Independent Rapper Jonathan Emile Writes Open Letter to Kendrick Lamar About Fighting TDE in Court
Usually, the most difficult parts about getting a rap star to appear on your single is actually getting them and their label to agree to do it and then paying for it. But what do you do when you've done both of those things and the record label tries to sue you?
That's the question raised by Canadian independent rapper Jonathan Emile, who wrote an open letter addressed to Kendrick Lamar about his legal battle with Top Dawg Entertainment. Years ago, TDE agreed to let K.Dot appear on Emile's political track, "Heaven Help Dem," so long as Emile could pay the label over the course of two installments, which he did.
Emile says the trouble began when TDE wouldn't send an a capella of Kendrick's verse on the song. However, that issue now seems trivial compared to the ordeal he's gone through since. Years later, when Emile finally posted the song onto YouTube in January 2015, things took a turn for the worst when TDE CEO Anthony Tiffith told him to take down the song he'd already paid for years back.
"When we posted the song on YouTube, we received incredible press from all over the globe—major blogs, newspapers, television and more," says of the success that preceded a call from Tiffith.
He continues, "The buzz was growing just as we had hoped and I was ready to release the album, The Lover/Fighter Document LP, in time for February (Black History Month, also significant to me and the themes of my project). This prompted a call from Top Dawg himself. During the call, Top Dawg threatened that Interscope and Universal Music Group (UMG) would take down the song, he eluded to possible legal action and took a highly aggressive stance. He also threatened that I would burn my bridges with TDE and that it was bad business for me to not listen to him. It’s hip-hop, so tough talk and bullying come with the territory. I asked him, why didn’t he tell me not to release the song? He evaded. So I informed him that I had every right to have the song released and that there was nothing I could do because it was live on the internet and scheduled for iTunes release. I proposed to remove the song if I was refunded, but Top Dawg refused. I asked to speak to someone at Interscope or UMG—at this point, he became angry and yelled that he was 'the president of Top Dawg Entertainment and he has the final decision.' At that point, I said 'OK,' and informed him that I would act according to my best interest."
Some eight days after the official release of "Heaven Help Dem," the song was taken down by Universal Music Group. The song was put back up two months later, but Emile says the damage was already done.
"People were saying I stole the verse from an old Kendrick song (not true) and all sorts of other libel against me," he says in the letter. "I was genuinely hurt. I had invested my heart and soul into this release all for it to be stripped away by Top Dawg himself. Top Dawg later confessed to my lawyer (who signed a sworn affidavit) that he personally asked Interscope and UMG to remove the song because he felt 'disrespected.' I do not believe it was honorable for me to be attacked simply because of mismanagement and lack of judgment on the part of your representatives."
Last year, Emile found a lawyer willing to work with him on the case, and a judge found that his "moral rights, copyright and integrity as a person" had been violated, but Emile claims TDE continues to fight the decision in court.
You can peep K. Dot's song with Emile below.
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