Legal and Management

Yeasayer File Copyright Suit Against Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd Over 'Black Panther' Track 'Pray for Me'

Kendrick Lamar & The Weeknd
Rich Fury/The Forum via Getty Images

Kendrick Lamar joins The Weeknd on stage during the 'Legends of The Fall Tour' to perform 'Sidewalks' on April 29, 2017 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

The rock band alleges that a 'choral performance' from their 2007 song was used in the hit single without permission.

Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd?’s Black Panther soundtrack collaboration “Pray for Me” gave both artists another chart success in February 2018, when the hard-charging track peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100. Unfortunately for them, the song is now also hitting the courts.

Indie rock band Yeasayer and their record label We Are Free are suing Lamar, The Weeknd (a.k.a. Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) and various other defendants for copyright infringement, accusing them of lifting a “distinctive choral performance” from the song “Sunrise” off the group’s 2007 debut studio album All Hour Cymbals. The complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in New York on Monday (Feb. 24) by the plaintiffs' attorneys Scott Alan Burroughs and Laura M. Zaharia of Doniger/Burroughs.

In the complaint, Yeasayer -- which consisted of Chris Keating, Ira Wolf Tuton and Anand Wilder -- allege the defendants “extracted” the choral performance in question and inserted it into “Pray for Me” only after “slightly” modifying it and altering its pitch in post-production.

“This material was specifically created for use in ‘Sunrise’ and is unique, comprised of male voices singing in their highest registers, with animated, pulsing vibrato, and developed via distinctive audio post-processing,” the complaint reads.

The suit goes on to allege that the defendants purposely altered the performance in order to conceal their infringement, and that they also intentionally scrubbed and/or altered the Content Management Information (CMI) attached to “Sunrise” to further hide the alleged theft.

Yeasayer and We Are Free are asking the court to enjoin the defendants from further acts of infringement; to transfer all recordings, videos and other material connected with “Pray for Me” into a constructive trust; and to award the defendants actual and statutory damages, lost profits, pre-judgment interest, attorneys’ fees and all other costs of the suit.

Other defendants named in the complaint include “Pray for Me” songwriter/producer Doc McKinney, songwriter Adam King Feeney, Top Dawg Entertainment and Universal Music Group and its subsidiaries Interscope Records and Aftermath Records. 

Billboard reached out to a representative for the defendants, but did not receive a comment by time of publishing.