The Jamaican singer allegedly ripped off elements of the soca song “Work” by Denise Belfon without clearing the sample first, according to the lawsuit.
Anastas Hackett alias Pupa Nas T, a New York-based musician who produced and co-wrote Work with Harkness Taitt in 1999, filed a lawsuit in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York on March 4, 2022.
According to the lawsuit, a request for the use of parts of “Work” was submitted in September 2021, but it was denied owing to “inadequate terms offered.”
“The nature of the use of the original song is two-fold: (1) an isolated 8-second vocal sample of the phrase “put your back in it”, which is found in the intro @0:00-0:08 and in the outro @ 2:23-2:31 of the new work; and (2) a 14-second re-sing of the same phrase (“put your back in it”), which is heard 6x in each chorus @ 0:23-0:37, 1:07-1:21, and 1:53-2:07. In effect, the use of the phrase “put your back in it” is integral to the overall rhythmic feel of the new work and is a continual reminder of its relationship to the original song,” complaint explained in the court documents obtained by DancehallMag. 1
Despite the denial, Shenseea and her team reportedly sampled the song “without authority or consent” and “used significant parts of plaintiffs' music ‘work' without providing proper credit to the plaintiffs, then released the song ‘Lick' on January 21, 2022, in violation of the United States Copyright Act,” according to the lawsuit.
The defendants were placed on notice that they were exploiting Plaintiffs' work without authority and that they were infringing Plaintiffs' copyright, but the defendants have failed to remedy their actions, the lawsuit claims.
During an Instagram Live in January, Shenseea denied stealing the song.
“Why would we risk being sued?,” she asked.
“And it's not something that is bothering me; it's because I know that people will run with this narrative… It's really just ignorance for real,” she added.
Shenseea's co-manager Romeich Major in an interview with DancehallMag stated that he was unaware of an impending legal issue.
“Dat coulda neva happen cause a big label like dat woulda clear everything,” he told DancehallMag.
In addition, the complaint requests a jury trial to have all traces of Lick deleted from the public domain.
Chinsea Linda Lee, Interscope Records, the UK-based Atal Music Limited, and their employee Alexandre Escolier are named as defendants in the 9-page case. Shenseea's agents reportedly hired Atal Music and Escolier to clear the Work sample for use in the “Lick.”
“Lick” was produced by Canadian hitmaker Murda Beatz and is featured on Shenseea's debut album “Alpha.”
The lawsuit comes after Hackett acknowledged that the sample was permitted when asked about their feelings regarding Shenseea's use of the song.
“I think it's a wonderful thing, especially when they seek clearances to be used in songs instead of taking it willy-nilly,” Hackett told Jamaica STAR.
After “Lick” was released, Denise Belfon offered her best wishes to Shenseea and Megan Thee Stallion.
“I would like to send love and congrats to Shenseea, Megan Thee Stallion and their recording labels Interscope, 300 entertainment, Warner Music Group and their management teams, Mr. Romeich and Wassim Salxo ‘Sal' and the producers ‘Murder on the Beat' for considering and using my song ‘work / put your back in it' on their mega hit Lick,” according to Caribbean outlet Ebuzzt.