A New York rapper and his producer have filed a lawsuit against up-and-coming rap star Ice Spice, alleging that her hit In Ha Mood copied their earlier track In That Mood.
Rapper D.Chamberz, a longtime fixture in the New York hip-hop scene, and producer/engineer Kass argue in their lawsuit that the two songs are “so strikingly similar that they cannot be purely coincidental.”
In a complaint filed with the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Wednesday (January 17), they allege that In Ha Mood is “a derivative work, without license or other consent,” of their song.
Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Ice Spice and the labels that released the track: Capitol Records, along with parent company Universal Music Group, and 10K Projects, the label founded by Elliot Grainge that recently became a standalone company within Warner Music Group ecosystem (WMG is not named as a defendant).
Also named as defendants are Ephrem Lopez (aka RiotUSA), who is credited as producer on In Ha Mood, and Dolo Entertainment, identified in the suit as “the primary copyright claimant” for the sound recording of In Ha Mood.
According to the complaint, D.Chamberz (whose legal name is Duval Chamberlain) and Kass (legal name Kenley Carmenate) recorded In That Mood in August 2021, and first released it publicly in January 2022, about one year before 10K and Capitol released In Ha Mood.
“By every method of analysis, In Ha Mood is a forgery – copied from [D.Chamberz and Kass], who wrote, performed, recorded, and produced their original song, In That Mood… approximately 18 months before In Ha Mood made its debut” in January 2023, states the complaint, which can be read in full here.
“Defendants have unlawfully exploited In That Mood, and they have – with actual knowledge and fraudulent intent – infringed upon, and continue to infringe upon, plaintiffs’… copyrights for [In That Mood], causing serious and significant injury.”
The lawsuit seeks 50% of “all direct and indirect royalties, revenues, and/or other economic benefits generated by the creation and subsequent commercial exploitation of In Ha Mood to date.”
In Ha Mood and In That Mood can be heard below:
Dubbed the “new princess” of rap by fans and the media, Ice Spice (legal name Isis Naija Gaston) hit the big time when her track Munch (Feelin U) went viral on TikTok in late 2022. She followed that up with the tracks Bikini Bottom and In Ha Mood, both of which appeared on her debut EP Like..?, which made Billboard’s list of 50 best albums of 2023.
Ice Spice is up for four Grammys at the 2024 awards, including Best New Artist and Best Rap Song, for Barbie World (with Nicki Minaj and Aqua).
“By every method of analysis, In Ha Mood is a forgery – copied from [D.Chamberz and Kass], who wrote, performed, recorded, and produced their original song, In That Mood… approximately 18 months before In Ha Mood made its debut.”
Legal complaint against Ice Spice, filed in US federal court
In their complaint, D.Chamberz and Kass go to lengths to prove that In Ha Mood’s creators had access to the original track (a necessary element of proving copyright infringement in US federal courts).
They point to Instagram posts by producer RiotUSA that purportedly show RiotUSA listening to New York radio station Hot 97 on November 15, 2021, at 11:30 pm, three minutes before that station played In That Mood.
This “mak[es] it a virtual certainty that Riot actually heard In That Mood more than a year before In Ha Mood was first created and published,” the complaint states.
The complaint also lists off more than 30 live performances of In That Mood, most of them in the New York area in 2021 and 2022, and asserts that “upon information and belief, Ice Spice, Riot, and/or members of their creative teams were present for certain public performances of In That Mood during the relevant time period.”
The complaint indicates that, even though D.Chamberz and Kass released In That Mood temporarily in January 2022, and permanently in July 2022, they didn’t register it with the US Copyright Office until May 2023, four months after Ice Spice’s In Ha Mood was released.
The complaint asserts that D.Chamberz and Kass held a “common law” copyright on the track since the time it was recorded. (Common law copyrights are something that US courts have previously recognized.)
The suit against Ice Spice comes amid an ongoing wave of copyright infringement suits against popular artists.
Mariah Carey was recently hit with a lawsuit over her iconic All I Want For Christmas Is You, in which musician Andy Stone alleges the song borrows elements of his own song of the same name. This is the second time that Stone, who performs as Vince Vance and the Valiants, has sued over Carey’s 1989 track.
Another lawsuit was recently filed against ex-One Direction member Zayn Malik, in which California-based musician and songwriter Patrick Simmons alleges that Zayn’s Better copied his track Somebody Tonight.
The estate of Tupac Shakur was recently sued by a former music producer, Terence Thomas, aka Master Tee, who alleges he wasn’t properly paid publishing royalties for his alleged role as producer on Tupac’s iconic Dear Mama.
Those lawsuits, and others, come amid some recent victories for music superstars in copyright infringement cases.
In November 2023, Jay-Z, Timbaland, Ginuwine and Warner Chappell Music prevailed in a lawsuit brought by Ernie Hines, who alleged that Jay-Z’s Paper Chase and Ginuwine’s Toe 2 Toe infringed on Hines’ 1969 track Help Me Put Out The Flame (In My Heart).Music Business Worldwide