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Yeasayer sue Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd over Pray For Me sample

By | Published on Tuesday 25 February 2020


Yeasayer have sued Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, real name Abel Tesfaye, for copyright infringement. The band claim that Lamar and Tesfaye sampled without permission a section from their 2007 track ‘Sunrise’ on the 2018 hit ‘Pray For Me’, which appeared on the soundtrack to Marvel movie ‘Black Panther’.

The allegedly uncleared sample is a choral performance that appears in ‘Sunrise’. In their lawsuit filed with the New York courts, Yeasayer say that the element of their record in question is “unique, comprised of male voices singing in their highest registers, with animated, pulsing vibrato, and developed via distinctive audio post-processing”.

They then say that the defendants – which also include ‘Pray For Me’ producers Doc McKinney and Frank Dukes – “extracted plaintiffs’ choral performance from a recording of ‘Sunrise’, slightly modified it, including, on information and belief, via postprocessing to alter its pitch, among other qualities, and then inserted the modified audio material into ‘Pray For Me'”. The choral performance sampled from ‘Sunrise’, the band argue, is “a material and substantial portion” of the ‘Black Panther’ track.

Yeasayer’s lawsuit then says that they “are informed and believe, and thereon allege, that defendants modified the portion they copied from ‘Sunrise’ with the intent to conceal the infringement”. However, “despite the processing, defendants’ use of plaintiffs’ song nonetheless retains each of its inherent characteristics, as well as the relation between those characteristics, and is immediately recognisable as plaintiffs’ material”.

With all that in mind, the band would like the court to grant an injunction stopping Lamar and Tesfaye et al from continuing to infringe their rights through the distribution of ‘Pray For Me’, while paying, of course, lots and lots of lovely damages.

For a discussion on what copyright law says about sampling, check out this special edition of the Setlist podcast.