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BOCA RATON, Fla. (Mar. 11, 2019) – Kanye West and Kid Cudi scored big with “Freeee” on their album, “Kids See Ghosts,” which debuted at #2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200. Jay-Z said it was one of his favorite tracks of 2018. But the first voice heard on that song is that of Ron Bobb-Semple taken from a recording of his one-man show based on Marcus Garvey without Bobb-Semple’s permission, and with no credit or compensation for his contribution.

Now, Bobb-Semple has sued West and Kid Cudi in federal court, seeking compensation for the unlicensed use of his writing and voice from the hip-hop stars and others including Ty Dolla $ign and Def Jam Recordings.

“The rules of sampling are fairly straightforward: you need clearance before releasing a song,” says Joel Rothman, a partner at SRipLAW, which is representing Bobb-Semple. “The first 15 seconds on ‘Freeee’ are unmistakably the words and voice of Bobb-Semple as Marcus Garvey. They set the tone and message for the song and are integral to its popularity.”

For over 35 years, Semple has written and performed worldwide, in costume and character, a one-man show based on the words of late Marcus Garvey. A black nationalist, Garvey attracted controversy in the early 20th century for his political views that included the back-to-Africa movement.

Bobb-Semple created and recorded “The Spirit of Marcus Garvey (Garvey speaks to an all-Black audience)” in 2002. In one track, he dramatically re-creates the part of a Garvey speech used in “Freeee.” Numerous websites including Wikipedia and Pitchfork have erroneously attributed the spoken voice to Garvey, who died in June 1940.

Copyright infringement in songs is not new. Highly publicized trials have turned on whether the material in question was accidentally copied, transformed within the scope of the fair-use exception, or independently created.

“None of these apply,” Rothman says. “Bobb-Semple’s voice, words and rhythm of speech are unmistakably his.”

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SRipLaw files copyright infringement claim against Kanye West, Kid Cudi over their hit ‘Freeee’
SRipLAW files copyright infringement claim against Kanye West, Kid Cudi over their hit ‘Freeee’, alleging introduction was used without permission or compensation