To the ears of a High Court judge, it is hardly surprising if rap music sounds like Greek, but one member of the bench went one step further yesterday (June 5).
To the ears of a High Court judge, it is hardly surprising if rap music sounds like Greek, but one member of the bench went one step further yesterday (June 5). He ruled that the lyrics to an English rap record were "for practical purposes a foreign language." He also pondered the need for "expert drug dealers" to be called into court in similar cases to explain rap lyrics.
Mr. Justice Lewison made the ruling in a legal battle over a remix of the Ant'ill Mob's 2001 garage hit "Burnin'." The writer of the original track, Andrew Alcee, claimed that rap lyrics laid over it in the remix by the Heartless Crew constituted "derogatory treatment" of his copyright because they contained references to violence and drugs.
"This," the judge said, "led to the faintly surreal experience of three gentlemen in horsehair wigs examining the meaning of such phrases as 'mish mish man' and 'shizzle my nizzle'."
Dismissing the claim, the judge said he was unable to be sure whether the words complained of in the rap were actually references to violence and drugs, despite extensive research that included consulting an urban dictionary on the Internet.
The judge said that evidence on the phrases had been given by Richard Pascal, one of the bosses of Ant'ill Mob's record company Confetti Records, but that he had to agree with objections from the defendant's counsel Robert Howe that, in the circumstances, this evidence was not sufficient.
He explained: "Mr. Pascal did not himself claim to know what street meanings were to be attributed to the disputed phrases, but said that he had been told what they were by an unnamed informant conversant with the use of drugs.
"Mr. Howe submitted, correctly in my opinion, that the meaning of words in a foreign language could only be explained by experts. He also submitted, again correctly in my opinion, that the words of he rap, although in a form of English, were for practical purposes a foreign language.
"Thus he submitted that Mr. Pascal's evidence, not being the evidence of an expert, was inadmissible. I think that he is right, although the occasions on which an expert drug dealer might be called to give evidence in the Chancery Division are likely to be rare."
The judge also dismissed other claims made by Alcee and Confetti against Warner Music U.K. Ltd. over the use of the remix on the compilation "Crisp Biscuit."