Kanye West is known for his keen ear for sound and inventive use of sampling in his music; the breakout hit “New Slaves” from his 2013 album Yeezus is just one example of his expertise. However, after Hungarian artist Gabor Presser filed a $2.5 million lawsuit against the rapper for copyright infringement, fans were left wondering: has Kanye gone too far?
It is indisputable that “New Slaves” relies heavily on the sampled song “Gyöngyhajú Lány” (which roughly translates to “Pearls in Her Hair”), as a full 85 seconds of West’s song use the sample. According to Presser, the 1969 song is “one of the most beloved pop songs ever in Hungary and across eastern Europe.” According to reports by The Guardian, Presser was unaware that his song was being used until after marketing for “New Slaves” began and West only gave the composer 24 hours to respond to email. Rather than going back-and-forth to reach an agreement, West’s team sent Presser a $10,000 advanced check. The check also came with a catch: West’s team asserted that cashing it meant that Presser must “consent to West’s unlawful use of the original composition.” In Presser’s mind, there was only one solution. He didn’t cash the check.
Ultimately – in May of 2016 – Presser filed a complaint in U.S. district court in Manhattan, asking for at least $2.5 million in damages for copyright infringement. Part of the complaint read:
“Kanye West knowingly and intentionally misappropriated plaintiff’s composition. After his theft was discovered, defendants refused to deal fairly with plaintiff.“
Nearly 10 months later, the two have finally resolved the situation by way of a settlement – the details of which have not been released besides the fact that the conflict was “resolved amicably.” The timing of the situation was also convenient, as West was meant to sit for a deposition in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 29th.
Over the years, it seems as though West has turned this process into a pattern. Another Yeezus hit, “Bound 2,” was also the source of a legal battle due to unauthorized sampling. Child singer Ricky Spicer – whose vocals provide the iconic chorus of the song “Bound, bound / Bound to fall in love” – demanded to be compensated for the Billboard Hot 100 no. 12 hit. Neither Spicer’s, nor West’s, attorneys commented on the suit, but it was settled in May of 2015.