Kanye West turned heads last year with a coontastic comment that slavery “sounds like a choice” which didn’t gain him much in the way of support. Now, the Chicago superstar is fighting for his freedom from a binding contract with EMI that states he’s not allowed to retire from making music.
The insensitive comment immediately provoked controversy, but what was left unsaid by West was his own lack of freedom. If West wished to alternatively make the case he is a slave — as he is essentially now doing in court — all he had to do was point to a provision of his music publishing contract with EMI that literally forbids him from not working. Here’s what the contract states:
“You (Mr. West) hereby represent and warrant that to [EMI] that You will, throughout the Term as extended by this Modification, remain actively involved in writing, recording and producing Compositions and Major Label Albums, as Your principle occupation. At no time during the Term will you seek to retire as a songwriter, recording artist or producer or take any extended hiatus during which you are not actively pursuing Your musical career in the same basic manner as You have pursued such career to date. (The preceding representation shall not be deemed to prevent You from taking a vacation of limited duration.)”
This portion of West’s music publishing contract came up in the lawsuit he lodged in Los Angeles Superior Court in late January. When West initially filed, the complaint was almost entirely redacted, but thanks to EMI’s first move in the dispute (more on that in a moment), there’s now a full copy available for all to see. (Read in full here.) And West’s inability to retire will likely be a factor as this dispute moves forward because one of the judge’s first tasks in the case will be determining whether this is a controversy about West’s employment or rather about West’s intellectual property.
In short order, West, who has been signed with EMI since 2003, feels that the contract is one-sided in favor of EMI.
Citing the so-called “seven-year rule” that other artists in the past have used in the state of California, West asserts that EMI has more than doubled the time by making contract extensions thus violating the state law.
Read the lawsuit in full here.