In December of 2014, a producer named Mike Free filed a lawsuit against collaborator DJ Mustard for not receiving proper credit or compensation for his contributions to 20 of Mustard's biggest hits. The original complaint named eight songs, but a new, amended version balloons that list to 20, five of which -- "Banjo," "Nothin' Like Me," "Thuggin'," "Be Real," and "It Ain't You" -- Adam claims at a minimum he co-produced.
"Mike is a real class guy," says his lawyer, intellectual propert attorney Robert Allen. "All he's looking for is to be properly credited and paid for the things that he did. He doesn't have any ill will toward Mustard. No bad blood. It's just about the work that he did in creating these songs, and the masters, and being properly credited and compensated."
According to the suit and an interview Free gave with Complex, the story begins in 2011. Free (real name Mikely Adam) had started making beats while still in high school in Los Angeles and Mustard (real name Dijon McFarlane), who had already graduated, offered to place his tracks with artists he was starting to connect with, like YG, Ty Dolla $ign, and Tyga. Within six months, Mustard had placed two of Free's tracks; Tyga's "Rack City" and 2Chainz's "I'm Different." But, according to the suit, Mustard failed to honor an oral agreement, claiming he had produced the tracks himself.
In 2012, after a reconciliation between the two, Mustard claimed again that he had solely produced "T.O." with Problem and "Make It Clap" with YG. In the former case, for example, Free composed the musical track and combined it with Mustard's drum track, which became the base for Problem's lyrics. To avoid future situations like these, Free entered into a written agreement with Mustard's production company, Top Liner (which can be viewed online, along with other relevant documents to the case), stipulating his share of advances, fees, and royalties from tracks he created or co-created. He maintains that Mustard went on to breach their contract, which was then allegedly terminated via text message exchange between the two parties, a claim Mustard denies.
In the list of documents is a January letter from Francois Mobasser at law firm Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light responding to the allegations; Mobasser says that Free must provide notice of the breach and the opportunity to cure, or rectify the situation, adding that Allen's original letter contains incorrect assertions and that Free himself breached the production agreement. At the end of all that, Mobasser provides a $2,500 producer fee for eight tracks and a production credit for Free for another 10.
Though Allen does not have an estimate for how much Free is owed in total, he claims a percentage that roughly breaks down to 25 percent of musical compositions he co-created with Mustard and 20 percent of songs containing a sample (such as "24 Hours," which samples YG's "I'm Good"). "My Nigga" and "Show Me," both of which Free asserts he wrote the whole musical composition, entitling him to the entire share attributable to the creator of the music, minus the samples (in this case, 40 percent).
A representative for DJ Mustard did not have a comment on the case at press time.