Not so fast, mixtape rappers. Those old-school beats you've been freestyling over? They may not be free after all. In a case that could have vast repercussions on the hip hop game, veteran MC-producer Lord Finesse has just filed a $10 million lawsuit against Mac Miller for using one of his old-school instrumentals without permission.
Courthouse News broke the news on Monday, revealing that Lord Finesse was seeking compensation from the young Pittsburgh MC for his single and video "Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza," which used the beat from Finesse's 1995 song "Hip 2 Da Game." Mac's Rostrum Records and online mixtape clearinghouse DatPiff.com were also named in the suit.
"This is a case about a teenage rapper — Mac Miller — copying the music from a song written, produced and performed by Lord Finesse, a hip hop legend, changing the title and then distributing it under his own name in order to launch his music career," the complaint states.
Miller signed with Rostrum in July 2010 and dropped his mixtape K.I.D.S.: Kickin' Incredibly Dope S--t, which contained "Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza," via DatPiff the following month. The mixtape has been downloaded more than 500,000 times and streamed more than 450,000 times, the lawsuit states, and the video for "Kool Aid & Frozen Pizza" has been viewed nearly 24 million times on YouTube.
Bronx MC Lord Finesse — who's been rapping and producing since the '80s as part of the DITC crew, amassing credits with Dr. Dre, Fat Joe, Big L and others along the way — also spoke about the lawsuit via his Twitter page, saying it wasn't just about a mixtape. "This case is about the overall picture," he wrote. "If you're just looking at 'one' point.. It's about so much more #look deeper."
Mac Miller also took to Twitter to respond to the lawsuit, explaining his side of the story and giving Lord Finesse props for mentoring late Harlem rap icon Big L:
I’m supposed to be on hush but lemme speak on this real quick.
1. I made that record and video as nothing more than an 18 year old kid who wanted to rhyme and pay homage, no other intentions.
2. Finesse and I spoke on the phone for an hour after he heard the record and cleared the air. We even planned to work on music together.
3. All I wanted to do is shed light on a generation that inspired me.
4. When I heard there was a problem, I reached out to him to try and solve it. No response.
5. Finesse never cleared the Oscar Peterson sample on the original record. I did nothing wrong. We spoke on the phone had a good conversation, he was cool with the record. It’s all love tho. I ain’t even mad at dude. He still a legend.
Lord Finesse, thank you for what u did for hip hop. Thank you for bringing my favorite rapper into the game.
The lawsuit is sure to be closely watched by the hip hop industry: Rappers have long used unauthorized instrumentals on mixtapes and free online releases. If Mac Miller is forced to make a big payout, that practice will become a whole lot more expensive — and several other beatmakers may look to file suits as well. Hip to the game, indeed.
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(photos from left to right: John Ricard / BET, Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
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