Nicki Minaj has agreed to pay $450,000 to Tracy Chapman to settle a copyright lawsuit, according to documents made public Thursday and obtained by TheWrap.
The reclusive “Fast Car” singer-songwriter sued Minaj back in 2018 saying that the rapper’s song “Sorry” infringed on a copyright for her own composition, “Baby Can I Hold You,” first released in 1988. “Sorry” was an unreleased Minaj track that heavily sampled “Baby Can I Hold You” and was leaked and played on a radio show by New York DJ Funkmaster Flex.
“Sorry” also featured rapper Nas and was intended for Nicki Minaj’s first album “Queen,” but didn’t make the cut. The initial lawsuit claimed that at least half the song borrowed from Chapman’s lyrics and melody and that Minaj’s team made multiple requests to license “Baby Can I Hold You,” but only after Minaj had already recorded it.
The lawsuit opened up complications of whether an artist would be allowed to use samples based on copyrighted works for projects that are a work in progress.
Back in September, however, a judge sided with Minaj and agreed that “uprooting” the practice of letting artists experiment would damage the creative process. However, the judge allowed the case to go to trial since “Sorry” got leaked to Funkmaster Flex. According to the New York Times, Chapman’s team claimed that Minaj leaked the track herself and had correspondence to suggest as much, but Minaj and Flex both denied that.
“I am glad to have this matter resolved and grateful for this legal outcome which affirms that artists’ rights are protected by law and should be respected by other artists. I was asked in this situation numerous times for permission to use my song; in each instance, politely and in a timely manner, I unequivocally said no. Apparently Ms. Minaj chose not to hear and used my composition despite my clear and express intentions,” Chapman said in a statement to TheWrap.
She continued: “As a songwriter and an independent publisher, I have been known to be protective of my work. I have never authorized the use of my songs for samples or requested a sample. This lawsuit was a last resort–pursued in an effort to defend myself and my work and to seek protection for the creative enterprise and expression of songwriters and independent publishers like myself.”
A lawyer for Minaj told TheWrap, “We settled for one reason only. It would have cost us more to go to trial.”
Chapman was represented by John Gatti, a partner at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.