Beyoncé and Big Freedia Face Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Over ‘Explode’ and ‘Break My Soul’ — ‘The Similarities Go Beyond Substantial’

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A Renaissance Tour performance from Beyoncé, who, along with Big Freedia, is facing a fresh copyright infringement lawsuit. Photo Credit: Raph_PH

Beyoncé and Big Freedia are facing a copyright infringement lawsuit for allegedly copying elements of a New Orleans-based bounce group’s work on “Explode” and “Break My Soul.”

Da Showstoppaz, a four-piece act that formed back in 2002, just recently submitted the firmly worded complaint to a Louisiana federal court. Besides Beyoncé and Big Freedia, the action names as defendants Jay-Z, Sony Music, Kobalt, and several others.

According to the multifaceted suit, the plaintiffs met in 2001 and, capitalizing on a shared interest in music, became Da Showstoppaz. With the CD still reigning supreme at the time, that decision set the stage for an opportunity to create a track for a local mixtape (Fire on Da Bayou Vol. 1) made by one of the member’s family friends.

A few twists and turns later, July of 2002 saw the group pen and record “Release a Wiggle,” according to the legal text. The plaintiffs say they were focused mainly on the “opportunity to showcase their song” and, after recording it at the direction of the family friend/businessman, “did not request any documentation or paperwork.”

Per the suit, that family friend called on the group to provide a “shout-out” in the recording for a label that he hadn’t yet formed. The individual released the mixtape but seemingly failed to register “Release a Wiggle” with the Copyright Office, the action shows.

Nevertheless, the ostensibly well-received track enabled Da Showstoppaz to find success with local shows in 2003 and the beginning of 2004, recording an album during the same window, the plaintiffs explained. But the family friend is said to have cut professional ties in 2004; that development, in addition to Da Showstoppaz members’ relocations in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, ultimately marked the end of the group.

Fast forward to 2010, when one member of the bounce act established a personal YouTube channel “primarily to showcase wig and make-up tutorials.” On said channel, the plaintiff in March of 2014 decided to upload “the original version” of “Release a Wiggle.”

And as the plaintiffs describe things, it isn’t a coincidence that elements of the song soon thereafter made their way into New Orleans-born Big Freedia’s “Explode” – without their permission.

(Big Freedia is said to have had a hand in “popularizing bounce music,” with the plaintiffs further alleging a connection between the artist and the aforesaid family friend/businessman.)

“‘Explode’ infringes on Da Showstoppaz’ ‘Release A Wiggle’ twelve times,” the suit reads, “as the infringing phrase ‘release yo’ wiggle’ and several other substantially similar phrases are featured prominently in the song… Any reasonable person listening to ‘Release A Wiggle’ and ‘Explode’ would conclude that the songs are substantially similar.”

While the alleged infringement in the fairly popular track didn’t immediately catch the plaintiffs’ attention, they promptly noticed in 2022 when Beyoncé’s “Break My Soul” (part of Renaissance) sampled “Explode” – and, in turn, their own track, according to the lawsuit. Said sampling includes Big Freedia’s “release yo’ wiggle” vocals – or what the plaintiffs say is a central component of “Release a Wiggle.”

Predictably, given the complaint, steps towards a resolution outside the courtroom failed to bring about the desired result for the plaintiffs, who in 2022 and 2023 registered “Release a Wiggle” (the composition as well as the recording) with the Copyright Office.

Earlier this month, Universal Music settled a separate unauthorized-sample lawsuit, centering this time on a Kanye West track. And in March, Daddy Yankee and others were slapped with an infringement suit over an allegedly unauthorized sample in “Bailar Contigo.”