Legal and Management

Lizzo Hit With 'Truth Hurts' Lawsuit by Songwriting Brothers

Lizzo
Tommaso Boddi/Getty Images for Warner Music

Lizzo attends the Warner Music Group Pre-Grammy Party at Hollywood Athletic Club on Jan. 23, 2020 in Hollywood, Calif.

Uncredited songwriters claiming ownership over Lizzo's breakout hit "Truth Hurts" are taking their case to the courts. Brothers Justin and Jeremiah Raisen, along with Justin "Yves" Rothman, have filed a counterclaim against the superstar singer born Melissa Jefferson, demanding they be compensated for their contribution to the song based off an earlier writing session with Lizzo years before "Truth Hurts" was released.

The Raisens and Rothman claim they are co-authors of the song and are demanding a corresponding share of its profits. In their court papers, they claim that Lizzo’s hit “Truth Hurts” was essentially derived and copied from an earlier unreleased song titled “Healthy" that they had previously written with the singer.

Rothman and the brothers filed counterclaims in California federal court on Friday (Feb. 28) in response to an October legal filing from Lizzo, in which she asked a federal judge to formally declare that the Raisens and Rothman had no part in making the song. They have also included in their lawsuit emails, text messages and photographs that they say prove they were all instrumental in the song's creation.

In their counterclaim, the Raisens and Rothman describe how in 2016 they were approached several times about working with Lizzo. However, they say, it wasn't until a year later that they decided to invite the up-and-coming singer to their home studio for a collaborative recording session that took place on April 11, 2017.

During that session, the Raisens say they collaborated with Lizzo and Rothman, and songwriter Jesse Saint John on a song that was later titled "Healthy." While that song was never released, it contained the now world famous phrase, "I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch" -- the line which was later was used at the opening of Lizzo's Hot 100 chart-topping hit "Truth Hurts."

According to the Raisens and Rothman, the idea to include the phrase based on a tweet by Mina Lioness in the song was theirs and came about during a lull in the session when St. John came across the viral meme based on the tweet.

As Justin Raisen told Billboard previously, "We were all writing lyrics together with Lizzo over the beat. We are all working together in a collaborative session. And then we're looking at our phones, like you do, and Jesse found a meme. He read it, 'I just did a DNA test...' and ... then [Lizzo] was like, 'That's cheesy,' and then Jeremiah said, 'No that's dope, let's put it in the song.'"

"We were all laughing," Jeremiah Raisen previously told Billboard. "And then I was like, 'We need to use that in the song.'"

But when that line reappeared in Lizzo's hit single "Truth Hurts" along with a similar melody, the Raisens were not credited for their contribution. Songwriting credit instead was given to Lizzo, Reed, Tele and Saint John as writers and Ricky Reed and Tele as producers. The Raisens, who said they registered themselves with ASCAP as co-writers on the song in October 2017, decided they needed to take action, airing their dispute publicly in October of 2019 and pointing out that not only do the two songs contain the same catch phrase, but that they also contain substantially similar song structure, melodies and rhythm.

Lizzo fired back, filing her lawsuit against them in October 2019. She also posted on Instagram that she was the author of the song and that it was her decision alone to use that line in both songs.

"As I've shared before, in 2017, while working on a demo, I saw a meme that resonated with me, a meme that made me feel like 100% that bitch. I sang that line in the demo, and I later used the line in Truth Hurts," Lizzo wrote in the post.

"The men who now claim a piece of Truth Hurts did not help me write any party of the song," she continued. "They did had nothing to do with the line or how I chose to sing it. There was no one in the room when I wrote Truth Hurts, except me, Ricky Reed, and my tears. That song is my life, and its words are my truth."

On March 26, 2019, the Raisens claim, Lizzo called Justin and admitted to him that “elements of ‘Truth Hurts’ would never have been created without ‘Healthy’ and admitted that Reed suggested to her that they take elements from “Healthy’ for ‘Truth Hurts,’ including the 100% lyric and melody,” according to the complaint. Justin also said that during that phone call, Lizzo told him she did not want to share any of the proceeds him. He also said that she tried to intimidate him during that call by saying, according to the court papers, “I’m not trying to have problems with you if you know what I’m saying…like I could be in a room with someone tomorrow that knows you…you know what I’m saying?”

Attorney Lawrence Iser, of Kinsella Weitsman Iser Kump & Aldisert, released this statement on behalf of the Raisens and Rothman: "Lizzo is a talented musician and performer who currently enjoys immense popularity based on a hit song that she did not write alone. The Counterclaims we filed today seek a judgment from the court that the song that is now called 'Truth Hurts' originated in Justin Raisen's home recording studio from a collaboration among our clients, Justin and Jeremiah Raisen and Yves Rothman, along with Lizzo and Jesse Saint John. When the case proceeds to trial, we look forward to sharing the sound recordings, videos, photographs and musicology that 100% prove that collaboration. Our clients deserve their fair share of the recognition and revenue that comes from collaborating on a hit song."

The Raisens and Rothman are asking the court to dismiss Lizzo's lawsuit against them and legally declare them authors with ownership interest in the song "Truth Hurts."

A spokesperson for Atlantic Records declined to comment.

A court hearing has been set for Oct. 23.