Rappers Jay Z and Kanye West are being sued for allegedly stealing a song from an artist who was street peddling his CDs outside of the Mercer Hotel in SoHo a few years ago. At the same time Jay Z, Kanye and singer Frank Ocean reportedly rented a host of rooms at the hotel and were recording music for the album Watch the Throne. According to the lawsuit, Joel Mac sold a CD to a guy named Mike Dean, and to his surprise, when the album was released his song was track 11 on the music project. He is suing the rappers for copyright infringement.
Joel McDonald is a New York musician who was born in Belize City, Central America. He grew up in South Bronx after coming to the United States in 1976. Joel Mac joined the rap group Undefeated Three under the stage name Cool Supreme with Easy Gee and the Funkmaster Wizard Wiz. Undefeated Three was signed to Tuff City Records but only recorded a few songs before disbanding.
Joel Mac and Easy Gee recorded some unreleased material with Jazzy Jay before Joel went on to record B Boy Style with Little Jazzy which was produced on the Easy Street label by Jazzy Jay. In January 2006 Joel, who credits himself for making music for the soul, started the Joel Mac record label. His music tends to cross or merge genres such as Rhythm & Blues with a touch of Reggae, Folk and Hip Hop. To date he has released three musical projects: Joel Mac Songs, Born to Love and Be at Peace.
Joel wrote the song at the base of his lawsuit, Made in America, in 2009. He later learned that Mike Dean, who purchased his CD outside of the Mercer hotel, is one of the producers on the Watch the Throne album. The New York musician claims the concept of his song was reproduced without consent on Jay Z and Kanye’s Watch the Throne and is seeking $3 million in damages.
A song with the same title is included in the first collaborative album of rappers Jay Z and Kanye. It includes a melodic hook sang by singer-songwriter Frank Ocean and explores themes of the American dream and family life. Throughout Made in America the ideas of triumph over adversity and personal agency tie into “being black” in contemporary America and escaping poverty by any means necessary.
The song speaks of heroes of the civil rights movement and reflects on how Jay Z and Kanye have seized, what may be considered by many, an American dream. Frank not only provides vocals on the track but has also been credited with writing lyrics on the song. His hook highlights Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King as well as “sweet baby” Jesus.
Jay Z and Kanye West have collaborated on several tracks together and in 2010 they began production and recording on the long-awaited collaborative project Watch the Throne. Joel Mac alleges track number 11 on their album is a rip-off of his song bearing the same name. He originally filed a lawsuit in the state of New York but has now taken his case to federal court. Neither Jay Z nor Kanye have commented publicly on the lawsuit while others have said they should cut the New York street peddler a check and continue making music.
By: Cherese Jackson (Virginia)