Legal Drama

(ANALYSIS) Should Nigerian Record Labels Like Chocolate City Have the Right to Stop Artists Like Brymo From Recording for Others, Where the Artist Breaches the Label Contract?

Let’s talk about the alleged injunction sought and obtained by Chocolate City against Brymo, as reported by Linda Ikeji, which Chocolate City is yet to confirm; and Brymo now denies.

What The Basic Legal Drama is All About Before We Go Any Farther

The Parties
Chocolate City

The Lawsuit
Chocolate City has allegedly sued Brymo under a breach of contract claim, among others. Brymo admits there is a valid contract. However, he argues that Chocolate City proceeded to unilaterally and without any consideration change the terms of the contract by insisting that, independent of promoting his work as a Chocolate City artist, he promote the ‘Choc boy Brand’ established by Chocolate City. His argument is that promoting ‘Choc Boy’ brand exceeded the scope of his agreement, and detracted from and impaired his ability to produce 3 albums for the label as Brymo NOT choc boy.

A lawsuit involves the pre-trial and trial phase. In the pre-trial phase before we get to trial, there are many things that can and does happen to move the case along so that we can get in front of a jury or the judge with our legal dramas. One such thing is what is called “motions.”  If you want to speak to the Judge, you do so before or at trial through your lawyer. If you do it before trial, then your lawyer has to do so through “motion practice.”

What is a Motion?
A motion is a way of asking the Judge for something you want the Judge to do, essentially an action the judge should take or not take to your benefit.

Brymo v Audu Maikoiri and Chocolate City

What has Chocolate City Allegedly Done?
Chocolate City allegedly went before a court in Nigeria, asked and obtained an injunction which restrains Brymo from recording for other third parties.

The language of the injunction states it is allegedly “restraining him from recording, releasing, distributing any composition, song, musical works or carrying out any activity as a recording or performing artist through or for the benefit of any person or organisation other than Chocolate City pending the determination of the suit against him.” Linda Ikeji

What does this mean in English?
1. Brymo cannot be forced to perform his personal service contract for Chocolate City. As a matter of public policy, courts will not force you to perform a personal service you owe to another. For example, the courts cannot force you to shave that person’s hair you said you would, or paint that wall at that person’s house that you said you would.

2. Brymo, can be forced, however, from recording his personal service that is exclusive to Chocolate City for another party.

3. The injunction language above also means, if Brymo wants to distribute his song on You Tube, for example, Chocolate City can and should send the notice to You Tube to take it down.

Also, if Brymo wants to distribute his soon to be released album through Itunes, Spinlet, IROKO etc., these organizations cannot honor his request; and if they do and Chocolate City sends them the court order/cease and desist, they need to take it down ASAP. The same goes for live performances and so many other ways Brymo intends to make his money stated above.

Brymo Chocolate City InjunctionHow long does this injunction last?

Till the duration of the pending lawsuit against him has been resolved; which could take a year or two to litigate or maybe faster if Brymo quit the twitter rants and get to business on resolving this issue.

How Did Chocolate City Get to Do this?
Chocolate City filed or should have filed a motion, served or is required to serve Brymo with notice of that motion so Brymo can show up by himself or with his lawyer to answer to the motion. In that motion, Chocolate City asked that the court take the specific action it requested.

What was the action Chocolate City Allegedly Sought?
Chocolate City asked the Court for an Injunction. Based on the way the language reads, it sounds like an interlocutory injunction. I don’t have the court document s but going with the excerpt I have seen, that is the inference I draw.

What is an Interlocutory Injunction?
It is an injunction that in simple English says, “Hey Judge, you know we already filed an existing claim against Brymo for breach of contract that is headed to trial. However, we cannot afford for Brymo to continue to breach the existing contract (because the harm would be so great and hurt us financially in this instance), so we need you to please maintain the status quo as if a breach never occurred pending the outcome of this trial.”

An often cited case out of Nigeria’s Supreme Court which lays out the requirements that a Plaintiff like Chocolate City would have to satisfy, is the 2003 case of Buhari v. Obasanjo.

 “An interlocutory injunction which is granted in the litigation process, is basically aimed at maintaining the status quo pending the determination of the issues submitted for adjudication by the court.

It is an equitable jurisdiction which the courts are called upon to exercise in the light of the facts presented before it by the applicant. And in order to enable the court exercise equitable jurisdiction, the application must present convincing facts which in themselves indicate the well laid down principles for granting the injunction. The injunction is not granted as a matter of grace, routine or course. On the contrary, the injunction is granted only in deserving cases based on hard law and facts… Some of the principles or factors to be considered in an application for interlocutory injunction are

(a)     there must be a subsisting action
(b)     the subsisting action must clearly denote a legal right which the applicant must protect
(c)      the applicant must show that there is a serious question or substantial issue to be tried, necessitating that the status quo should be maintained pending the determination of the substantive action.
(d)     the applicant must show that the balance of convenience is in favour of granting the application.
(e)      the applicant must show that there was no delay on his part in bringing the application.
(f)      the applicant must show that damages cannot be adequate compensation for the injury he wants the court to protect.
(g)     the applicant must make an undertaking to pay damages in the event of a wrongful exercise of the courts discretion in granting the injunction”. – NigeriaLaw Blogspot

Well, But Doesn’t That Really Screw Brymo Over if the Judge Grants the Request?

Yes, it does. It is a massive shutdown. Brymo cannot work within the specific context of the music industry as a recording artist, if it is the route he chooses, pending the outcome of this case. This case could be over in 2013, or 2016 or longer. It all depends on how efficient Nigeria’s court system is adjudicating this claim.

What Can Brymo do Once this Injunction is in Place to Fight Back?
First, Brymo is unbelievably juvenile and it is alarming to watch. What is his issue? Brymo needs to grow up and man up, business wise. He needs to keep his head in the game and his eye on the ball.

Brymo’s needs to get a lawyer, if has not already done so. His lawyer also needs to seek a reversal of this judgment by appealing the court’s decision, assuming the rules permit them to and Brymo has not missed his deadline (given he has chosen to waste time on twitter). Brymo when he finally gets his head in the game, needs to say, “aha, Chocolate City, oh, so you want to play basketball. A’ight. Let’s go!

Check ball.

Let’s go. Show me what you got. He then needs to play aggressive offense and defense i.e. no loose balls go astray. This means in legal terms, attack the ruling and see whether under Nigeria’s applicable law, he can also obtain punitive and actual damages against Chocolate City when he attacks them. He can also bring his own motions, ask for sanctions where applicable, basically come ready to play grown up game of music business otherwise go home.

His lawyer needs to also go the public policy route and educate the bench/Judge that there is a potential, in a country like Nigeria, for abuse by labels against artists, if an injunction such as the one Chocolate City allegedly obtained is upheld. As a matter of public policy, it may not be a good idea for the appellate court to uphold this injunction. Given all of these is somewhat new to Nigeria’s entertainment industry; and the judiciary specific to the entertainment industry, it creates room for valid and solid arguments before the court to make good law that will not hurt the industry, at large, in the nearest future.

Brymo also needs to show up in the courtroom where it counts, not on twitter public streets ranting about God knows what.

Y’all know it irritates the crap out of me when I see Nigerians, especially those who should know better, get on twitter and do the silly rants. I can’t explain how irritating it is. It’s like they just go on twitter and puke all over it. Worse, they have no shame in playing in their vomit. Urgh. Disgusting. I know, I am quite graphic but that’s the picture I get when I think of our people just opening yansh anyhow on twitter. Okay, I’ll try not to gross you all out.

Can Chocolate City Really Shutdown Brymo’s Activities till 2016?
2016 has been the date floating around, indicative of when Chocolate City allegedly says the contract will be terminated. Yes. If the underlying claim filed against Brymo takes that long to be adjudicated, then it is what it is. I know this is a harsh and extremely strong move. Indeed, I shared the story with one of my legal colleagues who strongly disagreed with Chocolate City’s move; and as a matter of fact was vexed.

However, I completely support the move. In fact, I would pull a move like this if I represented a client like that in Nigeria, not the USA. Hey, it’s nothing personal. The artist decides how we are gonna play this game when he/she walks out on my client, goes on twitter and takes cheap shots. I have no sympathy for such nonsense.

I think Nigeria and the USA are two different countries and their record labels and entertainment industries are very distinct. Indeed any attempt to say the two are the same is comparing apples with oranges; and those who do have no real appreciation for the challenge it takes for some of these labels to stay afloat. In fact, I would say there are more artists turned label owners, and a lot more independent label owners in Nigeria than the so called “big” labels. Half of these labels also stupidly put up their personal assets, and borrow monies to give artists, with no track record, huge advances and a lifestyle that makes no business, economic and entertainment industry sense.

Further, in a case like Chocolate City, regardless of how big the name sounds, or the media clippings and edited footage that makes the label look like a giant, at the end of the day, they are really a small business; even arguably by Nigerian standards; at least when compared to other non-entertainment sectors.

For starters, how many artists do they have on their roster again? Isn’t Ice Prince the only “true” money making artist at this point? Also, while M.I Abaga will stay mute on his Loopy record shennanigans, business sense shows that Chocolate City cannot possibly be taking the entire or even large meat pie share from M.I. M. I Abaga is keeping a good chunk of his money to himself, whether it be his endorsement deals, his guest judge reality tv roles, his sound recordings, his publishing and so forth and so on.

Who do we have left? Pryse, Victoria Kimani and what’s that new guy’s name, Nosa? All of these other persons on the roster are new investments that are a long way from yielding a return, much less a high one, for now. Jesse Jagz is out of the picture and is just really out of the limelight with no contractual obligation to Chocolate City. His contract expired and he refused to sign a new one and said “later fellas!” This means Brymo, who they have invested heavily in, has the biggest of return on investments out of the remaining talents at least in the short term.

Accordingly, they’ve gotta hold his feet to the fire and make this guy, man up, and live up to his end of the bargain. As a man or woman, you don’t quit when you face adversity. You don’t run and if you run, you gotta stop running at some point. You should turn around and while you may even take some hits to the face, jaw, stomach or have your heir pulled as if you were in the ring with Mighty Igor or some Super Fly wrestler, by golly;  you should find the strength in you to punch your opposition with everything in you that will render them crippled on the floor. You should take no prisoners in a tactful, strategic and contemplative way. YOU DO NOT QUIT.

Brymo has been, in my view, rude, unprofessional, a quitter and a whiner, to say the least, by his actions that he chooses to share with the world on twitter. He has also worsened his situation by getting on twitter and going on about God knows what. Kini? Is it by force to use twitter or social media for your problems? We all have our own. Let’s hear word, please. Go solve your issues.

He is yet to state, from his own public statements, the legal or even moral basis and justification for walking out of this marriage without provisions for closure/termination and division of assets so everyone can go their separate ways. No be by force to marry, really. If it does not work out, hey it has been real. Bless the other party, wrap up the outstanding issues and keep it moving.

Artists if you are not happy with your contracts, I have said it and it is true, especially if you are a Nigerian artists. You do actually have a lot more leverage than you think; and need to sit and work it out through your lawyers. I am truly tired of artists walking out anyhow. As much as I support our artists, I don’t support the lack of order and chaos. Artists please  quit with the temper tantrums and vomits, especially on social media, go to your labels and try to work things out and if they cannot see reason; or pull a Chocolate City move on you, then you better make sure you hire a legal shark for a trial lawyer that would get the opposition to behave, or wear them down till they do i.e settle and free you. Most people, except the trial lawyers (Lol!) get tired of fighting. It is exhausting, financially, emotionally and mentally draining.

If you cannot afford a lawyer, visit the Nigerian Bar Association on and offline and ask for free legal aid services. They apparently make services available to those who cannot afford. Go there and ask for help, or represent yourself in court. If you will represent yourself in court, get online and educate yourself with the free resources available for Nigerian courts.

Okay, Enough on Nigeria. How do The Labels, Artists and California Courts Handle Situations Like These?
There are many ways to break a record contract deal. One way is the way Toni Braxton and many more have taken i.e. file for bankruptcy and start afresh. It has to be a good faith filing though. Those who have attempted to file and have no evidence compelling  bankruptcy have been shown the door when they got to the courthouse. See the Recent Reporting by TMZ: Toni Braxton FINALLY Settles Bankruptcy Case.

But, you guys, let me give you more direct cases similar to the Chocolate City v. Brymo case so you see how the court’s here have dealt with Chocolate City’s kind of move. First, if Chocolate City tried to pull this move in California, they would get slapped out of the courtroom. Why? California courts do not favor this kind of restraint on employment. Both California’s legislators as well as the judiciary are united in creating barriers that the label must overcome to enjoin an artist from performing for others.

The barriers can be found in California Civil Code Section 3423.

What does the Code provide?

Where there is a material breach of an exclusive recording contract, a label may not take what amounts to “economic coercion” or a “harsh and powerful remedy” i.e. an injunction to prevent the artist from working for others without having the following requirements met:

1. The label must provide guarantees in the contract and make increased annual payments to the artist before obtaining an injunction. The guarantees are as follows:

a. In the first year of the contract, the label must pay the artist $9,000. See 3423e(1)(2)(A)(i)

b. Year 2, the label must pay the artist $12,000. See 3423e(1)(2)(A)(i)

c. Year 3-7, the label must pay the artist $15,000.3423e(1)(2)(A)(i)

2. There must be requirements of actual payments. See 3423e(1)(2)(A)(ii)

This means before the record label runs to court to ask for an injunction, the label must have in fact paid the artist:

a. Within year 1-3, the minimum guaranteed amount.
b. Within year 4-5, the total of $30,000 per annum which is calculated by the $15,000 amount in 1(c) above plus an extra $15,000.
c. Within year 6-7, a total of $45,000 per year i.e. again the $15,000 guarantee in 1(c) above and $30,000 more.

3. If the record label failed to follow through with the above requirements, then the record label can only obtain an injunction when it pays ten times the accumulated minimum amounts. See 3423e(1)(2)(B)

A few  seminal cases that are often quoted and which shows how this has played in California’s courtrooms for both AML artists and industry professionals who may be interested to know and conduct further research are:

1. Foxx v. Williams, 244 Cal. App. 2d 233 (1966) (Artist Friendly)
2. MCA Records, Inc. v. Newton-John, 90 Cal. App 3d 18 (1979) (Label Friendly)

Back to the matter on Chocolate City v. Brymo, what do you think ought to happen in this case, if indeed the label obtained this alleged injunction?

By the way, I believe the label did obtain an injunction because Linda Ikeji knows better than to sharing wrong legal gist like this.

Over to you guys, tell me what you think. I want to know!

Catch you all soon.

~Ms. Uduak

Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law website, livestream and podcast show empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through its brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

For general inquiries, advertising, licensing, or to appear on the show as a guest, please email ([email protected]). Thank you for visiting.


Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

You may also like...