Pink Is The New Black: Rap Artist Wiz Khalifa Accused Of Turning 'Pink And Yellow' Into 'Black And Yellow'
from the or-maybe-black-is-the-new-pink dept
It's a story as old as this type of worn-out intro itself: musician crafts hit tune, sells millions of copies, leans back on his mattress stuffed with money and... gets sued for ripping off another artist. There's nothing like the possibility of a nice, fat settlement to lure musicians out of the woodwork (or wherever it is that musicians sequester themselves) and into the nearest lawyer's office (quite possibly decorated with expensive woodwork).
In most cases, a newer, more successful artist finds themselves staring at a stack of legalese presented on behalf on an artist who has fallen off the public radar (see The Chiffons vs. George Harrison; the Rolling Stones vs. the Verve) or an artist whose niche appeal has failed to reach multi-platinum level (see Joe Satriani vs. Coldplay) or (rarely) both (see Cat Stevens vs. Coldplay).
Most of these suits are hot established-artist-on-established-artist action, but in rare cases, the plaintiff is an artist whose fanbase has yet to reach the outer edges of his extended family (see also Some Guy vs. Coldplay). This lawsuit is one of the latter. Scott Mervis of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has the details:
In a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on Dec. 30, he (Max Gregory Warren, a.k.a. Maxamillion) claims that Khalifa's multi-platinum, chart-topping, Grammy-nominated hit "Black and Yellow" is "substantially similar" to his 2008 song "Pink N Yellow." Other than talking about cars and jewels, which are common hip-hop themes, there's little similarity to the lyrics, the beat, even the melody of the chorus, until you hit the repetition of the words "and yellow."Since "substantially similar" is in the ear of the legal beholder, this determination will be left up to the courts should it go that far. But Maxamillion's claim that Wiz Khalifa ripped off his song strongly implies that Khalifa, at some point, heard the track and decided to make his own version. But the likelihood of Maxamillion's (not to be confused with Chicago rapper Maxamillion) track making its way into Khalifa's ears seems, well, unlikely:
He and the song "Pink N Yellow" appeared on a 2008 mixtape by Ase & Zee -- "Two Flows, More Doe." If you Google "Two Flows, More Doe" the search results involve flowcharts, air filters and text flows.
A search for Maxamillion brings up results not about Mr. Warren but about the veteran Chicago artist. Mr. Warren has 32 Twitter followers under @Maxamilli317.
Young Ase's MySpace page features five songs, none of which has more than 56 plays. A video Young Ase posted in October has 88 views.So, how exactly would this track have made its way onto Khalifa's radar? Maxamillion's lawyer has a theory:
Mr. Warren's Philadelphia-based lawyer James A. Cosby commented, "For now I can just say that Max has been writing songs, performing and recording for a number of years."Well, it's a theory alright but I'm not sure if it's much of a legal argument. There are plenty of established artists who have been toiling away for decades without ever reaching my ears. Trying to establish the probability that Khalifa heard Max's track and knowingly infringed on his work is going to be tough for an artist whose popularity seems to extend all the way to end of his block.
University of Pittsburgh law professor Michael Madison indicates that it takes a lot more than a "I made it first" statement to convince the courts that this is a case of willful infringement.
According to Mr. Madison, "The classic way [to prove an artist has heard a song] is that to say it was on the radio or some music channel or through iTunes. The second way is chain of custody: The mixtape got handed around the club somewhere, or one of Wiz's people knows someone at the club, so he got handed a physical copy, or maybe someone mailed the mixtape to someone's people. That kind of argument shows up a lot of the time in movie cases. You have to be pretty detailed, but once in a great while you can actually show chain of custody."This is actually Max's "Plan B" for monetizing the previously under-everyone's-radar "Pink and Yellow." He originally approached Atlantic Records at the beginning of 2011 only to be rebuffed (presumably with statements like, "I'm sorry, who are you?" "How did you get in here?" and "My receptionist must have taken an early lunch..."). Of course, Max may just be looking for a chunk of "shut up and go away" cash as these lawsuits rarely make their way to court, which I suppose is a "business model" of sorts, but not a very sustainable one.
But why not make your own call? LaGenteBravaRp has handily laid out both tracks back-to-back for comparison, allowing you to hear Maxamillion's track for the first time and Khalifa's track for the millionth.