Nearly two years ago, Montreal rapper Jonathan Emile debuted a Kendrick Lamar-assisted track called “Heaven Help Dem.” The politically-charged song, which paid tribute to Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and other victims of police brutality, was released on multiple digital platforms; however, it was quickly taken down after it was flagged for alleged copyright infringement.
The takedown notice prompted Emile to file a small claims lawsuit against Lamar’s record label Top Dawg Entertainment, as well as Interscope Records and Universal Music Group. According to Billboard, the court ruled in Emile’s favor in late October. The rapper was awarded $6,400 plus five percent interest.
Emile told the publication he had filed the lawsuit in an attempt to clear his name. Thought the track was later reinstated, he didn’t want the public to assume he had “stolen” from TDE or Lamar.
“We paid Kendrick Lamar for a feature, and once we paid them, they basically stopped communicating with us altogether […] We couldn’t get in contact, so I just continued producing my album (The Lover/Fighter Document) and with the verbal agreement we had, and we put out the song in 2015,” Emile explained. “After the song was put out, they placed a false copyright claim on the song itself and got it pulled from YouTube and SoundCloud and all that stuff. So, after going back and forth with these companies, they realized that they were in error and that there was no copyright claim on the song, but the damage had already been done and the momentum to promote the song had already been [lost]. So on the advice of my lawyers, we took them to small claims—to make a statement more than anything.”
Emile, who represented himself in court, is now focusing on his upcoming album Phantom Pain, which will include collaborations with Canadian artists under 20 years old. He told Billboard he isn’t concerned about being on TDE’s, or Lamar’s, bad side.
“There is no relationship right now,” he said. “And it’s not really something that I’m aiming towards right now."
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