Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) and former business partner Damon Dash will possibly be deposed in a copyright infringement case brought against them by Dwayne Walker who claims to have designed the Roc-A-Fella logo. In an industry where royalties dictates livelihood and survival, entertainment corporations and the artists both wake up on the hunt on how to get it and maintain it. Throats have been cut and bonds broken over ownership of songs, scripts, and logos. A few hit songs in heavy rotation or a successful television show that goes into syndication can make the difference whether a man can feed his family for the next couple of decades or having to go get a 9 to 5 job.
Whether clothing designer Dwayne Walker has a family or not, he is apparently determined to get what he believes is rightfully his. Walker claims to have met the founders of Roc-A-Fella Records back in 1995. The music label was founded in 1996 by legendary, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z with business partners Damon Dash and Kareem Burke. Walker accepted an alleged agreement to receive $3,500 for the licensing of the logo he designed for the label and two percent of the royalties. The clothing designer reported Roc-A-Fella, indeed, paid him $3,500, but Walker claims he never saw a dime of the royalties. Manhattan Federal Judge Ronald Ellis has motioned for the case filed back in 2012 to move forward requiring Jay-Z, Dash, and Burke to be deposed.
This could be the first publicized reunion since the alleged bitter split between business partners Jay-Z and Dash back in 2004. Dash managed Jay-Z in his early days of his music career making history together in hip hop when Jay-Z emerged as the first rap artist to sell out Madison Square Garden. Roc-A-Fella, like the history making mogul John D. Rockefeller many believe the hip hop music label was named after, planted its flag in the music industry with number one chart topping hits such as Do It Again, N*gga What N*gga Who, Big Pimpin’, Jigga, and the list continues. Jay-Z is one of the few rap artists who has maintained longevity in a cold industry with millions of fans holding up the universal Roc symbol around the world when the icon steps out on to the stage to sold out arenas. Jay-Z has gone on to help promote other mega artists such Kanye West and Rihanna and launching numerous business ventures including a sports agency designed to help athletes build and maintain their wealth. It is reported that Dash and Jay-Z have not spoken since their split 10 years ago, so it is unfortunate that the reunion of this powerful duo has to be a deposition for a $7 million lawsuit.
Jay-Z, according to Forbes, is reported to be worth an estimated $465 million. Many believe $7 million should be nothing for him to pay the clothing designer for the logo. Others, however, believe that Jay-Z has not reached the level of success he has achieved in entertainment and business by bowing down to those who want to possibly take from him. Jay-Z nor his representation has made any comments in reference to the case with Walker. Dash or Burke have not made any public statements in reference to the $7 million case.
Anyone who is familiar with how royalties work, understand that these men will fight it out before a judge. Doing a job one time to get paid over and over is a concept most 9 to 5 job holders can not relate to. Residual income is the pathway to wealth that most do not have the patience or courage to go after. The Rockefeller’s and the Vanderbilt’s understand residuals, as it gets passed down from generation to generation. Jay-Z, who was brought up in the Marcy projects of Brooklyn, clearly learned the power of residuals. Whether Walker is proven to be deserving of the royalties or not, Jay-Z, Dash, and Burke know what blood, sweat, and possible tears went into building the Roc-A-Fella brand…and they are, apparently, preparing to fight for every dime.
Opinion by Meleika Gardner