Ex-boxer claims Jay-Z stole his flow: Dumbest lawsuit ever?

Copyright law can be a complicated field, or so I’ve heard. Then again, I’m pretty sure a fifth-grader could adjudicate the copyright dispute I just read about. Apparently there’s a former heavyweight boxer named Mitchell Rose who’s filing an $88 million suit against Jay-Z (h/t). Why? Because Rose says he gave Jay a demo tape in 2001, which he claims single-handedly inspired Jay to switch up his vocal delivery: "He took the demo with him and shortly after that he began using the whispering (which he now frequents) in his songs…. He’s using it on the regular, now Lil’ Kim is using it. All I want is justice. Jay-Z knows what I am talking about." Um, no. Feel free to correct me here if you’re reading this and have a legal degree, but I’m pretty sure that the subtle pattern of intonations and emphases that make up one’s flow aren’t really the kind of thing one can copyright. Besides, what is this Rose character saying here — that he invented whispering?! Clearly, this is just a desperate clown looking for a shakedown from a multimillionaire.

But what really makes this funny is the way it echoes a silly complaint I’ve heard before from Jay’s most dedicated haters. These guys try to argue (NSFW language), with all the nit-picking machismo that rap message-boards foster, that Jay has lifted vocal tics (including that whisper-flow thing he sometimes does) from other, less well-known emcees. I’ve yet to hear a clear-cut, convincing example of this alleged theft — but on a much more fundamental level, this criticism really misses the point. Hip-hop is about transforming and reclaiming art from all kinds of sources, and Jay does that better than just about anyone. His voice as a poet is unique and recognizable, whether he’s whispering, screaming, or ghostwriting his words into somebody else’s mouth. So even if another guy’s hoarse-voiced demo did inspire Jay to try something new (which I really doubt), who on Earth cares? I’d like to see Mitchell Rose try and come up with something one thousandth as powerful as Jay’s hushed "Minority Report" (below) with that whisper of "his." Don’t you agree?


Comments (73 total) Add your comment
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  • Intro…

    Yeah, dumbest lawsuit ever.

  • Ceballos

    Simon,
    This loser (who no one anywhere has ever heard of) is just looking for publicity…and you mentioned his name twice in your post. So even though he’s not going to get any money, he sorta wins.

  • Ceballos

    Also, this is COMPLETELY off topic, but I don’t know where else to post it:
    I guess Dalton Ross is too busy attending Bravo’s A-list awards to write another Glutton column. Seriously though, that has to be one of my favorite random, ahem, “celebrity” sightings EVER.

  • Snarf

    Greedy and stupid. Great combo.

  • Dan Jones

    I am attorney, I don’t specialize in intellectual property but I know enough to be able to read this article and conclude he’s got no chance at winning this case. However, maybe he’ll get lucky and Hollywood will buy the idea off of him and make a hit comedy out of it.

  • Zaphod Beeblebrox

    I’m also a lawyer with some limited intellectual property experience, and I can say without a doubt that this lawsuit has no merit. You can copyright creative expression (i.e. the lyrics to a rap song) but not a style of creative expression (i.e. a certain style of rap). This guy is just dumb.

  • Zaphod Beeblebrox

    By the way, if I represented Jay-Z, that would be my opening statment: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, this guy is just dumb. Thank you.”

  • Heidi

    I am an attorney; I now want to find this guy and suggest he also sue the Ying Yang Twins for stealing whispering. :)

  • kennedy

    who da hell is this…get this guy off,who do you think you are..? you cant just wake up and say stuff like this about the god of music as a hole….go back to bed bro..

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