A track on Kanye West’s Donda 2 album contains uncleared samples from Marshall Jefferson’s 1986 House Music classic “Move Your Body” (The House Music Anthem) featuring Curtis McClain — and he acknowledged doing it, according to an incendiary filing in federal court this week.
The complaint filed by Ultra International Music claims West sampled the original Jefferson track on “Flowers” from his latest album, Donda 2, and acknowledged doing so during discussions with representatives for Jefferson and Ultra.
The complaint was filed on June 29, 2022 in the Southern District of New York.
“West advocates for artist’s rights with one hand, yet has no shame in taking away rights from another artist with another”—UIMP vs. West, et. al.
The complaint tees off on West with an unusual vehemence. It begins by citing West’s 2020 interview with Billboard in which he states he would “work with anyone who treats artist fairly & righteous.”
“Contrary to his claimed interest in the proper compensation and fair treatment of all artists,” the complaint alleges, “West has not shared his success with at least one well know [sic] artist and writer whose work he sampled and exploited without authorization or compensation in the creation of Donda 2.”
The complaint alleges that “Flowers” “directly samples” Jefferson’s “Move Your Body” and dubs it a “blatant exploitation of a Chicago artist’s work… Manifesting the height of hypocrisy, West advocates for artist’s rights with one hand, yet has no shame in taking away rights from another artist with another.”
It’s important to point out that the complaint against West was filed not by Jefferson but Ultra International Music Publishing, which “owns, controls and/or administers (in whole or in part) copyrights and/or exclusive rights to numerous compositions, including the musical composition for the song ‘Move Your Body’ written by Marshall Jefferson.”
Jefferson and Byron Stingily were nominated for a Grammy Award as Ten City for their 2021 album titled (ironically enough) Judgement.
In addition to Kanye West, the complaint also names Alex Klein and Kano Computing, which released Donda 2 on a device created by Kano called the Stem Player. Kano is “Klein’s company,” the document alleges. “To listen to any songs on the Album, including ‘Flowers,’ customers must purchase the Stem Player for $200.”
The Stem Player enabled users to remix and upload their own mix of the tracks to YouTube, the suit alleges, leading to a huge proliferation of mixes uploaded by users.
Kanye West was previously accused of sampling the bassline of David Morales’ remix of “What Is This Thing Called Love.” As 5 Mag‘s Czarina Mirani reported nearly four years ago, Morales called out Kanye over his track “I Love It” featuring Lil Pump for swiping his bassline for the remix to the Alexander O’Neal Song.
“Nobody asked me any permission,” Morales said then. “Nobody gave me any love, no points, no royalties – not even a coupon to Walmart.”
5 Mag was unable to find information on counsel for West, Klein and Kano. Court records indicate UIMP had requested an issuance of summons in the civil action to the defendants.