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.
Photo Getty Images
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.
Jay- Z’s copyright trial over his 1999 hit Big Pimpin’ has begun in Los Angeles.
The rapper is accused of using the melody of Egyptian songwriter Baligh Hamdi’s 1957 song Khosara Khosara without permission.
Jay-Z’s lawyers and producer hip-hop Timbaland say they secured the appropriate rights to feature the tune in the chorus.
The misician is due to testify along with an expert on Egyptian music.
The case has taken years to get to court, with Baligh Hamdi’s nephew, Osama Ahmed Fahmy, first filing a legal complaint in 2007.
Osama Ahmed Fahmy’s lawyer Peter Ross claimed Jay-Z had purposefully avoided asking permission because they knew it wouldn’t be granted because of the risqué lyrics used on Big Pimpin’.
“You have to go to the composer himself, or his heirs, play the work, and get his approval,” Peter Ross said.
“That he never did.”
The lawyer also accused Jay-Z of violating 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.
Jay-Z’s lawyer Andrew Bart argued that the lyrics of Big Pimpin’ should not be discussed in relation to the trial.
District Court Judge Christina Snyder agreed, saying examining Jay-Z’s lyrics would be irrelevant in this case.
Timbaland’s lawyer Christine Lepera said the producer used Baligh Hamdi’s tune – which featured in a 1957 Egyptian film and became a major hit – without realizing it was owned by EMI Music Arabia.
The producers later paid $100,000 to the record label to acquire the license.
However, Osama Ahmed Fahmy argued the payment was inconsequential, and that only Baligh Hamdi’s heirs had the right to approve a derivative work of the musician’s composition.
Christine Lepera also denied Big Pimpin’ used major elements of Baligh Hamdi’s work, saying much of its music was simple and not subject to copyright.
She added that Osama Ahmed Fahmy’s legal claim was an “effort to get an undeserved income”.
The trial is the second high-profile musical copyright case, after a federal jury ruled earlier this year Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams plagiarized Marvin Gaye in their hit Blurred Lines.
Marvin Gaye’s family were initially awarded $7.4 million, but that was later reduced to $5.3 million.