Courthouse News Service Entertainment Law
(CN) - Hip-hop impresario James "Jas" Prince claims in court that Cash Money Records owes him millions of dollars in royalties for recordings by Drake (Aubrey Graham), whom Prince claims to have discovered.
Prince, a longtime force in the Houston, Texas rap scene, and his company Young Empire Music Group sued Cash Money Records on Aug. 19, Miami Federal Court.
Prince claims that he discovered Drake, who is not a party to the lawsuit, long before a string of hit singles rocketed the Canadian performer to "worldwide notoriety."
Prince claims he was instrumental arranging for the young rapper to sign a deal with nonparty Aspire Music Group, through which his services would be licensed to others to create musical recordings.
That agreement included a provision for division of profits and advances generated by Drake's recordings. The parties later got into a dispute over the contract terms, but ultimately entered into a memorandum of understanding clarifying their financial positions, Prince says in the lawsuit.
"The spirit of the settlement agreement and general release was that plaintiffs would continue to receive their share of the profits (2/3 of 1/3) delivered from Drake's Recordings while Drake grew from relative obscurity into a household name." (Parentheses in complaint.)
In mid-July 2009, Prince claims, he learned of a lucrative agreement that Drake entered into for which the rapper received a $2 million advance. This deal allegedly involved Aspire, defendant Cash Money, and an entity called Young Money.
"Plaintiff was not part of that agreement," Prince says in the complaint.
The next month, "Cash Money filed four trademark applications in an effort to receive registered trademarks from the U.S. patent and trademark Office for marks affiliated with Drake, including the word marks "Drake" and "Drizzy Drake," according to the complaint.
Prince claims that the clarification of financial obligations he signed with Aspire in 2009 acknowledged Cash Money's involvement in Drake's career, and specifically stated that advances payable to Aspire - and then split with the plaintiff -- would be paid by Cash Money.
"Cash Money has had a continuing obligation to make payments to plaintiffs and provide accountings related to same since the division of income between Aspire and plaintiffs was established by the settlement agreement and general release and in the correspondence referenced herein," the complaint states.
Despite acknowledging this obligation, Prince says, Cash Money has repeatedly failed to make millions of dollars in payments to him.
For instance, on Nov. 8, 2013, "Cash Money's payment to plaintiffs ... was at least $5 million less that what as owed," according to the lawsuit.
Prince also claims that after his attorney demanded that Cash Money turn over documents for an accounting, the defendant "only provided plaintiffs' accountant with unsubstantiated marketing costs and producer royalty statements."
He seeks at least $4 million in damages for unjust enrichment, conversion, breach of contract, tortious interference with a contractual business relationship, and breach of a constructive trust, and disclosure of all documents needed to make a proper accounting of Cash Money's Drake-related earnings.
Prince is represented by Richard Wolfe of Miami.