UPDATE: On Friday (April 27), Paul LiCalsi, partner at Robins Kaplan LLP and litigation counsel to Cardi B, issued the following statement: “After a full investigation of the facts, we will be responding to these allegations in detail in court. But even on its face, Shaft’s claim raises a huge question. For a hefty commission, a manager promises to carefully counsel and guide an artist in her or his career. In exchange, the law imposes a high fiduciary duty on the manager to always act in the artist’s best interest, not engage in conflicts of interest, not overreach, and not self-deal. The glaring question here is: how does Shaft justify signing on as Cardi B’s manager through WorldStar for a 20 percent commission, and then a year later sign her up through his other company for a deal that takes 50 percent of her music royalties from Atlantic Records, 50 percent of her music copyrights, and 25 percent of her other earnings? How does that comport with his fiduciary duty as her manager?”
Cardi B is the subject of a $10 million lawsuit brought Thursday (April 26) in U.S. district court by her former manager Klenord “Shaft” Raphael and his KSR Group and Worldstar Management companies, according to court documents reviewed by Billboard.
In the suit, Raphael, who began working with Cardi in 2015, alleges that he “conceived, arranged and orchestrated” her career after discovering the former Love & Hip-Hop star when she was a party host, landing her a role on the VH1 reality television show and securing a major label record deal.
According to the suit, someone named Patientce Foster — who is also listed as a co-defendent — began telling Cardi that Raphael was “robbing” her of her money through side deals. That hearsay, says Raphael, Cardi to sign a management deal with the hybrid label/management company Quality Control in March, prior to the April 6 release of Cardi’s Atlantic Records debut album, Invasion of Privacy. Quality Control is also home to Cardi’s fiancé Offset, one third of the hip-hop trio Migos.
Raphael is suing for breach of contract, unjust enrichment, declaratory judgment and defamation, according to court documents. He’s seeking damages of at least $10 million. He is also alleging that Cardi’s contract with Quality Control is not valid, due to her pre-existing deal with KSR, and is suing the company for tortious interference for poaching his client.
“Since discovering Cardi B in 2015, Shaft has played an integral role in developing her music career and public image,” a spokesperson for Raphael said in a statement provided to Billboard. “While he is proud of their successful collaborations as she evolved from Instagram influencer to music megastar, Shaft is disappointed by her actions to freeze him out of her career, which are detailed in the complaint. Shaft is confident that his lawsuit will validate his conduct and substantiate his legal claims.”
Reps for Cardi and Quality Control could not immediately be reached for comment.
Since the breakout success of her 2017 smash hit “Bodak Yellow,” which reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 last year, Cardi has been on a tear. Invasion of Privacy landed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 upon its release, making her just the fifth female rapper ever to have an album reach the top of that chart. (Lauryn Hill, Foxy Brown, Nicki Minaj and Eve are the others.) The album also broke Apple Music’s record for most streams in a single week by a female rapper, while album cut “I Like It” feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin debuted at No. 8 on the Hot 100 last week, becoming her fifth top 10 song on that chart.