Roc-A-Fella Records has officially filed a lawsuit against co-founder Damon Dash, who is allegedly attempting to cash out of a stake in Jay-Z’s debut studio album, Reasonable Doubt – despite having “no right to sell the album or any rights to it,” according to the plaintiff.
Roc-A-Fella Records, which Jay-Z, Dash, and one Kareem Burke founded back in 1995, just recently submitted the firmly worded complaint to a New York federal court. For reference, these Roc-A-Fella co-founders sold half of the label to Universal Music’s Def Jam Recordings in 1997, for a reported $1.5 million, before selling the remaining half (to Def Jam once again) for a reported $10 million in 2004.
Moreover, Jay-Z at the time of the 2004 sale signed on as president of Def Jam – a position that saw him oversee and operate Roc-A-Fella – amid a decidedly public falling out with his fellow co-founders in the latter, who proceeded to pursue other professional ventures. Jay-Z later specified that he had been open to declining the executive role in exchange for the Reasonable Doubt masters, but as the proposition was turned down, he did in fact accept the offer.
Finally, in terms of the multifaceted episode’s background, Jay-Z stepped away from Def Jam in 2007, inked a multimillion-dollar record deal and partnership with Live Nation (via his Roc Nation company) in 2008, and bought out his Def Jam contract in 2009, for a reported $5 million. Additionally, Jay-Z secured Roc-A-Fella (and his own masters) back from UMG’s Def Jam – with some sources having indicated that he negotiated away the masters from Kanye West’s first six albums (which released via Roc-A-Fella) to do so.
“The clock is ticking,” Roc-A-Fella’s no-holds-barred suit begins, for Dash had allegedly planned to sell the copyright to Reasonable Doubt as a non-fungible token on Wednesday, June 23rd.
And though the NFT marketplace at hand canceled the auction – which would have seen the highest bidder receive the defendant’s ownership stake in the album, according to the complaint – “it’s not a matter of if, only when” Dash will move to list and sell the IP elsewhere, per the legal text.
“Dash does not even own Reasonable Doubt or its copyright and, therefore, has no right to sell the album or any rights to it,” the document proceeds, emphasizing that Roc-A-Fella itself owns this and other IP. Consequently, Dash possesses a third of the company, the plaintiffs maintain – not the individual work – and cannot unilaterally move to sell the media in question.
“It is believed that Dash has already minted an NFT, which he intends to sell through another auction or some other means as soon as possible,” Roc-A-Fella’s suit continues. “An individual shareholder, like Dash, does not own the corporation’s assets—only the corporation does—and an individual shareholder cannot sell, transfer, or otherwise encumber a corporate asset.”
Roc-A-Fella is seeking an order “enjoining Dash from selling any interest in” the album, a judgement specifying that Dash is legally unable to sell an NFT for Reasonable Doubt, and damages “for all injuries suffered as a result of Dash’s wrongdoing.” Dash, for his part, has publicly indicated that the sale involves the entirety of his 33 percent Roc-A-Fella stake – not just Reasonable Doubt – and that an offer Jay-Z made for the holding in March was “unacceptable.”