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Megan Thee Stallion goes back to court to dispute label’s definition of “album”

By | Published on Wednesday 23 February 2022

Megan Thee Stallion

Megan Thee Stallion has returned to court in Texas to settle another dispute with her label 1501 Certified Entertainment. This time the rapper wants the judge to confirm that her ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ release last October was definitely an album release, meaning that she has now fulfilled her minimum recording commitment to the label for the second option period of her contract with the company.

It can sometimes be a little bit ambiguous as to quite where you draw the line between a long EP and short album. And then some artists release “mixtapes” that feel rather like albums too. Plus, are we meant to distinguish between albums of all new material and greatest hits or rarity compilations? So many ambiguities!

And what if it’s a compilation album of freestyles that you originally distributed via YouTube plus some other tracks from your archives. You know, like ‘Something For Thee Hotties’. Well, fuck all that waffling, it’s quite clear that a record becomes an album when it passes the 45 minute point. It’s that simple. Or, at least, that’s what Megan Thee Stallion’s record contract allegedly says.

The rapper, real name Megan Pete, has spent quite a lot of the last two years griping over the 2018 contract she signed with 1501 – an independent label owned by former baseball player Carl Crawford – which gave the company an interest in her recordings, publishing, merchandise and live activity.

In her latest legal filing, she notes: “Over the past two years, Pete and 1501 shared a long and tortured history of disputes with each other concerning Pete’s recording agreement, including the unconscionability of the agreement in its original form, as well as disputes concerning the release of Pete’s music”.

Explaining how those gripes previously went legal, the new filing goes on: “The terms of the contract as originally written were entirely one-sided in favour of 1501, not consistent with industry standards, and wholly unconscionable to the detriment of Pete”.

“When Pete raised the unconscionable nature of the contract to 1501 and Crawford, 1501 and Crawford unlawfully instructed 300 Entertainment, the distributor of Pete’s records, not to release or distribute Pete’s then-upcoming extended-play album ‘Suga'”.

As a result, it continues, in March 2020, “Pete initiated a lawsuit against 1501 and Crawford and obtained a temporary restraining order against 1501 and Crawford to ensure that they refrained from preventing 300 Entertainment and others from releasing Pete’s new records”.

Pete’s contract with 1501 was then amended in March last year, this new legal filing reveals. Though that didn’t stop another spat from ending up in court last August, when the label was accused of seeking to block the release of the rapper’s collaboration with BTS.

There was still seemingly litigation going through the motions in relation to those past disputes over the ‘Suga’ EP and BTS collaboration, although that was recently dismissed at the rapper’s request, because – as a result of past court interventions – both those records were ultimately released, meaning those specific disputes had been resolved.

However, when Crawford shared a news report about the dismissal of that litigation on social media yesterday, Pete was keen to stress that that dismissal didn’t mean all disputes had been resolved. In a since deleted response to Crawford’s post, the rapper wrote: “We are most definitely STILL IN COURT and YOU STILL GETTING SUED BC YOU OWE ME MONEY!!!”

Which brings us to the latest dispute and legal filing. Here we go!

In October, 1501 exercised its option to extend its deal with Pete into a ‘second option period’. Shortly after that she released ‘Something For Thee Hotties’, described by the rapper herself on Instagram as: “My gift to my hotties – freestyles y’all been asking for plus a few unreleased songs from my archives to hold y’all over for the rest of the year”.

As far as Pete was concerned, the release of that record meant she had pretty much immediately met her minimum recording commitment for the label’s second option period. But the label does not concur.

“On or about 5 Jan 2022”, the new legal filing says, “1501 sent a letter out-of-the-blue asserting that the album ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ did not constitute an ‘album’ under the parties’ agreement. Given that 1501 waited more than two months after Pete’s release of the album ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ to take this position, it is clear that its position is frivolous and has no basis in law or in fact”.

On what grounds has 1501 concluded that ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ wasn’t a proper album? Maybe because – as a compilation of freestyles and other tracks from the rapper’s archives (albeit most recorded relatively recently) – it just doesn’t feel like a proper album. But, Pete insists, her contract with 1501 formally defines an album as any release more than 45 minutes long, meaning ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ is definitely a proper album.

“Contrary to 1501’s position, ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ clearly meets the definition of ‘album’ under the recording agreement because it is not less than 45 minutes in length. There are no other parameters or requirements under the contract for what can be deemed an ‘album’ other than total run time of the album”.

While ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ might “clearly” meet that contractural definition of an album, it only just does, given the run time of the record – according to Pete’s legal filing – is 45 minutes and 2 seconds long.

And, actually, while Spotify lists the full album as having a 45 minute run time, if you add up the timings for each individual track as published on the streaming service, by my maths, it actually comes in a few seconds under 45 minutes.

So, is 1501 employing some legal pedantry here because the final edit of ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ was a few seconds short of what is, officially, contractually speaking, an album?

No, it seems the label actually disputes the rapper’s interpretation of her record contract on this point, insisting that – in fact – it has the legal right to refuse to accept ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ as the album that fulfils her minimum recording commitment. And, it says, it’s been quite clear about that fact all along.

A legal rep told Billboard yesterday that the 1501/Pete contract clearly gives the label the right to approve what counts as an ‘album’ and that it “told her from the very beginning this is not going to count toward your album count”. The label’s objection, it seems, was less about run time and more about the fact a bunch of the tracks on ‘Something For Thee Hotties’ had already been made available to the public.

“She can’t just deliver us an album that we did not approve and then claim it satisfies her recording contract”, the label’s lawyer added. “It doesn’t, and the contract is pretty clear about that. I’ll be interested to hear what they have to say when they’re under oath”.

1501’s legal man also noted that Pete’s deal with the label was revised last year – as her new legal filing confirms. As a result, he said, she can no longer claim, as she basically has in the past, that the record company is enforcing an unfair deal that she signed as naive badly advised aspiring artist, because she was advised by industry experts, including Jay-Z no less, when negotiating the revised contract.

We’ll see I guess. Pete’s specific request in the new filing is that the judge confirm that “‘Something For Thee Hotties’ … constitutes an ‘album’ as defined in the contract” and “‘Something For Thee Hotties’ … meets her ‘minimum recording commitment’ for the second option period under the contract”.