licensing request was filed on July 15, 2021, and retracted just months later on Nov. 16, 2021, with both parties having failed to come to an agreement to authorize the use of the sample. By that point, the track had already been released alongside the arrival of Donda on Aug. 29, 2021.
“By illegally incorporating South Bronx into the Infringing Track and authorizing the distribution of the Infringing Track through the Stemplayer and its associated website, all Defendants have allowed for the widespread distribution of the Infringing Track and have direct financial interest in the same,” the court documents read.
West is named as a defendant alongside Stemplayer CEO and co-founder Alex Klein and product developers Kano Computing Limited. Also named are the music labels G.O.O.D. Music, Def Jam Recordings, and Universal Music Group Recordings. (While West is no longer signed to Def Jam, he was at the time of the Donda release.) The suit requests a trial by jury.
“The KANO and STEM team were assured by Kanye and Yeezy that they would provide music with ‘all intellectual property rights, licenses and consents,'” a STEM company spokesman told Rolling Stone. “This was important to us, because STEM is built from the ground up to be a more fair and immersive medium than the current music business. On STEM, creators own and control their own work, pricing, rights, and distribution in full. We just heard about this claim, and we are investigating it now.”
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Representatives for KRS-One did not immediately respond to Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
The lawsuit comes as West has been embroiled in controversy surrounding his headline-making hate speech as of late. The rapper has repeatedly made antisemitic comments within the past months, including on social media and in interviews with the Drink Champs podcast, Fox News, and Chris Cuomo. He attempted an apology during an interview with Piers Morgan — to the “families that I hurt, you know, I really want to give you guys a big hug. And I want to say I’m sorry for hurting you with my comments,” he said — only to later double and triple down on his offensive words. And when he was kicked off Instagram and Twitter for making antisemitic statements, West went on a posting spree on Parler, the right-wing social platform he plans to purchase, to continue spewing hate speech. West has since been dropped by his publicists and agents, and both Adidas and Balenciaga severed ties with the rapper, costing West his billionaire status.