When Kendrick Lamar produced Black Panther’s soundtrack in 2018, it was a critical and commercial success. It brought together a number of various global artists for an album that was just as successful and groundbreaking as the movie in its name.
The third single from the album, “Pray For Me”—a collaboration between Lamar and The Weeknd—was released in February of 2018 and reached No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. And now, over two years after the release of Black Panther: The Album, “Pray for Me” is the target of some legal drama. Yeasayer, a rock band that disbanded two months ago, is suing Lamar and The Weeknd—alleging that the duo ripped off their song, “Sunrise,” in the making of “Pray for Me.”
This comes after several high-profile copyright disputes, too, including—and these are just the most recent ones—the Raisen brothers accusing Lizzo of not crediting them for the “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch” lyric in “Truth Hurts,” and singer-songwriter Josh Stone filing a lawsuit claiming Ariana Grande stole her “7 Rings” hook from one of his songs.
Here’s everything we know about the situation so far.
What is Yeasayer alleging?
According to court documents obtained by TMZ, Yeasayer claims Lamar and The Weeknd allegedly lifted portions of “Sunrise,” which the band describes as a song with a “distinctive choral performance” that is “comprised of male voices singing in their highest registers, with animated, pulsing vibrato.”
As Rolling Stone reports:
Along with Lamar and the Weekend, Yeasayer’s suit names “Pray for Me” producers Doc McKinney and Frank Dukes as defendants. In the suit, Yeasayer alleged that the “Pray for Me” creative team “created an unauthorized derivative work” from “Sunrise” by “keeping the same number of voices in the same configuration, brightening the material, and temporarily condensing the copied portion while generally retaining the original’s pulsing vibrato.” It states that this snippet appears at least eight times in “Pray for Me,” and the suit describes the alleged sample as “the primary feature of two complete verses, including the final verse.”
Listen to both songs below:
What happened in similar instances of alleged copyright infringement?
In 2015, a jury ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams unlawfully copied Marvin Gaye’s 1977 song “Got to Give It Up” in their hit “Blurred Lines.” Even though the two artists appealed the ruling, they had to pay the Gaye family $7.4 million in damages, and half of all the song’s royalties going forward.
The “Blurred Lines” decision set off an explosion of these types of copyright lawsuits. Last summer, a jury ruled that Katy Perry’s 2015 hit, “Dark Horse,” copied Christian rapper Marcus Gray’s 2009 track, “Joyful Noise.” The case is still ongoing, though—Perry and her team appealed the verdict (they were ordered to pay Gray $2.78 million) in October. The decision was a stunning moment for the music industry, leaving musicians concerned about what’s permissible and what’s not. “They’re trying to own basic building blocks of music, the alphabet of music that should be available to everyone,” Perry’s lawyer Christine Lepera warned in the closing arguments of the “Dark Horse” case.
These types of cases have settled out of court, too—including a dispute between Sam Smith and Tom Petty, with the latter claiming that “Stay With Me” plagiarized “I Won’t Back Down.” Other copyright infringement cases have roped in Lil Nas X, Cardi B, and Lady Gaga in recent months, too.
Have Lamar and The Weeknd responded to Yeasayer’s allegations yet?
Neither artist has publicly responded to Yeasayer yet. Apparently, the band is asking for all of the profits of “Pray for Me,” and an injunction that would block future sales and airplay of the song. This could be a decent chunk of cash, too, considering how much money Black Panther: The Album, like the movie itself, netted in sales. We’ll keep this updated, as soon as someone from either Lamar or The Weeknd’s camp comments on the alleged infringement.