A Hungarian artist is seeking more than $2.5 million from Kanye West, saying the rap superstar’s track “New Slaves” sampled his music without permission or royalties.
Gabor Presser, who described himself as a “living legend” in Hungary, said that West’s lawyers put “extraordinary time pressure” on him to sign off quickly on use of the song which appeared on his 2013 “Yeezus” album.
In a lawsuit filed this week in a New York court, Presser asked for a jury trial and sought a minimum of $2.5 million in damages plus legal expenses.
“New Slaves,” a political track with a critique of contemporary racism that features singer Frank Ocean, was the first single of “Yeezus,” on which West pursued a harder-edged sound inspired by the drill scene in his native Chicago.
To promote the album ahead of its release, West projected a video of “New Slaves” on 66 buildings around the world.
Presser said that around one-third of “New Slaves” is a sample from the 1969 song “Gyongyhaju Lany” by Omega, the leading Hungarian rock band in which he was then the keyboardist.
West acknowledged use of the song but, in the lawsuit, Presser said that the rapper’s lawyers tried to force him to give permission within 24 hours, apparently due to the timeline for the video projections.
Presser said he needed more time and that West’s lawyers refused to negotiate “in good faith,” instead sending him a $10,000 check as an advance with the expectation of an agreement.
The Hungarian artist said he did not accept the advance and had continued trying to reach an arrangement with West’s lawyers.
“Defendant Kanye West knowingly and intentionally misappropriated plaintiff’s composition for use in ‘New Slaves.’ After his theft was discovered, defendants refused to deal fairly with plaintiff,” the lawsuit said.
West has not responded to the lawsuit. “Yeezus” went to number one in several countries and was certified platinum in the United States, meaning it has sold more than one million copies.
The lawsuit said that West’s tour in support of “Yeezus” generated some $35 million.
West, who is married to reality television star Kim Kardashian, earlier this year said he was $53 million in debt and needed money to bring his “beautiful ideas to the world.”
Samples are commonplace in hip-hop but artists are expected to seek permission for taking elements of recordings.