Three months after Nicki Minaj's Queen album was reportedly delayed over a sample-clearance issue, the dispute has landed in court. Tracy Chapman's lawyer tells Billboard that he filed a copyright infringement suit against Minaj in Los Angeles on Monday (Oct. 22) over the unreleased Queen track "Sorry" featuring Nas, which interpolates the lyrics and melody of Chapman's 1988 track "Baby Can I Hold You."
Minaj's team made multiple requests to license the song from Chapman's self-titled debut, but according to the singer's longtime attorney, Lee Phillips, "Tracy Chapman very much protects her rights and she has a right to deny a license when requested." Phillips adds that Chapman has received potentially "hundreds" of requests over the decades to sample or interpolate her music and that, as far as he knows, she has never granted a single one. In this case, it had nothing to do with Minaj or the quality of her song -- which Phillips believes samples another singer performing "Baby" in what sounds like a live recording -- but is rather tied to the very private Chapman's blanket policy on sampling.
The suit, filed against Minaj (born Onika Maraj) and 10 other unnamed defendants, explains that Chapman's reps "repeatedly denied" Minaj's requests to use the song after "Sorry" had already been recorded and that the track was then leaked to New York DJ Funkmaster Flex, who teased on social media that Nicki had given him something "ft @nas" that is "not on her [Queen] album." The song was then played on Hot 97, and according to Phillips, quickly spread across the Internet.