Skip to main content

Ye Hit with Copyright Lawsuit in Federal Court Over ‘Life of the Party’

Kanye West

Ye, the rapper once known as Kanye West.

Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, was sued in federal court in New York Monday under allegations that he illegally copied the song “South Bronx” in his track “Life of the Party.” The plaintiffs say Ye copied their song, which was central to the creation of “gangsta rap” when it was released over three decades ago — and that as a result, they are entitled to all profits from “Life of the Party.”

“South Bronx” is a rap song released in 1986 by Boogie Down Productions, who are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. According to their complaint, “South Bronx remains a seminal track in the American hip hop lexicography.” The complaint gives some background about the track and its importance to the then-emerging genre of music:

Created by Lawrence Parker p/k/a KRS-One and Scott Sterling p/k/a DJ Scott La Rock, the two original members of the American hip-hop group Boogie Down Productions, South Bronx was a response to the Queensbridge-based MC-Shan track, “The Bridge,” and the beginning of what came to be known as hip hop’s “The Bridge Wars.” South Bronx is noted, not only for being an important diss track, but also for its realistic lyrical depiction of the life in the Bronx, which was unheard of at the time.

South Bronx is also an iconic example of the early use of sampling in hip hop. These innovations, along with Boogie Down Productions’ unconventional combination of dancehall reggae and hip hop, led to the creation of gangsta rap.

Plaintiffs also note that as recently as 2020, Rolling Stone listed “Criminal Minded” (the album on which “South Bronx” was the lead single) as 239 on its list of the 400 Greatest Albums of All Time.

According to plaintiffs, “Life of the Party” contains copied horn hits, a drum fill, and a “melodic figure” from “South Bronx.” Further, they say, Ye aggressively marketed his copied track when it dropped. They say that in September 2021, “as part of what could only have been an intentional effort,” Ye gave social media influences access to the track via “leaked” access to Stem Player that was broadcast on Sirius XM.

Stem Player is a music streaming platform for which Ye was a development partner. It was launched in August 2021 along with Ye’s tenth studio album, “Donda.”

Although the lawsuit does not demand an exact amount of money damages, plaintiffs point out that “within only the first 24 hours of launching the Album, [Ye] sold 11,000 units of the Stemplayer [sic], which generated revenue of $2.2. million dollars.”

The copyright lawsuit over “South Bronx” is just the latest in a string of legal woes for Ye, the one-time presidential hopeful.

Attorneys for the parties did not immediately respond to request for comment.

[Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for Fast Company]

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow Law&Crime:

Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos