Rapper Jay-Z has told a Los Angeles jury he was not aware there was a sample of Egyptian songwriter Baligh Hamdi’s 1957 song Khosara Khosara on his 1999 hit Big Pimpin’.
Jay-Z, real name Shawn Carter, and producer Timbaland are accused of using the melody from the song without permission.
The rapper testified for roughly 90 minutes in court on October 14.
“I didn’t think there was a sample in it,” Jay-Z said.
“Timbaland presented me with a track. I didn’t even think about there being a sample,” he continued.
Jay-Z’ss lawyers told the court Baligh Hamdi’s family had repeatedly been paid for use of the song.
Four notes from Khosara Khosara‘s 74 notes are repeated throughout Big Pimpin’, a music expert has testified.
Asked why he did not thoroughly check out the rights to the track, Jay-Z replied: “That’s not what I do. I make music.
“I’m a rapper, I’ve got a clothing line, I run a label, a media label called Roc Nation, with a sports agency, music publishing and management. Restaurants and nightclubs … I think that about covers it.”
The rapper said he had a team of hundreds of people who dealt with his contracts and licensing.
Timbaland – real name Timothy Mosley – later told the court he had found Khosara Khosara on a CD of Arabic music labeled “license free”.
“I’m thinking it’s free music, free songs, and I sampled it,” he said.
Baligh Hamdi’s nephew, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, first filed a legal complaint in 2007, claiming the musicians had purposefully avoided asking permission because of Big Pimpin’s lyrics.
His lawyer, Peter Ross, has already told the court Jay-Z and Timbaland had infringed Baligh Hamdi’s “moral rights” – a legal concept he claimed was well-established in Egypt which would have required the musicians to get permission to use elements of Khosara Khosara in a song celebrating a promiscuous lifestyle.