A court has ordered Nicki Minaj to pay Tracy Chapman $450,000 for sampling her “Baby Can I Hold You” track in a song entitled “Sorry.”
Vocal sampling critic Tracy Chapman levied the underlying copyright-infringement lawsuit back in October of 2018, after her 1988 “Baby Can I Hold You” appeared in Nicki Minaj’s “Sorry” (which features Nas). Chapman said in the complaint that Minaj had reached out multiple times to discuss sampling her work – though the four-time Grammy winner didn’t approve the usage, and as a result, Minaj cut “Sorry” from her fourth studio album, Queen.
Nevertheless, “Sorry” leaked and played once on Funkmaster Flex’s Hot 97 broadcast, and fans moved quickly to record the track. These unauthorized editions then began making their way onto the internet, and Tracy Chapman submitted her suit about six weeks following the release of Queen. Counsel for Nicki Minaj said that the “Sorry” lawsuit would “have a significant impact on the music recording industry,” and Tracy Chapman and her legal team promptly doubled down on their claims.
Additionally, a judge indicated in September of 2020 that “Sorry” could be protected by fair use because Nicki Minaj had set out to “experiment with” Chapman’s track, besides attempting to license the sample and ultimately opting not to release “Sorry” commercially. But ahead of a potentially expensive and drawn-out trial, Chapman accepted Minaj’s $450,000 judgement offer, new legal documents reveal.
At the time of this piece’s writing, Nicki Minaj hadn’t taken to social media to comment on the deal. However, Tracy Chapman addressed the $450,000 agreement in a widely circulated statement, relaying that she is “glad” to move past the dispute.
The “Give Me One Reason” singer-songwriter also stated: “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.”
This compromise puts to rest one of the infringement lawsuits that Nicki Minaj is facing over Queen. Eight days ago, a rapper named Brinx Billions levied a $240 million infringement suit against the “Anaconda” artist, alleging that the 38-year-old had both stolen his “Rich Sex” track and failed to pay an agreed upon 15 percent of the royalties associated with “I Endorse These Strippers.”
And specifically on the sampling front, a Jamaican artist named Dr. Lenora Antoinette Stines is pursuing a copyright-infringement lawsuit against Jay-Z and Beyonce, who she alleges lacked authorization to use one of her speeches at the start of “Black Effect.”
Separately, Drake scored another legal victory last year when the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that his sampling “Jimmy Smith Rap” in “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” – without prior consent, it bears mentioning – constituted fair use.