Lil’ Wayne has been keeping his attorneys extremely busy the past two years, and with his latest $40 million case it looks like there is no end in sight. The first suit came in early 2015, when the rapper petitioned the court to release him from his contract with record label Cash Money, award him $51 million in damages, of which $10 million is due to the label purposefully delaying the release of his long awaited next album, Tha Carter V, and to rule that he owns the copyright to recordings by Cash Money artists. While that case is still pending in Louisiana federal court, Lil’ Wayne is now going after Universal Music Group, the parent company of Cash Money, and SoundExchange for $40 million in damages and disgorged profits. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Grammy winner claims that Universal failed to adequately compensate him for his efforts in discovering, signing, and mentoring some of Cash Money’s most profitable artists including Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Tyga. Lil’ Wayne argues that rather than pay the tens of millions of dollars owed to him, Universal used the money to help recoup a $100 million advance it gave to Cash Money. Demanding a jury trial, the complaint reads:
“[w]ith Universal’s knowledge of Lil Wayne’s rights to partial ownership and profits from those artists, Universal and Cash Money entered into a series of agreements which, among other things, diverted Lil Wayne’s substantial profits to repay debts of Cash Money. As a result, 100% of the profits that should have been paid to Lil’ Wayne as a result of his ownership of Drake, Nicki Minaj and Tyga records have been seized by Universal to repay debts that were neither incurred by nor were the obligations of Lil Wayne.”
Although neither defendant has publicly responded, a spokesperson for Universal firmly held that Lil’ Wayne’s claims are entirely without merit and that Universal vigorously contests any wrongdoing.
Loren Shokes is an Entertainment and Sports Highlight Contributor for the Harvard Journal of Sports and Entertainment Law and a current second year student at Harvard Law School (Class of 2017).