Legal Drama, Music Business

Is Wizkid Really a Song Thief? Blackface Joins Dammy Krane, Accuses Starboy of Copyright Infringement

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Wizkid Album
Wizkid, until now, has enjoyed a history as the next big cross over African artist and potential export to the west. But, if he is not careful, he may soon earn a reputation as Africa’s number one leading song thief as the case against him for copyright infringement continues to pile up.

In July of 2015, when Drake and Skepta jumped on Wizkid’s Ojuelegba, AML reader Winston Baglore brought our attention to Wizkid’s sampling in the song. Here is what Winston had to say:

“Ms Uduak, you mentioned the obtaining of consent and clearances by Drake and Skepta in your post. But that’s likely the least of Ayo’s concern at this point.

“Ojuelegba” is a nice enough song, but have you ever wondered why it’s been such a hit? Why it has garnered such crossover appeal? Why a mega-star like Drake would even want to add his vocals to it? I’m not dissing the song, but it’s not the best song to come out of Nigeria in the past few years. The true reason so many people feel like they love and relate to the song is because they heard it long before Wizkid released “Ojuelegba”.

Listen closely to the actual music. Wizkid’s Legendury Beatz-produced “Ojuelegba” sounds just like American rapper Dr. Dre’s “Ain’t Nuthing But A G Thang”, which is itself a sample/interpolation of Leon Haywood’s original recording, “I Wanna Do Something Freaky To You”.

The question here is not whether Ayo granted clearances to Drake and Skepta to alter and release the track. They merely used “Ojuelegba” for artistic purposes, and didn’t release their version for profit (as far as I can tell).

However, Wizkid’s “Ayo” album, where the original version of “Ojuelegba” is found, was sold internationally online.

Now, whether Ayo and Legendury Beatz sampled or interpolated the music of Leon Haywood, I’m guessing they didn’t go through the proper channels here in America before doing so. Remember, this StarBoy thing they’re doing is not an actual record label with seasoned industry personnel on its payroll. These are just some boys with talent and a laptop.

Had Drake not jumped on the song, increasing its visibility and fame here in America, they may have gotten away with it. However, something tells me that Ayo will soon get a very harsh lesson in American copyright law, similar to the lesson learned by Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams earlier this year.

(Winston later followed up with this) It looks like nobody involved was interested in being sued–the latest released version of the song is curiously missing that Leon Haywood-sounding part of the music. Too bad the “Ayo” album has already been sold, with countless places online to find evidence of the unauthorized use of the music…”

Fast forward to January 2016 and we have Nigerian artists coming forward to accuse Wizkid of stealing their songs. The first to make the public aware of the alleged theft is Dammy Krane, an artist signed with 2Face’s Hypertek label. His accusation focused on theft of lyrics (including slangs).  His accusation also earned him an injury to the face after Wizkid assaulted him at Club Quilox  a little over a week ago. It appeared all was resolved but two days ago, Dammy Krane went on national television to again confirm his position that Wizkid stole  his songs.

Watch Dammy Krane tell the press, only two days ago, that “everybody knows Wizkid stole the songs.”

Now, we have new allegations from Blackface, a member of the now defunct music band ‘Plantashun Boiz,’ which seems to lend credibility to Dammy Krane’s position that Wizkid steals songs. Blackface accused Wizkid of stealing his songs in his latest single ‘Killa.’

In relevant part, Blackface sings, “Why Wizkid try me steal melody, dey copycat, na get me energy, me burn them me send them to the cemetery… if you copy me, me end your destiny.”

(*Ms. Uduak breaks into Pidgin* Why dis our artiste sef no dey use lawya? Una sabi bcos me I no sabi. All dis “being a weist” for social media and internet streetz. Can you imagine? Even Vic-O is not a weist.  Now pesin dey sing say e wan “end destiny” over a song? Biko cool down for Jesus. It is not dat serious. Blackface, u no get shame? Agbaya. U dey threaten Wizkid life???! Like worrahell?  If somebody thief ya song. The answer dey simple. Go court. Otherwise abeg free us and park well for corner. My Naija ppl una dey talk too mush. Haha, itz too mush.)

Watch Blackface’s Killah

When Blackface was subsequently confronted with his statement in a recent interview with The Punch Newspaper, he said:

“If you check properly, you would realise that Wizkid’s hit, Ojuelegba, sounds exactly the same as the track 13 on my dancehall album released as far back as 2010. You need to listen to that album to know what I am talking about. The song is so similar that I think it shouldn’t be that way.”

He added, “I never really wanted to talk about it all this while but after people started checking out my new song, Killa(h), many felt Blackface sounded like Wizkid, which I didn’t like.” – Punch Newspaper

In August of 2015, Blackface also accused Wizkid of stealing his song (lyrics and sound recording) “I Like The Way.” He claimed Wizkid renamed this song to ‘Slow Whine,’ a song produced by Sam Klef which featured Empire Mates Entertainment (EME) co-founder and R&B artist Banky W. ‘Slow Whine’ was released in 2011 on the Starboy album.

Obviously the implications for Wizkid, on the domestic and international front, does not look good: bad publicity, loss of credibility if true, and potential legal claims that could arise against him, his label Starboy, Banky W, EME, Legendury Beatz and Samklef.

Let me just say this. The issue of infringement raised here, especially stemming from the sound recordings of the aforementioned songs, underscores an underlying problem in the Nigerian producer-artist culture where artists buy beats from producers, the beats are actually non-exclusive and there is, 99.9% of the time, no written agreements to transfer the copyrights to the artists.

This has and continues to create problems within the industry. I would be curious to see if Blackface bought his sound recordings from other producers or if he produced them himself. If the former, then there is a high probability he did what most artists do and does not have a written agreement with rights transferred to him. This effectively renders claims of copyright infringement moot as to the alleged infringing sound recordings. The only person who can make such claims would be the producers who sold the beats to Blackface. If, however, Blackface produced his own sound recordings, then we are back to square one and the Starboy and EME crew really have a problem on their hands.

Without getting into further discussions on this matter, why don’t you listen and tell me whether you believe Wizkid in fact stole BlackFace’s songs.

BLACKFACE: I LIKE THE WAY

WIZKID: SLOW WHINE

BLACKFACE – SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONE

WIZKID – OJUELEGBA

NOTE: If you are an artist faced with a lawsuit or interested in filing one, visit Nigerian Entertainment Lawyers Group on Facebook for a listing of entertainment lawyers that can assist you. Figure the one that works best for you (make sure you look for those in your specific country), research them (use Google, ask around) and then directly contact them. 

Other recommended AML resources for finding Nigerian entertainment lawyers are as follows:

  1.  Entertainment Law Roundtable with Entertainment Lawyers Xerona Duke, Ollachi “Enze” Holman.
  2. Entertainment Law Roundtable with Entertainment lawyer Ollachi “Enze” Holman.
  3. Entertainment Law Interview with LegalByte Lawyers Lumi Mustapha, Foza and Iredumare.

#EndSars Human Rights Lawyers Panel

Listen to the Latest AML Podcast Episodes

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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