A St. Louis man is suing Chingy and his record producers for more than $250,000, alleging the platinum-selling rap star broke a record deal in 2002 so he could join rap star Ludacris' national recordi

A St. Louis man is suing Chingy and his record producers for more than $250,000, alleging the platinum-selling rap star broke a record deal in 2002 so he could join rap star Ludacris' national recording label.

Ronald R. Gavin claims that Chingy, born in St. Louis as Howard E. Bailey, broke a contract to sign with production team Trak Starz and eventually make a deal with Capitol Records and Ludacris, according to a lawsuit filed last week in St. Louis County court.

Chingy, 26, is one of several St. Louis rappers to make it big, including Nelly and J-Kwon.

St. Louis-area music producers Alonzo "Zo" Lee Jr. and Shamar "Sham" Daugherty are usually credited with discovering Chingy. The Trak Starz duo produced his major-label debut, "Jackpot," on Ludacris' label. It was distributed by Capitol in 2003 and sold more than 2.8 million copies.

Gavin seeks more than $250,000 in damages and at least $25,000 in attorney's fees. He claims that in June 1999 Chingy signed an exclusive contract with Gavin's label, 49 Productions Inc. Chingy was then a little-known St. Louis rapper called H. Thugzy.

The contract said Gavin had "exclusive services for the production and recording" of Thugzy, who would later sell millions of records as Chingy.

Gavin spent more than $100,000 developing Chingy's professional image and career as a rap star over the course of three years, the lawsuit claims, getting the young rapper radio play and performances. Gavin produced one album for Chingy and started on a second when Chingy started "to enjoy commercial success."

According to court records, it was then, in 2002, that the Trak Starz got Chingy to sign a separate contract, with the promise to connect him with Atlanta-based rap sensation Ludacris, according to court records. Ludacris' label, Disturbing Tha Peace, was in a joint venture with Capitol Records at the time.

The lawsuit claims Trak Starz knew of Chingy's contract with Gavin. "It was a flagrant interference," Gavin's attorney Mark Goodman said.

Attempts to reach Lee and Daugherty were unsuccessful. Chingy's publicist refused to comment on the lawsuit.


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