If you ever step into a courthouse and make observations, one of the things you will notice is that there are many divisions within a courthouse. Indeed, most courthouses have the Family Law Division (Divorce, custody etc.), Juvenile Division (this department covers crimes committed by minors), Dependency Division (this covers families with domestic violence and drug issues that make their children unsafe in their homes), Criminal Law division and Civil Division. There is also drug court and this court can be found in almost all divisions housed at the court house.
It is not unusual that in each division and for the numerous judges who preside over numerous cases, to see the court dockets quickly fill up. This means cases can be backlogged and take a while before they come up for a hearing, disposition, trial etc. Right here on AML, we’ve got court people. We have a backlogged docket and some cases just take priority.
Of priority this week, is the Don Jazzy v. D’Banj Mo’Hits Breakup case. We will ultimately make it to AML Civil Court to discuss the legal implications of the dissolution of Mo’Hits. Everything is up for grabs even D’Banj’s Koko brand & subsidiaries. How it all plays out depends on how nasty each party wants to get with each other via their lawyers. Hopefully, they are both mature to really focus on liquidating and dividing the company’s assets and moving on with their lives, without a legal blood bath.
While you all wait to hear my take in AML Civil court on this case, there is a courtroom you all have to visit, AML Drug Court.
WHY D’BANJ & DON JAZZY SPLIT
There have been numerous reports within and outside industry circles on why the two split. They include D’Banj’s alleged arrogance, D’Banj’s alleged mother’s negative influence, Kanye West’s GOOD Music Deal, Choice of managers, Wande Coal’s delayed albums etc. I’ll discuss a few things that are highly relevant to the music community and touch on one topic not really discussed yet, drug use as it has been a growing concern of mine for a while now. Some few things that I find relevant that have been cited as reasons for the breakup include:
1. No Communication for Over 4months Among the Duo: Insiders and news media reports have maintained that Don Jazzy and D’Banj have not spoken for a while, over four months. Indeed if we doubted it, we can see the actions of both clearly reflecting they are not in sync, much less communicating. Don Jazzy takes to twitter to make an announcement, D’Banj doesn’t even acknowledge his existence and instead goes forward to drop a music video allegedly produced by Mo’Hits that excludes Don Jazzy. In addition, Don Jazzy appeared in New York with a very limited showing on stage at the just concluded Mo’Hits concert; and many attest to the strained interactions by the duo among each other. They barely spoke.
From a deal making perspective/reconciliation, you always want parties to talk when there is a break down and you are trying to reconcile differences or negotiate a settlement. When they reach an impasse and stop talking, the relationship only deteriorates and ultimately ends in a full blown out legal battle.
2. D’Banj’s Inflated Ego: D’Banj’s inflated ego, it is alleged, has also contributed to the break down of the relationship. Among insiders who directly deal with D’Banj, as well as news media reports, the story remains the same. D’Banj , it is alleged, is arrogant and egotistical, bragging a lot about his deal with Kanye which has affected his relationship with Don Jazzy.
TIP #1: We all have egos, although some of us magnified more than others. However, if you are seeking to enter into a business relationship with another, you really need to understand that person’s personality and character, their strengths and weaknesses and think long term. If you see signs of egotistical behavior, don’t ignore it. It will only amplify as the money spills in and get extreme.
I believe while D’Banj has an ego, Don Jazzy also has his. So, I am not sure I want to focus the ego blame squarely on D’Banj . . .
3. Money Disputes: It goes without saying that in situations like these, money is often at the heart of the dispute and potential legal battle that ensues. This area is best discussed when I focus on the dissolution of a music label and what it means for the executives, shareholders and the artists signed with the label.
4. Drugs & Mental Health Issue: The final reason cited among industry insiders is the prolonged drug use (Marijuana) and the impact on the mental health of D’Banj. This is where we head to AML drug court. It is no news that D’Banj and Don Jazzy have smoked and/or continue to smoke weed (marijuana). Indeed, industry promoter(s) have been candid and upfront about their direct dealings with the duo who have demanded marijuana, among other things, be provided for their consumption before they would even perform.
Surprise? Absolutely not. There are many artists (Nigeria, USA, UK, Asia etc.) who smoke weed (use marijuana). This we all know and hear of in mainstream media, especially in the USA, when these artists are busted. For example, D’Banj and Don Jazzy collaborated with Snoop Dogg for the ‘Endowed remix.’ Snoop who was busted in Texas about a month ago for smoking weed, makes it no secret that he smokes weed and even claims to have a California medical marijuana card permitting him to smoke for medicinal purposes. Just a few weeks ago, I reported Robin Thicke, the singer we all love, was busted when he smoked weed in New York. In Ghana, we heard new upcoming R &B singer Efya was a regular user when it came to weed. She denied it but it indeed lit up news media online and offline.
Again, it is not unusual to see and meet artists who swear if they do not smoke weed, they cannot be in their best creative space. What appears unusual, however, is the news that D’Banj’s prolonged use of marijuana appears to have an impact on his mental health which impacts his ability to reason with Don Jazzy and inch towards a resolution on how to operate the business affairs of Mo’Hits. Is this really true? Time will tell. However, it does raise a taboo topic, mental illness, that the larger population and industry folks are afraid to talk about; but which we all need to be discussing, especially in the context of music business.
TIP #2: All partnership agreements and company bylaws should provide for what would happen in terms of dissolution/termination of a relationship among partners/members etc. Also, be sure to include how to deal with partners etc. if they become unfit to operate the business of the company. Arguably, D’Banj’s statement to Ebony magazine claiming ownership of Mo’Hits called into question whether he was fit to run Mo’Hits, a legal entity. Ebony Magazine modified the article to reflect co-ownership by D’Banj. Accordingly, the coming weeks will reveal who really owns Mo’Hits at this point and may show D’Banj was not delusional with his initial statement on Mo’Hits ownership.
ARTISTS & MENTAL ILLNESS
I recall walking into one of the courtrooms here in California, USA a while back to handle a few criminal matters I had on calendar. The Judge, when I walked in, told me she had something for me that she felt I should see. When I approached her, she handed me a research report that showed the link between Marijuana and Schizophrenia. Obviously it was relevant for me to know for the interest of the criminal defendants I represent.
What I walked away with was an even clearer understanding that not everyone can smoke a joint and get away with it. There are some people whose body composition/constitution cannot handle the effects of these substance abuse on the brain.
Further, within music’s creative communities are some of the most brilliant, highly creative intelligent individuals. (They are already “crazy” and we associate their brilliance with craziness, often). Their magnetic spirit and excellence at what they do is what makes us love them so much. Yet, the very same thing can and does lead to mental illness, especially where drug intake is added to the mix. In the USA, we have seen some brilliant names battle and lose the battle with bi-polar, depression, schizophrenia etc. Nigeria’s creative community is not insulated from these mental health issues. Although “hush hush” and a taboo topic at large, the industry has dealt with and will continue to deal with these issues among its professionals.
However, it is paramount we start getting past the taboo and paying attention to those in our community that need help. When we think of mental illness, many of us get scared. If you are like me, you probably watched movies, television series and observed in your neighborhoods, in Nigeria, persons with mental health issues rummaging through garbage, walking around the streets filthy, crazy and just scary. That is the image many of us have. We need to be educated about mental illness and possibly advocate for our government to help those among us who lose it, to be accorded the dignity and respect they deserve in how we treat them.
Back to our creative community, it is not unusual for brilliant artists who are in the limelight 24/7 to lose touch with reality. Mental health issues affects us all. We do not want to wait till we have situations like America’s Kurt Cobain (RIP), among others, to begin discussing these issues. Artists deal with really tough rigors in following their passion. There is prolonged absence from family and loved ones as they hit the road for tours flying from one country to another, eating what is nothing short of bad diet, battling insomnia and for those without the self discipline, add heavy and prolonged use of drugs and alcohol to the mix.
It takes a toll on the body and definitely has its toll on mental health. Depending on the person’s constitution, these mental health problems become worse and require medication to manage. With the stigma mental illness generates in Nigeria, it is not unusual to find those plagued by mental illness to reject medication both for the negative side effects it generates; and also for how they are perceived among family, friends and the public at large.
I will get into the more substantive legalese of what the breakup between D’Banj & Don Jazzy means in future posts.
Have a great day people. AML drug court is adjourned.